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Jacquelin Fitzpatrick v. Raymond Management Company

November 8, 2011

JACQUELIN FITZPATRICK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RAYMOND MANAGEMENT COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James B. Zagel

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff filed her three-count complaint alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against her due to her race and age. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all counts. Because Plaintiff has not suffered an adverse employment action, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Jacquelin Fitzpatrick is a 60-year-old African-American woman. From 2001 until May 21, 2008, she worked as Sales Manager at the Hampton Inn in Skokie, Illinois ("the Hampton"). Her responsibilities in this position were twofold: "inside sales", where she managed calls coming into the hotel by parties seeking to book an event; and "outside sales", where she solicited potential new customers. Toward the end of 2007, Hampton experienced a significant decline in inside sales due in part to the increased competitiveness of another local hotel, The Doubletree. The management at Hampton quickly realized that they needed to expand their sales efforts in order to remain competitive. Sometime in late 2007 or early 2008, Janice Alvarez, Director of Sales and Plaintiff's immediate supervisor, and Roy Myles, the General Manager, told Plaintiff that they planned to hire an additional Sales Manager to focus on outside sales.

Around this same time Plaintiff's relationship with Alvarez and Myles began to sour. Among other things, Plaintiff claims that Myles and Alvarez barely spoke to her and were dismissive of her requests for help with her outside sales efforts. Plaintiff also claims Myles and Alvarez began cutting her out of meetings and other events in which Plaintiff previously participated, such as planning for the office holiday party and attending the annual sales conference. At one point during this late 2007/early 2008 time period, Plaintiff overheard Alvarez or Myles remark "we need to do the same thing at our hotel to compete." Plaintiff interpreted this as a reference to the Doubletree, which had recently hired a "young blond woman" as its sales manager. Plaintiff suspected that Alvarez and Myles' icy behavior toward her was part of an effort to push her out so that the Hampton could hire a young blond woman of their own.

Plaintiff's suspicions were confirmed, at least in part, on Sunday, March 9, 2008, when Myles called her at her home and stated that he and Alverez "would like to hire someone young and cute to be the Sales Manager and we would like for you to step down and become the Sales Coordinator"--a clear demotion. Plaintiff demurred and stated that she wanted to talk with Myles and Alvarez about it the next day. The next day Plaintiff voiced her objection to the demotion with Alvarez, but the parties dispute what Alvarez said in response. Plaintiff claims that Alvarez stated "this is what we're going to do and you either have to accept it or you don't." Defendants claim that Alvarez told Plaintiff that she had "misunderstood Myles and explained that they did not want to change Plaintiff's position, but instead wanted Plaintiff to focus on sales." What is not disputed is that Plaintiff was never actually demoted and Myles and Alvarez made no further requests for her to step down as sales manager.

Over the weeks following the March 9 phone call, things got worse for Plaintiff. The Hampton hired an additional sales manager who was much younger than Plaintiff. Plaintiff was not included in the interview process and felt that this was a sign she was going to be replaced by the new hire. Although Plaintiff continued to meet with Myles and Alvarez twice a week to discuss sales efforts, she claims that these interactions were strained and uncomfortable. Other staff members noticed that Plaintiff's relationship with Myles and Alvarez had significantly deteriorated. Around May 1, 2008, Plaintiff sought out an employment reference anticipating that she may soon need to find new work.

On May 20, 2008, a co-worker called Plaintiff at home and stated, "I heard you are going to be fired because they want this other girl for your position." The co-worker did not tell Plaintiff the source of this information. Although Plaintiff had no personal knowledge that she was going to fired, this phone call was the final straw for her. She decided to resign the next day in order to avoid any stigma of being terminated. On May 21, 2008, Plaintiff tendered her resignation letter to Myles and Alvarez.

On October 9, 2008, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging race discrimination, age discrimination and retaliation. The charge named only Hampton Inn as the defendant. Plaintiff claims that she filed an Amended Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC around February 26, 2009, that named North Shore Lodging Associates and Raymond Management Company as defendants.

The EEOC has no record of this. However, any potential problems with Plaintiff's failure to exhaust need not be addressed because she has not suffered a cognizable injury under Title VII or the ADEA.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment should be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The facts presented are to be construed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Smith v. City of Chicago, 242 F.3d 737, 742 (7th Cir. 2001). Once the moving party has set forth the basis for summary judgment, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party who must go beyond mere allegations and offer specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-324 (1986).

III. DISCUSSION

For Plaintiff to obtain relief under Title VII and the ADEA, she must first show that she suffered an adverse employment action based on her race (Title VII) or age (ADEA). There are three general types of adverse employment actions: (1) termination or reduction in compensation, fringe benefits, or other financial terms of employment; (2) transfers or changes in job duties that cause an employee's skills to atrophy and reduce future career prospects; and (3) unbearable changes in job conditions, such as a hostile work ...


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