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Bozek v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

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

June 17, 2015

RENATA BOZEK, INETTA BURNS, and THERESA LISHAMER, Plaintiffs,
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Renata Bozek, Theresa Lishamer and Inetta Burns bring this action against Defendant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Wal-Mart"), alleging sex discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Wal-Mart has moved to sever Plaintiffs' claims for misjoinder pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 21 or, alternatively, for separate trials, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(b). For the reasons discussed below, Wal-Mart's Motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are all former class members of the national class action, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 603 F.3d 571, (9th Cir. 2010), which alleged that Wal-Mart discriminated against its female employees by failing to pay and promote them equally. On June 20, 2011, the United States Supreme Court decertified the Dukes class action, holding that the class allegations failed to satisfy the commonality requirement. See Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, et al., 131 S.Ct. 2541 (2011). After decertification, class members were given the opportunity to individually prosecute their claims for discrimination. On January 2, 2015, Plaintiffs filed this action. Wal-Mart has answered the Complaint but has not responded to Plaintiffs' discovery requests or served discovery, pending ruling on its present Motion.

The following facts are drawn from the Complaint's allegations and are assumed to be true for purposes of this Motion. All three Plaintiffs worked in Wal-Mart stores in Northern Illinois over differing time periods but with overlap for the years 2005 to 2008. Bozek was a Wal-Mart employee from 1992 to 2011; Burns from 2005 to the present; and Lishamer from 2001 to 2008. All three Plaintiffs allege that Wal-Mart discriminated against them by failing to promote and to pay them equally.

From 1992 through 2000, Bozek worked in Wal-Mart stores in Bridgeview, Darien and Hodgkins, Illinois. In 2000, Bozek was promoted from an hourly position into a Management-in-Training ("MIT") program, after which she was placed as an Assistant Manager in Bedford Park, Illinois. In 2004, she moved to a store in Bridgeview, Illinois. Bozek applied for upper management positions but was not promoted, even though less-qualified male employees were promoted to such positions. Bozek was also paid less than her male counterparts. Bozek left Wal-Mart in May 2011.

Burns was hired by Wal-Mart in 2005 and is a current employee. She was selected for Wal-Mart's MIT program in 2005 and placed as an Assistant Manager at a Wal-Mart store in Bradley, Illinois. Burns asked to be transferred to a newly opened store in Glenwood, Illinois, which was closer to her home, but was told she could not be transferred; a male employee later received the position Burns wanted. Burns stepped down to an Associate position and was transferred to the Glenwood store, but she was not promoted when she applied to be a Support Manager. She transferred to a Wal-Mart store in Beavercreek, Ohio and was not promoted at that store either. Burns was paid less than her male counterparts. Since March 2012, Burns has been a Personnel Training Coordinator in a North Carolina Wal-Mart store.

Lishamer was hired by Wal-Mart in 2001 as a cashier and inventory control specialist at a Wal-Mart in DeKalb, Illinois. Lishamer was interested in the MIT program but told by her manager that she would never be promoted. Her male co-worker, however, received a promotion to the MIT program. Lishamer applied for management positions but did not receive them. Lishamer was later transferred to be a Department Manager of Stationery in St. Charles, Illinois, and successfully turned the department's performance around; however, she was still refused a promotion to the MIT program. Lishamer was not paid as much as her male counterparts.

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Rule 20(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiffs may join claims in one lawsuit if:

(A) they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and
(B) any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a). If plaintiffs fail to satisfy either of these requirements, joinder is improper. Bailey v. N. Trust Co., 196 F.R.D. 513, 515 (N.D. Ill. 2000). Rule 21 provides that the court may not dismiss the action but may sever the misjoined claim or party at any time during the lawsuit. Fed.R.Civ.P. 21. Furthermore, "[e]ven if plaintiffs satisfy the requirements for permissive joinder under Rule 20(a), the court has discretion to sever a party at any time [ ] if doing so will increase judicial economy and avoid prejudice to the litigants." Robinson v. Dart, No. 13 C 1502, 2014 WL 222711, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 21, 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Rice v. Sunrise Express, Inc., 209 F.3d 1008, 1016 (7th Cir. 2000) ("It is within the district court's broad discretion whether to sever a claim under Rule 21.").

The Seventh Circuit has not set forth a definitive statement as to what constitutes a single transaction for the purposes of the first requirement. McDowell v. Morgan Stanley & Co., 645 F.Supp.2d 690, 694 (N.D. Ill. 2009). Accordingly, district courts conduct the ...


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