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Joyce Molino v. Bast Services

December 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George M. Marovich


Plaintiff Joyce Molino ("Molino") filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County a four-count complaint (which was removed to this Court) against defendants Bast Services, Inc. ("Bast Services") and the Foundation for Alzheimer's and Cultural Memory (the "Foundation"). Plaintiff has dismissed with prejudice her claims against the Foundation. She now moves for summary judgment with respect to her claims against defendant Bast Services. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion for summary judgment as to the merits. The Court denies the motion with respect to damages.

I. Background

At a status hearing on September 28, 2010, the Court entered an order setting a briefing schedule for motions for summary judgment. Pursuant to that order, motions for summary judgment were due October 28, 2010. Responses were due November 29, 2010, and replies were due December 9, 2010.

Plaintiff timely filed a motion for summary judgment on all four of her claims against Bast Services. Bast Services never filed a response. Local Rule 56.1 of the Local Rules for the Northern District of Illinois requires a party moving for summary judgment to file a statement of material facts as to which the movant contends there is no genuine issue. See Local Rule 56.1(a)(1)(3). The non-moving party must file a response to the moving party's statement of facts. See Local Rule 56.1(b). Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(b), "[a]ll material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party." See Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C); see also Parra v. Neal, 614 F.3d 635, 636 (7th Cir. 2010); Cracco v. Vitran, 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009) (approving the practice of requiring strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1). Because defendant failed to file a response, defendant failed to controvert plaintiff's statement of facts. Accordingly, the Court deems admitted all of the facts in plaintiff's statement of facts. The following facts are undisputed.

At some point (the timing is unclear from the plaintiff's submission), plaintiff Joyce Molino acted as a whistleblower in an action under the False Claims Act and the Illinois Whistleblower Reward and Protection Act ("IWRPA"). The action was against one of Molino's former employers, ABS Management. In November 2004, the government settled with ABS, and Molino's participation in the case was the subject of at least one newspaper article.

In the meantime, from about 1999 to about 2006, Molino was the Dementia Care Unit Director at Alden Town Manor. Toward the end of her tenure at Alden Town Manor, Molino helped to facilitate a pilot program called Memory Bridge Initiative ("Memory Bridge"), the details of which are not included in the record. Memory Bridge was created by Michael Verde ("Verde") of the Foundation for Alzheimer's and Cultural Memory. Verde has stated that Molino "single handedly made the program work at Alden." Molino was equally pleased with Memory Bridge. In May 2006, Molino nominated Memory Bridge for an "Innovative Program Award" from the Illinois Health Care Association, and Memory Bridge won.

Memory Bridge was also the bridge to Molino's employment with Bast Services. Bast Services had an agreement with the Foundation to be the exclusive implementor of the Memory Bridge curriculum. By February or March of 2006, Verde began trying to recruit Molino to work for Bast Services on the implementation of Memory Bridge. Verde was interested in Molino because of her "expertise in the area of dementia care" and her "past contributions to the program." By May, Molino was a part-time consultant for Memory Bridge. On July 31, 2006, Molino accepted an offer to start a full-time position as Manager of Alzheimer's Outreach and Education on September 11, 2006. She was offered a salary of $51,000.00. Ultimately, Molino was a full-time employee at Bast Services for about two months. On or about November 17, 2006, Bast Services terminated her employment.

When Molino started at Bast Services, her duties included collaborating on curriculum development, identifying new program opportunities, maintaining a library of teaching aids, developing teacher training, and supporting teachers. Molino reported to Mary Cohen, the Director of the Memory Bridge program. On October 13, 2006, Cohen told Molino she had a "profound and positive impact on the program."

Two weeks later, on October 27, 2006, Molino told Cohen and Verde that she had been a government whistleblower against ABS Management, which owned several long-term care facilities in Illinois. Molino told them that it could be a problem if she needed to interact with ABS Management in order to recruit new facilities for the Memory Bridge program. Twenty-one days later, Bast Services terminated Molino's employment.

At the time, Bast Services did not tell Molino why her employment was being terminated. Later, Bast Services gave three reasons for the termination of Molino's employment.

First, on October 13, 2006, Molino failed to give "contact information" to a teacher. Second, on October 25, Molino failed to stay with a trainee teacher through an entire training session that a third person was conducting. The third reason, the "one that really gave [Bast Services] pause and finally made [them] arrive at [the decision to terminate Molino's employment]," was the conversation Molino had with Cohen and Verde about her prior whistle-blowing activities. The conversation on October 27 (during which Molino told Cohen and Verde about her prior whistle-blowing activities) was the "finalizing incident," according to Bast Services. Bast was concerned that Molino would not be able to recruit new facilities.

Based on these incidents, Molino filed a four-count complaint. In Count I, Molino asserts a common-law claim for retaliatory discharge. In Count II, Molino asserts a claim under the Illinois Whistleblower Act, 740 ILCS 174/15. In Count III, Molino asserts a claim for retaliatory discharge under the False Claims Act, 30 U.S.C. ยง 3730(h). Finally, in Count IV, Molino asserts a claim for ...

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