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Adiemeli v. Loretto Hospital

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 16, 2013

PATRICIA ADIEMELI, Plaintiff,
v.
LORETTO HOSPITAL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Patricia Adiemeli ("Adiemeli"), a registered nurse who was 55 years old at the time of the incidents alleged in her complaint, alleges that her former employer, defendant Loretto Hospital ("Loretto"), discharged her in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim and because of her age. Loretto moves for summary judgment arguing that Adiemeli presents no evidence of a causal relationship between her discharge and the exercise of her rights under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act ("IWCA"). Loretto also argues that Adiemeli fails to present any direct or indirect evidence of age discrimination. For the following reasons Loretto's motion is granted in its entirety.

Background

The basic facts are undisputed. Adiemeli was hired as a registered nurse at Loretto Hospital in September 2009. Adiemeli began work in the Behavioral Health Unit of the hospital as a "flex employee." As a flex employee, Adiemeli worked whenever needed at a starting rate of $28.75 per hour. Her starting pay rate was determined by a grid system which takes into account an employee's years of experience and years licensed as a nurse.[1]

Three months later, Adiemeli's status was changed from a flex employee to a full time employee. As a full time employee, Adiemeli was scheduled to work 40 hour weeks at the same hourly rate she received when she was a flex employee. Adiemeli also became eligible for benefits such as health insurance and participation in a retirement plan. Additionally, Loretto provides a series of sign-on bonuses for new employees. When flex employees become full-time employees, a hiring bonus of $2, 000 is given in two installments: the first installment to be paid six months after the nurse becomes full time, and the second installment to be paid after the nurse has been employed full time for 12 months. Adiemeli received all benefits upon becoming a full time employee with the exception of the second installment of her bonus because she was terminated prior to her twelfth month of employment.

On August 8, 2010, Adiemeli suffered an on-job injury to her back. She was taken to Loretto's emergency room and the following day informed Loretto that, pursuant to her doctor's orders, she would not be able to come in to work between August 9 and August 23, 2010. Loretto's leave policy provides that to be eligible for Family/Medical Leave or any other type of leave, an employee must be employed by the hospital for at least 12 consecutive months.[2] Loretto terminated Adiemeli by letter on August 18, 2012 after learning that she was unable to return to work and was not eligible for Family/Medical Leave or any other type of leave under the hospital's policy. The letter stated that Adiemeli could reapply for employment after she was granted permission to work by her physician.

On June 10, 2011 Adiemeli filed a complaint alleging that Loretto terminated her in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim and because of her age. Loretto now moves for summary judgment on all Adiemeli's claims.

Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). The initial burden is upon the moving party to demonstrate that no genuine issue respecting any material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, all ambiguities must be resolved and all inferences drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423, F.3d 763, 773 (7th Cir. 2005). However, once the movant has met this initial burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in Rule 56. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

Discussion

1. Age Discrimination

Adiemeli alleges that Loretto terminated her employment in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). A party alleging discrimination under the ADEA may proceed under the direct or indirect method of proof and may rely on circumstantial evidence to meet his burden. Teruggi v. CIT Group/Capital Fin., Inc., 709 F.3d 654, 659 (7th Cir. 2013). It is unclear whether Adiemeli relies on a direct method or indirect method of proof. Loretto argues that there are no genuine issues of material fact regardless of whether Adiemeli employs the direct or indirect method.

To survive summary judgment on its ADEA claim, Adiemeli must offer evidence from which an inference of discriminatory intent can be drawn, such as: "(1) suspicious timing; (2) ambiguous statements or behavior towards other employees in the protected group; (3) evidence, statistical or otherwise, that similarly situated employees outside of the protected group systematically receive better treatment; and (4) evidence that the employer offered a pretextual reason for an adverse employment action." Fleishman v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 698 F.3d 598, 603 (7th Cir. 2012)

To the extent that Adiemeli relies on the direct method of proof to demonstrate that Loretto terminated her employment in violation of the ADEA, Adiemeli fails to provide evidence of an admission by Loretto or a "convincing mosaic of circumstantial evidence" that points directly to a discriminatory reason for the employer's action. Id. at 604. Adiemeli cites to the employment of four other nurses and argues that these nurses were paid higher starting wages. Two of these nurses had been licensed six to eight years before Adiemeli and the other two, with less experience, were appropriately paid lower ...


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