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Pam Good v. Cpi Corp

September 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge


Plaintiff Pam Good brought suit against Defendant CPI Corporation after CPI terminated her employment (Doc. 19).*fn1 Good alleges that she was subjected to demotion, harassment and discharge from her job in retaliation for filing a Workers' Compensation claim, and due to discrimination based on her age and gender. Good also claims that her termination stemmed from her filing a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights regarding the workplace harassment she endured. Good further asserts a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Before the Court is Defendant CPI Corporation's motion for summary judgment and memorandum of law (Docs. 28 and 29). Also before the Court is Plaintiff Good's response in opposition (Doc. 30).

1. Factual Synopsis

Plaintiff Pam Good, a 51-year-old female, worked for Defendant CPI portrait studios for approximately 24 years-working her way up to manager of CPI's Northwest Plaza studio in Missouri. Good broke her ankle at work in December 2008, after which she had certain physical restrictions, such as having to be able to sit as necessary, and not standing for more than four hours per day. In January 2009, she transferred to CPI's Edwardsville, Illinois location, where she was assistant manager. Thirty-year-old Kelli Schwahn was the new manager of the Edwardsville studio.

Previously, Schwahn had managed Portrait Gallery. CPI is a Sears Portrait Studio, and Portrait Gallery was a spinoff of CPI. Portrait Gallery was being integrated into Sears Portrait Studios, and Good had been asked to move to the Edwardsville studio, at least in part, to lend her years of Sears/CPI experience to the transition effort. According to Carol Wray, a CPI assistant manager of training, Wray and Mark Weigum, CPI District Manager, were periodically working with employees at the Edwardsville studio, training them in Sears Portrait Studio practices, procedures and computer systems.

In February 2009, Good complained to District Manager Weigum that Schwahn was not treating her like a fellow associate and assistant manager. Good perceived that Schwahn did not want her there because she was not Schwahn's first pick as assistant manager, because Good was not a Portrait Gallery alumna. Because of her physical restrictions, Good could perform all of the duties of an assistant manager, except for photography, which entailed standing, stooping and crouching. Schwahn would not allow Good to help train associates, and she reprimanded Good at every opportunity. Good was in tears quite a few times and did not want to go to work.

Manager and assistant manager constantly clashed on the proper way of doing things. Also, Good objected to being scheduled five or six times to work on Sunday when she had church commitments, although she was actually able to get others to work her shift on all but one occasion. When she transferred to Edwardsville, District Manager Weigum had assured Good that she would not routinely be scheduled to work on Sundays. Good's complaints to Weigum and Human Resources officials at CPI were ineffective. Admittedly, Good did not specifically complain of age or gender discrimination. Good has asserted that Studio Manager Kelli Schwahn was retaliating because Good filed a Workers' Compensation claim, but during her deposition Good acknowledged she really does not know what motivated Schwahn.

Good's injured ankle eventually required surgery; consequently, she was off work from May until November, 2009. While on leave, she received Workers' Compensation TTD benefits. When Good returned to work, she still had certain work restrictions: she had a boot and crutches; she could not stand for more than two hours per day, and she had to keep her leg elevated. Again, she could not perform the photography aspect of the assistant manager position. In fact, Good had to return as a mere associate because, a few weeks earlier, District Manager Weigum had hired a 25-year-old to be assistant manager-Dan McKinnon. According to Good, CPI had known for a month when she was projected to return to work. The job had initially been offered to Jody Rouse, a female who was younger than Good, but over 40-years- old. Good thinks it was discriminatory to offer the job to someone with less experience than she-half her age, with no previous managerial experience with CPI. And, Good asserts that McKinnon was paid less than she had been paid as assistant manager. McKinnon would become the only man working at the Edwardsville studio, which had always been staffed by women.

As an associate, Good was to be paid the same as she had been paid as assistant manager, but she would only be guaranteed 30 hours of work per week, instead of 35-40 hours that assistant managers are guaranteed to work. However, Weigum guaranteed Good 35 hours. Good acknowledges actually being scheduled to work 35 hours per week and not being affected financially.

The first day she returned to work, November 13, 2009, Good left voicemail messages for District Manager Weigum and the Human Resources Department, complaining that hiring McKinnon to replace her was discriminatory. Good perceived discrimination stemming from her lodging a Workers' Compensation claim, and also because McKinnon was so young and inexperienced. According to Good, two studio associates told her that McKinnon could perform the job better because he was younger; otherwise, there were no verbal statements indicating age discrimination. According to Good, Jody, an associate, told her that CPI did not want Good as assistant manager because of her Workers' Compensation claim. Good also recalled Schwahn saying that Good was too old to get down on the ground and was therefore not as good a photographer as Schwahn. Good has testified that there were no statements made reflecting gender discrimination.

Good kept a diary, recording harassment from her first day back at work until she was terminated. The following principal events are culled from her diary and deposition testimony. She and others had to memorize a card of customer service responses, but only she had to recite what was on the card, as a sort of test. On November 17, 2009, when she attempted to use the restroom on her second day back at work, Assistant Manager McKinnon told her she could not do so because Manager Schwahn had instructed him to not let Good do anything that was not specifically permitted by Good's doctor's note. Because McKinnon was her boss, Good said she took him seriously and called her doctor to get another note that specified that she could use the restroom. On November 27, Schwahn falsely accused Good of eating chips in the studio and then reprimanded her. When Good denied the allegation, Schwahn threw her hair back and flatly stated that she knew Good had eaten in the studio. The next day, Schwahn made a second false accusation about Good eating in the studio. Several more false accusations were made by Schwahn, and she was written up for multiple procedural violations. Schwahn subsequently told Good that if she were not available to work every day of the week (including Sundays) after her Workers' Compensation period ended, then she would be fired. On another occasion, Schwahn accused Good of gossiping about her and McKinnon. During the busy Christmas season, Good describes Schwahn attempting to lure her into violating CPI scheduling policy and turning away customers, but Good turned the tables on Schwahn and reported her to District Manager Weigum. Good repeatedly called Weigum about these incidents of harassment, but nothing was done.

Carol Ann Wray, one of the Sears Portrait Studio trainers, testified that, prior to Good starting as assistant manager in Edwardsville, Schwahn told her that she did not want Good as her assistant manager. According to Wray, Schwahn said she would do whatever she had to do to get rid of Good-staying within the guidelines, using scheduling. Schwahn feared Good was going to be lazy and not do her job. Wray described Schwahn singling out Good and treating her in a more abusive manner than she treated others. Wray witnessed Schwahn lashing out at Good for doing tasks beyond the work limits set by her doctor-telling Good twice that "[a]ll she was supposed to be doing was sitting on her ass and not do nothing except work on the computers." Wray told Schwahn to take Good outside or to the break room to speak to her, not to do it in front of customers. Wray also suggested Schwahn speak to Good in a professional manner. Schwahn did not want Wray telling her how to run her studio. Wray reported all of these things to Weigum, who opined that Good and Schwahn would work out their differences.

On December 15, 2009, Schwahn was yelling at Good, who asked her to stop. Good was frustrated; she began to cry and feel as though she was having a heart attack. Schwahn said, "Well you're just a big baby." Good had a panic attack in the studio and had to be taken to the emergency room by a friend. According to Good, the emergency room doctor recommended that Good change jobs or Good was going to die. Good then called Human Resources and District Manager Weigum again, and then filed a written complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Schwahn continued to harass Good, falsely accusing her of refusing to assist a customer. Schwahn then ordered that Good no longer help customers or answer the phone. On January 1, 2010, Schwahn told Good that she knew Good had filed a complaint. Good then saw an ad for a customer service position in the home office, so she asked Weigum about transferring. He told her, without explanation, that she could not have the job.

On Friday, January 8, 2010, Schwahn and Good got into an argument about whether Good could work only four hours the next day. That day, after work, she received a call telling her not to report to work on Saturday-because of something she had said that day at work. Eventually, she was informed she had supposedly said to Schwahn: "I can see how that guy in St. Louis went off and did what he did, I feel the same way." Good asserts that she did not make the statement, and she has no idea what it means.

A letter was sent to Good, setting a deadline for her to respond with her explanation. Good testified only that she turned the matter over to her attorney. Good then filed for short-term disability stemming from stress. CPI terminated Good's ...

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