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Walowski v. Wal-Mart Stores East, Lp

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

December 23, 2014

JASON WALOWSKI, Plaintiff
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP, Defendant.

ORDER

JAMES E. SHADID, Chief District Judge.

This matter is now before the Court on Defendant, Walmart Stores East, LP's ("Wal-Mart") Motion for Summary Judgment [25]. This matter has been fully briefed. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

STATEMENT OF FACTS[1]

Jason Walowski ("Walowski") began working at Wal-Mart in Princeton, Illinois as a part-time stocker when he was sixteen years old. In 2001, Wal-Mart transferred Walowski to the Distribution Center where he worked as an hourly associate and an hourly supervisor. In 2004, Wal-Mart promoted Walowski into a salaried leadership trainee position and in January 2005, promoted Walowski to Area Manager position. The duties of area managers included ensuring a safe work environment, attending all required Distribution Center meetings, encouraging and facilitating use of the Open Door policy by all associates, and ensuring that goals are met and exceeded in the areas of safety, quality, productivity, and people measurements.

Walowski, as a salaried manager at the Distribution Center, received an annual performance review, which set goals and objectives for the upcoming performance period. As an Area Manager, Walowski also generally received written mid-year performance feedback. The Distribution Center generally used a step process, also called "coaching" to notify individuals of instances when their conduct or performance was below expectations. Walowski used the coaching with associates who reported to him and managers used the Coaching process with Walowski. The Distribution Center also used a Performance Tracking Log (PTL) policy, which included a process of occurrences and steps for performance management. For hourly associates, a step would generally run its course in six months. During Walowski's employment, the Distribution Center also used a performance management process for managers, which included a First Step, a Second Step, and a Third Step, then termination.

On March 22, 2005, Walowski's supervisor Michelle Bowden and General Manager Curt Andersen provided him with an annual evaluation for review period ending January 2005. Walowski received a 3.2 rating, which is considered a "valued performance." Communication was identified as an area of opportunity for Walowski. Walowski signed the evaluation and agreed that it was accurate.

On September 17, 2005, Bowden gave Walowski a mid-year performance evaluation. Walowski received a "valued performance" rating. Communication was identified as an area of opportunity for Walowski. Walowski signed the evaluation and agreed that it was accurate.

On April 5, 2006, Bowden and Assistant Manager Mike Kruse gave Walowski an annual performance evaluation. Walowski received a 3.33 rating, which is considered a "valued performance." Areas of opportunity for Walowski included "needs to be more open to change, effective communication, weekly pallet audits, one-minute observations, prioritizing as well as following through on tasks, [and] learn to ask for help when needed." Walowski signed the evaluation and agreed that it was accurate.

On April 11, 2007, Walowski's supervisor Tony Monti and Kruse gave Walowski an annual evaluation for review period February 1, 2006 through January 13, 2007. Walowski received a 3.47 rating, which is considered a "valued performance." Areas of opportunity included "delegation, willingness to change, consistency in housekeeping, [and] improve on research and auditing processes." Walowski signed the evaluation and agreed that it was accurate.

In September 2007, Monti gave Walowski a mid-year evaluation. Walowski received the ranking "valued performer". Areas of opportunity included of focusing "on reducing his level of frustration, through open communication and compromise." Walowski was also directed to "strive to ensure billing integrity by conducting breakpack audits nightly without fail" and "needs to work improve shift to shift issues by working closely with fellow PUT managers to resolve any issues." Walowski signed the evaluation and agreed that it was accurate.

On March 20, 2008, Monti and Kruse gave Walowski an annual performance evaluation. Walowski received a 3.60 rating, which is considered a "valued performance." Areas of opportunity included, "Jason needs to focus on reducing his level of frustration when dealing with difficult situations, needs to drive billing integrity by ensuring that we are conducting breakpack audits daily without fail, strive to lower cost through process and procedures, [and] safety performance." The evaluation also stated "Jason needs to continue to improve on remaining calm in stressful situations. Always look for solutions to an issue before seeking to lay blame." Walowski signed the evaluation and agreed that it was accurate.

On July 25, 2008, Manager Paul Robinson and Human Resources Manager Jim Perona gave Walowski a performance management step or "coaching" after Walowski confronted another co-worker about slapping his daughter. Walowski testified in his deposition that this incident occurred.

On August 29, 2008, Robinson gave Walowski a mid-year evaluation. Walowski received the ranking "valued performer". Areas of opportunity included "safe work habits" and "make sound decision by analyzing each situation before acting." Always look for solutions to an issue before seeking to lay blame." Walowski signed the evaluation and agreed that it was accurate.

On April 3, 2009, Robinson gave Walowski a performance evaluation for review period ending on January 31, 2009. Walowski received a 3.41 rating, which is considered a "valued performance." The evaluation stated that Walowski needed to "work on anger management. Handle each situation with a level head and make wise decisions bases [sic] on the facts. Always maintain respect for the individual in every situation." Walowski testified that he believes these comments were made due to the July 25, 2008 incident with his co-worker and did not believe that he needed to work on his anger management and respect for individuals. However, Walowski conceded "it was may be the wrong time, wrong place." Walowski also served a suspension during this timeframe because his ex-girlfriend, who also worked at Wal-Mart, filed domestic violence charges against him. The charges were later dropped and Walowski returned back to work. Walowski felt the suspension played a role in his score. His area of opportunities included "Associate development, decision making, personal development, [and] housekeeping." Walowski signed the evaluation and agreed that it was accurate, with exceptions stated above.

In March 2009, Loren Bowman ("Bowman") became Walowski's supervisor. On April 29, 2009, Bowman issued Walowski a written performance management coaching for safety because he did not report a workplace injury in a timely manner. Walowski injured his shoulder on April 17, 2009 and failed to report his injury to Bowman before the end of his shift. Walowski told Bowman that he was very upset that he received a step because the only reason he did not report the injury because he could not find Bowman.

In April 2009, Bowman issued Walowski an occurrence for failure to complete his Risk Control Topic in a timely manner. In May 2009, Bowman issued Walowski an occurrence for failure to complete his safety walks in a timely manner. Also in May 2009, Bowman noted that Walowski completed his store calls, but did not submit them in a timely manner. In August 2009, Bowman noted Walowski failed to turn in his safety ...


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