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Norma Jean Peterson v. Apostolic Christian Home of Roanoke

November 30, 2012

NORMA JEAN PETERSON, PLAINTIFF
v.
APOSTOLIC CHRISTIAN HOME OF ROANOKE, INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge

E-FILED

Friday, 30 November, 2012 03:41:55 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Plaintiff, Norma Jean Peterson, ("Peterson") has filed a complaint against the Apostolic Christian Home of Roanoke, Inc., ("Home") alleging age discrimination and retaliation. The Home has moved for summary judgment, to which Peterson has responded. The matter is now fully briefed, and this Order follows.

BACKGROUND

The facts are not complex. Peterson was hired in 1997 as a housekeeper by the Home. Ellen Grafelman ("Grafelman") was, and continued during the course of her employment to be, her supervisor. When Peterson was hired, she discussed with Grafelman that she had a longstanding job monitoring children during the noon hour at Benson Junior High School in Benson, Illinois.

The typical housekeeper worked at the Home from 6:30 am to 3:00 pm, and the normal lunch break for housekeepers was from 11:30 am to noon. The Benson school lunch hour was the same. In order to continue as a lunch monitor at the school, Peterson would have to leave the Home at 10:50 am and not arrive back to work until approximately 12:10-12:15 pm. An accommodation was made for Peterson that allowed her to keep her position with the school. Thus, Peterson was gone from the Home during her shift for approximately one hour and twenty minutes each day that school was in session. No other housekeeper had this arrangement.

It is not disputed that this arrangement worked until sometime in 2008. In the fall of 2008, to address issues of staffing and overall costs, the Home cut employees' hours by one hour across the board. Because Peterson had the accommodation of leaving for an extended period during the lunch break, this cut affected her, as a percentage, more harshly than other employees. By taking the range of hours of employment, and applying it across the board to all employees, the effect was that Peterson was losing more time than other employees. As a result, Peterson filed an age discrimination charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

Shortly after the filing, the Administrator of the Home, Mr. Richard Isaia ("Isaia"), sat down with Peterson to discuss her complaints. Isaia then went through the time cards, found that Peterson was in effect losing more time, and came up with a formula that concentrated on the number of hours as opposed to the schedule of hours. Peterson was satisfied and dismissed her discrimination complaint.

By February 2009, the number of residents at the Home had not increased and the issue of cutting expenses was again addressed. Grafelman and Isaia concluded that to reduce any more employee hours, it would be necessary for everyone to work standard hours. As a result, a letter dated 2/24/09 set forth a policy change making the 6:30-10:45, 12:10-2:00 position no longer available. Given that no other housekeeper had this accommodation, this policy effectively applied to one person, Peterson. Peterson was offered the option of seven full hours per day uninterrupted for a 35 hour week or seven full hours uninterrupted per day for a 21 hour week. This, of course, would effectively alter Peterson's ability to continue her work at the school. She was given two weeks to decide. Peterson ultimately informed them that she would not accept the standard hours, and her employment was terminated.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

A motion for summary judgment will be granted where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court of portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 2553. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988).

If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party then has the burden of presenting specific facts to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and produce evidence of a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 106 S.Ct. at 2553. This Court must then determine whether there is a need for trial -- whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact ...


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