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Vinkler v. County of Dupage

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

June 17, 2014

KERRY VINKLER, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF DUPAGE, ILLINOIS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kerry Vinkler filed an Amended Complaint against her former employer, Defendant County of DuPage, Illinois ("DuPage"), alleging DuPage violated her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. DuPage has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [20]. For the reasons set forth below, that Motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Local Rule 56.1(a) requires the party moving for summary judgment to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue" and to cite to the relevant admissible evidence supporting each fact. Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) then requires the nonmoving party to admit or deny each factual statement proffered by the moving party and to concisely designate any material facts that establish a genuine dispute for trial. Martin v. Gonzalez, 526 F.Appx. 681, 682 (7th Cir. 2013). Under Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C), the nonmoving party may file a statement of additional facts, and the moving party may submit a concise reply under Local Rule 56.1(a)(3). To the extent that a purported fact is merely a legal conclusion, it is disregarded. See Judson Atkinson Candies, Inc. v. Latini-Hohberger Dhimantec, 529 F.3d 371 (7th Cir. 2008).

A litigant's failure to respond to a Rule 56.1 statement, or to dispute the statement without "specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting material, " results in the court's admitting the uncontroverted statement as true. Banks v. Fuentes, 545 F.Appx. 518, 520 (7th Cir.2013). Similarly, responses containing argumentative denials or extraneous information do not properly dispute a fact. See Graziano v. Village of Oak Park, 401 F.Supp.2d 918, 937 (N.D. Ill. 2005).

DuPage moved to strike a number of Vinkler's responses in her Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) Response on the grounds that these responses presented new facts, which should properly be raised in Vinkler's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) Statement of Additional Facts. Specifically, DuPage argues that Vinkler attempted to introduce new facts in her 56.1(b)(3)(B) Response and "gives record cites that are not contained in her [S]tatement of [A]dditional [F]acts." (Def's Reply Memorandum at 3.) "District courts have broad discretion to enforce local rules governing summary judgment, including specifically Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B)." Martin, 526 F.Appx. at 682 (citations omitted). DuPage's argument is persuasive with respect to Vinkler's responses that are unresponsive or that include new facts and citations to new documents. However, many of the responses DuPage moves to strike simply state that Vinkler "disagrees with" Dupage's statement, and cite Vinkler's deposition. Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) requires "in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record and other supporting materials relied upon...." DuPage included Vinkler's deposition with its Motion for Summary Judgment, albeit only the pages of the deposition DuPage chose to cite. Therefore, Vinkler's responses citing her own deposition are not inappropriate. After reviewing Vinkler's 56.1(b)(3)(B) responses, Vinkler's responses to paragraphs 4, 35, 36, 38 and 40 are stricken. The remaining responses will be considered.

In July 2005, DuPage hired Vinkler as its Director of Animal Care and Control. (Def.'s SOF ¶ 3.)[1] The Director of Animal Care and Control is a position under the authority of the DuPage County Board. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Throughout her tenure, Vinkler's performance evaluations reflected Vinkler meeting or exceeding DuPage's expectations. (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 3.)

On or about August 17, 2012, the DuPage County Director of Human Resources, Margaret Ewing, was made aware of an Animal Care and Control employee's statements during her exit interview that Vinkler made inappropriate comments, kept inappropriate items on her desk, and treated employees inconsistently. (Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 6, 25, 26.) On or about September 27, 2012, Ewing was made aware of statements made by another Animal Care and Control employee that Vinkler would leave work and not return, was unreachable by phone or email for extended periods, falsified time sheets, and was generally unavailable to Animal Care and Control employees. ( Id. ¶¶ 27, 28.) In response to these statements, Vinkler's direct supervisor, Elizabeth Welch, initiated an investigation. ( Id. ¶ 29.) During the course of her investigation, Welch spoke with an Animal Care and Control accountant, who also stated Vinkler falsified time sheets, and the Animal Care and Control Foundation Coordinator, who stated Vinkler was absent from several events she registered to attend. ( Id. ¶¶ 30, 31.)

On October 4, 2012, Welch requested a meeting with Vinkler, but Vinkler left work early due to illness. ( Id. ¶ 34.) Vinkler remained absent from work through October 16, 2012, and DuPage designated that time FMLA leave. ( Id. ¶ 33.) On October 17, 2012, Vinkler returned with a note from her doctor, indicating no restrictions on her work and listing no diagnoses or certifications of specific illnesses. ( Id. )

On the same day Vinkler returned to work, Welch initiated a meeting with Ewing and Vinkler in order to give Vinkler an opportunity to respond to the statements Welch had collected. ( Id. ¶ 34.) Vinkler failed to respond to most allegations and admitted to Welch that she had, at least once, falsified time sheets. ( Id. ¶ 35.)

Based on the credibility of the employee accounts of Vinkler and Vinkler's inability to refute the allegations at the October 17, 2012 meeting, Ewing lacked confidence in Vinkler's leadership ability and concluded that Vinkler was an ineffective administrator. ( Id. ¶ 37.) On October 19, 2012, Ewing presented Vinkler with a letter, notifying Vinkler of her immediate discharge and summarizing the reasons for discharge. ( Id. ¶ 38.) Vinkler appealed her discharge before an arbitrator, and the arbitrator ruled that DuPage had just cause to discharge Vinkler. ( Id. ¶ 39.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when there remains "no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); See Parent v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. 2012). The party seeking summary judgment must first identify those portions of the record that establish there is no genuine issue of material fact. U.S. v. King-Vassel, 728 F.3d 707, 711 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). To survive such a showing, the nonmoving party must "present sufficient evidence to show the existence of each element of its case on which it will bear the burden at trial." Tri-Gen Inc. v. Int'l Union of Operating Eng'rs, Local 150, AFL-CIO, 433 F.3d 1024, 1030-31 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Serfecz v. Jewel Food Stores, 67 F.3d 591, 596 (7th Cir. 1995)). Opposition to summary judgment requires more than a scintilla of evidence or some metaphysical doubt. Nat'l Inspection Repairs, Inc. v. George S. May Int'l Co., 600 F.3d 878, 882 (7th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). The evidence must be such "that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Wells v. Coker, 707 F.3d 756, 760 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). The court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence. George v. Kraft Foods Global, Inc., 641 F.3d 786, 799 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). Therefore, issues of contract interpretation are ...


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