United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JORGE L. ALONSO United States District Judge.
Lawrence Lance, lost his job as a teacher at a public high
school in Chicago, where he was employed by defendant, the
Board of Education of the City of Chicago
(“Board”). In this lawsuit, plaintiff claims that
defendant interfered with, and retaliated against him for
exercising, his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601. Defendant has
moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the
Court grants defendant’s motion.
1994 to 2012, plaintiff worked for the Board as an
English-as-a-second-language (“ESL”) teacher at
Carl Schurz High School (“Schurz”) in Chicago.
(Def.’s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 4, ECF No. 29.) In
the spring of 2012, Daniel Kramer, the principal at Schurz,
evaluated plaintiff’s performance by observing his
teaching on two occasions. (Id., ¶ 8.) Kramer
concluded that plaintiff’s teaching was ineffective due
to problems with his lesson planning, student engagement,
classroom management, and proficiency teaching the assigned
subject matter, and he rated plaintiff’s teaching for
the 2011-2012 school year as “unsatisfactory.”
(Id.) In June 2012, Kramer informed plaintiff that
he had decided, based on plaintiff’s poor performance
as an ESL teacher and a request from the department
coordinator to remove plaintiff from the ESL program, that
plaintiff would not teach ESL the following school year.
(Id., ¶¶ 11-12.) The chairperson of the
history department offered to accept plaintiff into that
department, and Kramer thought plaintiff would be more
effective as a history teacher, so Kramer decided to reassign
plaintiff to teaching history. (Id., ¶ 13.) In
September 2012, plaintiff was informed that he would teach
history in the 2012-2013 school year. (Id.)
September 6, 2012, plaintiff took leave under the FMLA to
deal with mental health issues. (Id., ¶ 18;
Id., Ex. 1, Pl.’s Dep., at 77:24-78:15.).
plaintiff was on leave, the Board notified Kramer that
Schurz's enrollment had not met projections, its budget
would be cut, and Kramer would have to eliminate either a
full-time teacher position or its equivalent in part-time or
overtime positions. (Id., ¶¶ 20-22.).
Weighing his options, Kramer knew that teachers in the
overtime positions (i.e., teachers due overtime pay
because they were teaching more than the standard number of
students per class period or more than the standard number of
class periods per school year) were often teaching critically
important courses that Schurz would be unable to offer
without making use of overtime teaching. (Id.,
¶ 25.) The class sizes in the history department,
however, were below the maximum number of students per class.
(Id.) This meant that if Kramer eliminated a history
teacher’s position, the remaining teachers could absorb
that teacher’s students without exceeding class-size
limitations and with minimal disruption to the
students’ education. (Id., ¶ 25.)
decided to eliminate a full-time history teacher position,
and he communicated his decision to the Board’s Budget
Office. (Id., ¶ 26.) The Budget Office then
forwarded the decision to the Board’s Talent Office for
the Talent Office learns that a position in a particular
department of a particular school has been eliminated for
budgetary reasons, it reviews the seniority, certifications,
endorsements and performance evaluations of teachers who hold
that position to determine which teacher will be displaced.
(Id., ¶ 27.) Per Board policy at the time,
teachers with unsatisfactory performance evaluations were
displaced first, regardless of seniority or other factors.
(Id.) Although plaintiff believes he heard of other
teachers at Schurz who received unsatisfactory performance
evaluations in 2011-2012 (Id., Ex. 1, at 62:17-24),
the Board’s records show that plaintiff was the only
such teacher. (Id., ¶ 28.) Therefore, the
Talent Office identified plaintiff as the teacher to be
displaced, and it communicated its determination to Kramer.
(Id., ¶ 29.)
October 10, 2012, while plaintiff was still on FMLA, Kramer
notified plaintiff that he had lost his position at Schurz
due to the weaker-than-expected enrollment and would be
re-staffed in the Reassigned Teacher Pool
(“RTP”). (Id., ¶ 31.) Plaintiff
received a letter from the Talent Office to the same effect.
(Id.) He was officially assigned to the RTP on
November 27, 2012, when he returned from FMLA leave.
(Id., ¶ 33.) Pursuant to the collective
bargaining agreement between the teachers’ union and
the Board, plaintiff could stay in the RTP for one year,
during which time his salary and benefits would remain the
same, and he would receive a series of temporary assignments
at various Board schools while he searched for a permanent
teaching position. (Id., ¶ 35.)
had not found a permanent place by the end of his one-year
term, so he applied for and accepted a one-year position as a
Cadre Substitute Teacher, at a reduced salary. (Id.,
¶ 36.) After his one-year term in the Cadre pool
elapsed, plaintiff retired. (Id., ¶ 38;
id., Ex. 1, Pl.’s Dep., at 91:21-92:6.) He now
receives a pension, which amounts to a fraction of his former
salary, and works as a part-time, day-to-day substitute
teacher. (Id., ¶ 39.)
prevail on a summary judgment motion, “the movant
[must] show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). At this stage, the
court may not weigh evidence or determine the truth of the
matters asserted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The court must view all evidence
and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209
F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000).
claims that the Board interfered with his FMLA rights, and
retaliated against him for exercising those rights, by
transferring him to the RTP pool immediately upon his return
from FMLA leave, with the result that he was later forced to
work as a Cadre substitute for a year and ultimately to
retire. The FMLA required the Board to restore plaintiff to
the same or an equivalent position to the one he held before
he took leave, see James v. Hyatt Regency Chi., 707
F.3d 775, 780 (7th Cir. 2013), but plaintiff claims that his
reassignment to the RTP was a demotion that violated his FMLA
rights. Additionally, plaintiff claims that his regular
teaching position was eliminated solely in retaliation
against him for taking FMLA leave.
to the Board, the evidence reveals that plaintiff’s
position was eliminated purely for budgetary reasons, and
plaintiff has not introduced or cited any evidence to the
contrary that might create any genuine issue of fact. Because
the elimination of plaintiff’s position in the history
department at Schurz had nothing to do with ...