The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States Senior District Judge
Wednesday, 20 July, 2011 04:11:38 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
This wrongful discharge action was originally filed in the Circuit Court of Rock Island County, Illinois and was subsequently removed to this Court pursuant to the Court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn1
Plaintiff began working for FedEx National LTL, Inc. on September 4, 2006. From September 4, 2006 through her termination on November 11, 2008, Plaintiff was employed as an Over, Short, and Damaged ("OS&D") clerk at FedEx National's service center in East Moline, Illinois. (Doc. 15-1 at 6). For her entire period of employment with FedEx National, Plaintiff reported to Jeff Mallonee, who was one of FedEx National's Service Center managers. (Doc. 15-1 at 6). In October of 2008, in addition to Mallonee, the East Moline service center employed two other managerial employees, both operations supervisors. (Doc. 15-1 at 6).
The Decision to Eliminate Plaintiff's Position In October 2008,*fn2 FedEx National was in the process of implementing a reduction in force due to a downturn in business which involved multiple position eliminations across the country. (Doc. 15-1 at 7). The reduction in force planning had initially identified certain service centers for staffing reduction based on their freight levels. (Doc. 15-1 at 7). Local and regional management teams were then directed to make the decisions about which positions would be eliminated to achieve the desired staffing reduction. (Doc. 15-1 at 7).
Shortly before or on October 15, 2008, Mallonee went to lunch with his direct boss, FedEx National regional manager Jeff First, and FedEx National managing director Butch Davis (to whom First reported). (Doc. 15-1 at 7). At this lunch, Davis and First discussed the reduction in force and advised Mallonee that the East Moline facility had been identified as a service center that would be affected by the reduction in force. (Doc. 15-1 at 7). Davis instructed Mallonee and First that they needed to develop a plan for eliminating one full-time position at East Moline. (Doc. 15-1 at 7). At this lunch meeting, Mallonee, First, and Davis discussed the needs of the East Moline service center to determine which position could be eliminated. (Doc. 15-1 at 7). They agreed that the OS&D clerk position would be the most appropriate, because it was the only full-time hourly office position at the East Moline Facility, and its elimination would still leave two supervisors in the service center. (Doc. 15-1 at 7). This would allow one supervisor to have responsibility for opening the facility in the morning and one for closing the facility at night, and would allow for adequate supervision when Mallonee was not present at the East Moline facility. (Doc. 15-1 at 7).
Mallonee, First, and Davis intended for the supervisors to absorb most of the OS&D clerk duties following the elimination of the position. (Doc. 15-1 at 7-8). One of the operations supervisors, Carol McDaniel, had performed the OS&D duties previously, and Mallonee, First and Davis felt that she could again perform these duties in conjunction with her supervisor position. (Doc. 15-1 at 8). OS&D clerk was the only full-time hourly office position in the East Moline service center, and Plaintiff was the only OS&D clerk in the facility. (Doc. 15-1 at 8). On the afternoon of October 15, Mallonee sent an e-mail to Davis confirming the plan to eliminate the OS&D clerk position in the reduction in force and inquiring about when the elimination would be implemented. (Doc. 15-1 at 8).
On October 14 Plaintiff tripped and fell over some wood in the parking lot after she returned from lunch, injuring her arm and incurring scrapes and bruises. (Doc. 15-1 at 8). Plaintiff was taken to the hospital where she received medical attention and was diagnosed with a bruise. (Doc. 15-1 at 8). Plaintiff was cleared by her treating physician to return to work the next day. (Doc. 15-1 at 8). Mallonee then picked her up from the hospital and drove her back to the service center, from which she drove herself home. (Doc. 15-1 at 8). At this time, Plaintiff did not believe she would miss much work and she told this to Jeff Mallonee. (Doc. 15-1 at 8). In the morning on October 15, Plaintiff told Mallonee that she was going to try and make an appointment with her family doctor because her arm still hurt. (Doc. 15-1 at 9). Plaintiff remained off work for the rest of the week after October 15. (Doc. 15-1 at 9). On Monday, October 20, Plaintiff provided Mallonee with a doctor's note that she would be "off work until further notice." (Doc. 15-1 at 9). About ten days after Plaintiff's initial injury on October 14, she learned that she would need surgery and relayed that information to Mallonee. (Doc. 15-1 at 9).
Informing Plaintiff of the Termination Decision On or about November 4, FedEx National human resources personnel were finalizing the plans for communication of the reduction in force information across the company. (Doc. 15-1 at 10). The company intended to notify and separate all of the employees whose positions were being eliminated on one day. (Doc. 15-1 at 10). However, employees on medical leave of absence would not be separated until they returned from leave so as to avoid their medical benefits being cut off while they were on leave. (Doc. 15-1 at 10). On or about November 10, Plaintiff called the service center and spoke to supervisor Carol McDaniel to inform her that she would be returning the next day with a doctor's release. (Doc. 15-1 at 10). The following day, November 11, when Plaintiff arrived at work, Mallonee and Human Resources Manager Roger Maco met with Plaintiff and advised Plaintiff of the decision to eliminate her position, effective that day. (Doc. 15-1 at 10). Supervisor Carol McDaniel absorbed Plaintiff's OS&D duties until McDaniel resigned in July 2009, at which time another part-time clerical employee began performing the OS&D clerk duties. (Doc. 15-1 at 10).
Plaintiff's Workers' Compensation Claim Plaintiff filed her worker's compensation claim on December 15, more than one month after she was informed of her termination from FedEx National, and approximately two months after the decision to eliminate her position was made. (Doc. 15-1 at 10). Prior to filing her worker's compensation claim on December 15, Plaintiff never informed anyone at FedEx that she planned to file a workers' compensation claim. (Doc. 15-1 at 10). Prior to Plaintiff's actual ...