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Chisenall v. JP Morgan Chase & Co.

March 29, 2010

DIANE CHISENALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JP MORGAN CHASE & CO. AND CHASE BANK, N.A., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Diane Chisenall was fired from her job as an assistant branch manager for Chase Bank just months shy of her 20th anniversary with the bank. Chase told Chisenall it fired her because she had violated bank policies, but Chisenall contends that Chase actually fired her because of her age and sex. She has sued Chase under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, see 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. Chase has moved for summary judgment but, for the reasons stated below, its motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed except where noted. Diane Chisenall began working for what is now known as Chase Bank in September 1987. She started as a teller and, after a series of promotions, became the assistant branch manager of Chase's branch bank in Plainfield, Illinois, in July 2004. Her duties included managing the teller staff, balancing the branch's vault, overriding transactions when necessary, conducting audits, and reconciling errors. As assistant branch manager, Chisenall's immediate supervisor was Plainfield's branch manager. As of October 2005, the Plainfield branch manager was Jose Ventura.

Some time after Ventura was named branch manager, Chisenall complained to Ventura's supervisor, district manager Mary Jo Adamis, that Ventura was second-guessing her, not listening to her, and made her feel like he did not want her at the branch. Chisenall also contends that Ventura told her that he wanted her gone and asked when she was going to retire, although Ventura denies making those comments. In response to Chisenall's complaints, Adamis called Chisenall and Ventura together for a meeting. After the meeting, Ventura included Chisenall in more of the decision-making that involved branch tellers, but according to Chisenall he "still used the same tone with her." (Response to Rule 56.1 Statements [45-1] at 6).

The events that immediately preceded Chisenall's termination began on Tuesday, February 6, 2007. On that date, Chisenall worked as a teller and engaged in a buy/sell coin transaction with another teller, Priscilla Juskevice, in which Juskevice exchanged $110 in cash from her drawer for $110 in rolled coins from Chisenall's drawer. Normally Chisenall and Juskevice would record such transactions on notepaper next to their drawers and use the notepaper to balance their cash drawers at the end of their shift. But apparently Juskevice forgot to account for the transaction on her notepaper, which first came to light at the close of business when Juskevice's cash drawer was out of balance. The practice of tracking a drawer's balance on notepaper and entering the tally into Chase's electronic banking system at the end of the workday is inconsistent with Chase's written Balancing Teller/Vault Cash policies, which requires that cash and coins in tellers' cash drawers be either hand or machine counted at the end of their working day. See Balancing Teller/Vault Cash Policies (Appendix to Rule 56.1 Statements [43-1] at A0168).

Juskevice and branch employee Leonardo Ibarra discovered the discrepancy in Juskevice's drawer after Chisenall had completed her shift and returned home. Ibarra called Chisenall at home to report the discrepancy. Chisenall gave Ibarra her managerial password to Chase's electronic banking system to Ibarra so that he could override the discrepancy in order to close the branch for the night, even though he was not a manager. Chisenall did not return to the branch that evening.

The next morning, Juskevice told Ventura about the discrepancy in her drawer the night before as a result of the buy/sell coin transaction with Chisenall. After speaking with Juskevice, Ventura audited Chisenall's drawer and discovered a discrepancy similar to the one in Juskevice's drawer. Upon discovering the discrepancy in Chisenall's drawer, Ventura consulted with Becky Soviak, the district manager of a neighboring district who was covering for Mary Jo Adamis, and Pamela Mayer, with Chase's human resources department. Ventura and Soviak then met with Chisenall, who admitted that she kept track of the cash and coins in her drawer using notepaper and alleged that other tellers did the same thing.

Upon hearing Chisenall's story, either Ventura or Soviak alerted Chase's Fraud Prevention & Investigation department. Senior investigator Peter Maydenoff interviewed Chisenall and some of the other employees at the Plainfield branch, and also required Chisenall and others to provide written statements about their practices. Chisenall admitted in her written statement that "instead of counting my cash correctly, I took totals from my count on paper, and just plugged things in not realizing I was out of balance." Chisenall Statement (Appendix to Rule 56.1 Statements [43-1] at A0172). She also admitted sharing her Chase electronic banking password with others on two occasions.

Chisenall was terminated effective February 23, 2007. According to Chase, Ventura, Adamis and Mayer each reviewed and approved Chisenall's termination, but Chisenall contends that the decision was Ventura's alone and that Adamis and Mayer only reviewed Ventura's recommendation. Nearly two weeks later on March 7, 2007, Ventura completed a Recommendation for Termination form in which the reason he gave for her termination was "force-balancing." Specifically, Ventura claimed that Chisenall had failed to count her cash drawer at the end of her shift and, instead, plugged into Chase's electronic banking system the numbers she had tallied throughout her shift on her notepaper. According to the Recommendation for Termination, Chisenall also gave her electronic banking system password over the phone to fellow employees on two occasions so that the employees could perform an override. But the parties dispute whether the reason Chase gave for terminating Chisenall was solely for force-balancing, or whether it was the combination of force-balancing and sharing her password.

At the time of her termination Chisenall was 54. Ventura was 32. Chisenall's position was filled by Ryan Fortini, who was 24. The only other employee Ventura has fired was Priscilla Juskevice, whom Ventura terminated just a few months after he terminated Chisenall. Juskevice was terminated for allegedly leaving her cash drawer out in the open a second time, and was over 50 years old at the time.

Chisenall filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on May 25, 2007, alleging both age and sex discrimination. She received a right-to-sue letter on June 19, 2008, and filed the instant suit on August 27, 2008.

Chase has filed a motion for summary judgment on Chisenall's entire complaint. In its motion, Chase contends that it is entitled to summary judgment because Chisenall (1) has no evidence to show discrimination under the direct method, (2) cannot show that she was meeting Chase's legitimate employment expectations or was treated less favorably than similarly-situated employees outside her protected class and, therefore, cannot establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the indirect method, (3) cannot show that Chase's ...


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