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Isbell v. John Crane, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 21, 2014

ANNA B. ISBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN CRANE, INC., Defendant

Page 726

For Anna B Isbell, Plaintiff: Jonathan D. Rosen, Spencer J. Marks, Pokorny & Marks, LLC, Chicago, IL; Marissa Beth Saltzman, Pokorny & Marks LLC, Chicago, IL.

For John Crane, Inc., Defendant: Joshua David Holleb, LEAD ATTORNEY, Klein, Dub & Holleb, Limited, Highland Park, IL; Brian Scott Schwartz, Klein Dub & Holleb, Ltd., Highland Park, IL.

Page 727

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Milton I. Shadur, Senior United States District Judge.

Anna Isbell (" Isbell" ) brings this action against her former employer John Crane, Inc. (" Crane" ), charging it with violations of state and federal law for actions that

Page 728

culminated in its August 26, 2009 termination of Isbell. More specifically, Isbell claims that Crane is liable under the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA," 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a)) and part of the Illinois Human Rights Act (" Illinois Act," 775 ILCS 5/1-101) for failing to accommodate her disability and also under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e) and another part of the Illinois Act (775 ILCS 5/2-102) for retaliating against her after she complained of that discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ). Isbell also charges Crane with sex discrimination under Title VII and still another provision of the Illinois Act (775 ILCS 5/1-101).

Each side has now brought a Fed.R.Civ.P. (" Rule" ) 56 cross-motion for summary judgment as to liability, with Crane seeking judgment on all claims and Isbell on all save those alleging sex discrimination.[1] Isbell has coupled her motion with a motion to strike Crane's LR 56.1 statement of facts that seeks to support Crane's summary judgment motion. For the reasons set out more fully below, Isbell's motion to strike is denied, while the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment are granted in part and denied in part.

Motion To Strike Crane's LR 56.1 Statement of Material Facts

Before this opinion proceeds to a recitation of the factual background of the case, it first needs to speak to Isbell's motion to strike Crane's LR 56.1 statement of facts due to a variety of alleged abuses. Crane's submission reflects its counsel's obvious misunderstanding of both the proper form and the function of such statements. LR 56.1 statements should be concise and include the facts that are both undisputed and material to the disposition of the case. By contrast, no one could seriously argue that C. St. ¶ 96, for example, is " short" or " concise" : It is a six-page excerpt -- quoted in its entirety -- from Isbell's deposition testimony.

Indeed, Crane's entire statement is bloated with unnecessary facts and extensive quotations, frequently squeezing several distinct assertions into the same paragraph. To pick a representative example, C. St. ¶ 70 (record citations omitted) reads:

In September 2008, Wasser asked Derby to provide a list of the start times for the employees in the materials laboratory. Derby responded to Wasser's email with a list of the actual start times (when an employee typically arrived as opposed to when they were supposed to arrive) and indicated that Isbell's typical work hours were 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sometime thereafter, Wasser informed Derby that he wanted the employees in the materials laboratory to work a uniform schedule from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00

Page 729

p.m. Wasser changed the start time for employees in the materials laboratory to better align with customer needs. A number of internal customers had complained to Wasser about issues pertaining to the on-time delivery of Crane's products.

That contains multiple assertions of fact that, while related, should not have been grouped together under a single paragraph heading.

Such combinations obfuscate rather than clarify the individual facts, compelling the responding party to admit or deny only portions of any given paragraph and making it more difficult for this Court to identify the specific facts that are in dispute. Moreover, Crane's characterization of several of those assertions -- particularly by contrasting Isbell's start time with when she was " supposed to arrive" -- has inserted an unnecessary dispute into the otherwise uncontested fact that Wasser asked for and was provided with Isbell's schedule of 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Crane is also guilty of supplying numerous facts that are wholly irrelevant to its motion. Excessive quotations from Crane's employee handbook (C. St. ¶ ¶ 17-20) or other employees' job descriptions (C. St. ¶ ¶ 35-36) add nothing to the discussion. While not every fact provided in an LR 56.1 statement needs to be mentioned in the accompanying memorandum of law, the inclusion of many such facts -- evidently unimportant to disposition of the motion -- should at a minimum give counsel pause.

Crane's repeated attempts to advance its own factual and legal arguments with its LR 56.1 statement subvert the purpose of those statements, which is to assist the court in identifying whether any issues of material fact exist. While it is well within this Court's discretion to enforce LR 56.1 strictly (Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000) is typical of a host of cases so holding), to do so here would serve only to delay unnecessarily the ultimate disposition of the case.

In sum, what this Court said about motions to strike in Gittings v. Tredegar Corp., 2010 WL 4930998, at *1 n.4 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2010) is equally true here:

Such motions are pretty much a waste of time and effort, because this Court is of course aware of the applicable rules and will not consider noncomplying materials.

Because it is possible -- albeit with significant difficulty -- to discern the disputed issues from Crane's filings, this Court declines to impose the harsh penalty of striking Crane's entire response and will instead proceed with its analysis of the evidence. What follows in the regrettably lengthy Facts section comes from statements that are undisputed by the parties.

Facts

Crane manufactures, sells and services engineered sealing systems for a wide range of industries (C. St. ¶ 1). Critical to Crane's business is its ability to ship products on a tight schedule because a significant portion of its clients -- particularly those in the oil and gas industry -- must suspend their operations while waiting for replacement parts from Crane (C. St. ¶ ¶ 39, 41). Completed parts typically arrive at Crane's lab by 7 a.m., but before they can be shipped they must undergo a series of inspections beginning with positive material identification (" PMI" ) testing (C. St. ¶ 40). Isbell and Crane dispute whether on-time delivery simply required completion of the PMIs in time for overnight shipping or whether those tests had to be completed as quickly as possible so that there would be time for additional inspections

Page 730

in the afternoon (C. St. ¶ 42; I. R. C. St. ¶ 42), but that dispute is not material (that is, outcome-determination) in light of the substantive rulings announced later in this opinion.

In April 2003 Crane hired Isbell to work in its Materials Laboratory as a chemical engineer, a position she held until her August 26, 2009 firing (I. St. ¶ 1). Among Isbell's various job duties were providing services for Crane's other departments (" internal customers" ) and conducting PMIs on Crane's products (C. St. ¶ 32).

In May 2005 Isbell began experiencing difficulty functioning in the early morning hours (I. St. ¶ ¶ 15-16). Upon examination she was diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (" ADD" ) and Bipolar Disorder and was prescribed a number of medications to treat them, none of which significantly improved her ability to function in the early morning because they did not kick in until several hours after she awoke (I. St. ¶ ¶ 15-17).[2] When Isbell was hired her regular hours were from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. (C. St. ¶ 46), but in February 2006 she began to arrive at work somewhat later (I. St. ¶ 11). Brent Gross (" Gross" ), her acting supervisor at the time, evidently made no objection when she started to come in later in the morning (C. St. ¶ 54).

In September 2006 James Derby (" Derby" ) was hired as a new laboratory manager and became the direct supervisor of three full time employees: Isbell, Ron Kleck (" Kleck" ) and Greg Siosin (" Siosin" ) (I. St. ¶ 20; I. Add. St. ¶ 5). Isbell asked Derby if she could continue to arrive at work at 10 a.m. -- as she had been doing at that point for about six months -- and he voiced no objection so long as ...


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