United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
LONNITTA REID, Administrator of the Estate of INETTA BURNS, Plaintiff,
WAL-MART STORES, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge
Burns filed suit against her employer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
alleging that the company and its employees discriminated
against her based on her sex in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).
Burns recently passed away, and the administrator of her
estate has substituted as the plaintiff in this case. The
Court will nonetheless refer to the claims in this case as
complaint includes only one count, but it appears to base her
claim on three allegedly discriminatory actions or courses of
conduct: disparate pay, failure to transfer, and failure to
promote. Thus the Court will consider Burns to have made
three separate claims. Wal-Mart has moved for summary
judgment on all three claims. For the reasons stated below,
the Court declines to enter summary judgment in
Wal-Mart's favor on Burns's claim of disparate pay
but otherwise grants Wal-Mart's motion.
lived in Chicago Heights, Illinois during the events relevant
to this case. She had an associate's degree in computer
information systems and worked as a manager at K-Mart for 15
years. In 2004, Burns learned that Wal-Mart was opening a
store in Glenwood, Illinois, five blocks from her home in
Chicago Heights. According to Burns, she began contacting
managers at Wal-Mart, including district manager Lance Buser,
specifically to express interest in a management position at
the new store.
was hired directly into Wal-Mart's management in training
(MIT) program. The MIT program lasts between six and eight
weeks and provides on-the-job training. Burns says that while
in the program, she become close with other trainees,
including Jesus Valdez and Gewargis Tammo. According to
Burns, the two men sometimes talked about their pay in front
of her, and she learned that they received a higher salary
than she did. She completed the MIT program and, in January
2005, was officially hired as an assistant manager at the
Wal-Mart in Matteson, Illinois. Following an accident during
her first few weeks at work, she was given a transfer to the
store in Bradley, Illinois. During this time, Burns earned
$1, 230.77 bi-weekly working as an assistant manager.
May 2005, Burns reached out to Buser to request a transfer to
the store in Glenwood. Burns states that Buser first told her
to contact the person he thought was the current district
manager, Chad Doneth. Buser later informed her that she
needed to speak with J.D. Hacker, the new district manager.
Burns contacted Hacker, who told her that she could not work
in the Glenwood store because it is against company policy to
have new assistant managers work in new stores. Hacker
testified during his deposition in this case that the alleged
policy is more of a preference and that it is not unheard of
to put new managers in new stores.
continued to work at the Bradley store, where, she alleges,
she was treated differently from male managers. Specifically,
she states that she and the other female manager were
required to unload the delivery trucks, while the male
managers were given easier tasks. Burns states that because
of this treatment-and the denial of her transfer request-she
stepped down as assistant manager. By this time, the Glenwood
store had opened, so she applied for the assistant manager
position there. Instead, she was hired as a sales associate,
a lower level position. When Burns began working at the
Glenwood store, she discovered that Tammo was working in the
Tire Lube Express (TLE) department of that store as an
to Burns, in 2009 she applied for a promotion to the position
of support manager. She passed an online management
assessment through Wal-Mart's Career Preference computer
system and then indicated that she was interested in the
support manager position. Burns alleges that Wal-Mart instead
gave the position to a male employee.
also alleges that, while working at the Glenwood store, she
learned that female Wal-Mart employees were consistently paid
less than male employees. She says she learned that while
working as assistant managers, she, Tammo, and Valdez each
earned the same amount ($1, 230.77 per pay period), despite
the fact that Tammo and Valdez both worked in the TLE
department, which provides a lower salary. According to
Burns, she was also paid less than similarly situated male
employees while working as a sales associate. Douglas Gugudan
began at the Glenwood store as a sales associate in 2005 and
earned $10 per hour, whereas Burns initially earned $8.75.
Richard Straton also worked as a sales associate at the
Glenwood store around the same time. He was allegedly hired
at $9.10 per hour and was soon given a raise to $9.65.
Finally, Burns states that she earned less than William
Kendrick, another MIT trainee and assistant manager. Kendrick
entered the MIT program three years before Burns and earned
$17.75 as a trainee. Burns earned between $11.10 and $14.43.
After Kendrick left the program, he earned $1, 846.15
bi-weekly in his first job as an assistant manager; Burns
earned $1, 230.77. While working as an assistant manager in
the Bradley store in 2004, Kendrick earned $1, 884.62
2012, Burns filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC
alleging that Wal-Mart discriminated against her because of
her sex. She received a right to sue letter in December 2014.
She then filed this suit.
has moved for summary judgment on Burns's claim of sex
discrimination. As indicated earlier, Wal-Mart contends that
the single count in Burns's complaint identifies three
courses of conduct that Burns alleges were discriminatory:
(1) the difference in earnings between Burns and other male
employees; (2) the denial of her request to transfer to the
Glenwood store: and (3) the denial of her application for
promotion to support manager. Wal-Mart argues that Burns has
failed-in any of these instances-to point to similarly
situated male employees who received more favorable
treatment. The company also argues that denial of a transfer
request does not qualify as an actionable adverse employment
action under Title VII. Wal-Mart has also moved to strike
facts set out by Burns in her statement of material facts,
arguing that she has not complied with Local Rule 56.1. In
addition, Wal-Mart has moved to strike certain exhibits that
Burns offers in response to its motion, arguing that Burns
has not authenticated the exhibits. The Court considers the
latter two motions first.
Motions to strike facts and exhibits
firsts asks the Court to strike certain facts asserted by
Burns in her response to Wal-Mart's statement of facts
and in her own statement of facts. Wal-Mart argues that a
number of Burns's statements violate requirements of
Local Rule 56.1 because they are non-responsive, lack
citation to admissible evidence, or improperly include
additional facts. District courts have discretion in
determining whether to strictly enforce the requirements of
Local Rule 56.1. Stevo v. Frasor, 662 F.3d 880,
886-87 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court declines to strike any of
the facts Burns presents.
also asks the Court to strike a number of exhibits that Burns
has used in opposing Wal-Mart's motion. The company
argues that Burns has not authenticated the documents and
therefore that they are inadmissible for consideration on
summary judgment. The fact that these are Wal-Mart records
that the company produced in discovery is, for present
purposes at least, sufficient to authenticate them.
United States v. Brown, 688 F.2d 1112, 1116 (7th
Cir. 1982). The exhibits that Wal-Mart challenges are
documents that it turned over to Burns during discovery.
See Decl. of Janet M. Olawsky in Opp'n to
Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., dkt. no. 41 (indicating that
the challenged exhibits have Bates numbers beginning with
"WAL-MART"). Further, there is a reasonable basis
for believing that these documents will ultimately be
admissible as business records. The Court therefore finds
that they have been sufficiently authenticated to be relied
upon at the summary judgment stage.
Motion for ...