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Hollis v. Jones, Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc.

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

July 20, 2017

JENNIFER T. HOLLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
JONES, LANG LASALLE AMERICAS, INC., MATTHEW LANDEK, and CATHERINE KLINGER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY United States District Judge.

         Jennifer Hollis has filed suit against her former employer, Jones, Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc. (JLL) and two of its employees, Matthew Landek and Catherine Klinger, alleging that they discriminated against her due to her race, sex, and age in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) (counts 1-5). Hollis also alleges violations of state law, including civil conspiracy, intentional misconduct, and negligent supervision (counts 6- 8). Finally, she alleges that she received less pay than male employees in violation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA) (counts 9-10). Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants summary judgment in favor of defendants on counts 9 and 10 and partially grants summary judgment in their favor on counts 3-5, but otherwise denies defendants' motion. The Court also denies Hollis's request to dismiss without prejudice counts 6-8.

         Background

         Because defendants have moved for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to Hollis and draws reasonable inferences in her favor. Cung Hnin v. TOA (USA), LLC, 751 F.3d 499, 503-04 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Prior to 2014, Hollis-a black female born in 1961-worked for a company called Transwestern as the assistant facility manager on an account for the Mars / Wrigley corporation. In January 2014, JLL, a commercial real estate corporation, won a bid to take over for Transwestern and provide real estate management services to Mars / Wrigley. That same month, JLL hired Hollis to continue on as the assistant facility manager on the account at a salary of $67, 594. Janet Peterson, the account lead for Mars / Wrigley, acted as Hollis's supervisor. Hollis was responsible for managing budget reports, invoicing, property inspections, third-party contracts, and work-order systems for four to six buildings within the account. In March 2015, JLL changed Hollis's title to facility manager. Hollis also received a raise, resulting in a salary of $70, 000.

         Soon after this change, Peterson suggested to Hollis that she explore other positions at JLL to avoid being pigeon-holed at the company. Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (SUMF), Ex. 1 (Hollis Dep.) at 38:13-39:2. Peterson recommended that Hollis broaden her skillset by seeking opportunities on accounts involving something other than owner-occupied facilities, such as high-rise facilities with multiple tenants or retail spaces. Id. at 39:22-40:6. At Peterson's suggestion, Hollis arranged a meeting with Peterson and Klinger, a human resources manager at JLL. Id. at 40:6-10. The three women discussed other opportunities for Hollis, including positions that might enable Hollis to work from home or relocate to Cincinnati, as well as positions involving multi-tenant facilities. Id. at 41:18-42:1. Klinger asked Hollis for her resume and offered to help Hollis tailor it to apply for positions in other departments. Id. at 42:1-3, 46:23-4.

         On April 22, 2015, Hollis sent Klinger an email in which she stated: "Pursuant to our previous conversations, I am looking for new career opportunities within JLL. I am interested in positions where you would work from home or positions in Cincinnati, OH." Defs.' SUMF, Ex. 2 at 8. Hollis attached her resume and cover letter for Klinger to review to determine which positions would be the best fit. Id. Klinger responded with suggestions for improvements to Hollis's resume. Id. at 7. On May 17, 2015, Hollis emailed Klinger to tell her that she had applied for four open positions at JLL. Id. at 11. Klinger then told Hollis that she had forwarded Hollis's resume directly to the recruiters for those four positions. Id. at 9.

         Meanwhile, beginning May 2015, JLL began reorganizing the Mars / Wrigley account. Peterson transitioned off the account, and Landek took over for her as the account lead. According to defendants, Landek and Sharon Feller, regional account director for JLL, decided to add two new positions to the account: senior facility manager and operations manager. Landek brought in Jason Epstein-a Caucasian male born in 1980-to work on the Mars / Wrigley account. Epstein had previously worked under Landek on the Catamaran account. In April 2015, Epstein told Landek that he wanted to transition off the Catamaran account. Landek sent him the following e-mail:

Just wanted to ensure that you and I are in agreement and have clear understanding / expectation since our meeting yesterday. JLL will be actively recruiting for your replacement on the Catamaran Account. During that time, you should be applying for other roles in the firm. Feel free to block time on my calendar next week if you'd like to walk through some of the various roles on the JLL site. In the event that we find a replacement for your position prior to you identifying a role, JLL will have you work in a variable capacity for the IFM On Demand platform until our agreed upon date of June 15, 2015. If you are able to identify a role prior to June 15th we will work with the hiring team for that account on a transition date.

Defs.' SUMF, Ex. 10 (Epstein Email) at 2. Following this email, Epstein met with both Landek and Klinger to discuss positions posted in the JLL database for which he might apply. Epstein Dep. at 45:15-46:1, 73:7-21. Epstein applied for a few of these positions and had one interview but was not hired. Id. at 74:21-75:11.

         In May 2015, Landek told Epstein about the operations manager position on the Mars / Wrigley account, and Epstein accepted the position. Epstein does not know whether this position was posted in the JLL database but believes it was not in the list of database positions that Landek showed him. Id. at 77:8-21. When asked whether Landek had created the position specifically for him, Epstein stated his understanding of the position was that "there was an opportunity, and it could be up to [him] to define what that opportunity is." Id. at 48:3-8. Regardless, Epstein agrees that it was through Landek's efforts that he was hired as the operations manager on the Mars / Wrigley account. Id. at 81:5-17.

         According to Landek, at some point during May 2015 human resources informed him that Hollis had expressed a desire to move off of the Mars / Wrigley account. Pl.'s Add'l Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (ASUMF), Ex. 9 (Landek Dep.) at 93:2- 15. On May 11, Landek sent Klinger an email stating, "Jennifer Hollis has been sitting in limbo, looking to redeploy for some time. Can we move forward with giving her an end date for transition. I'm thinking 7/1/15." Defs.' SUMF, Ex. 8 at 3. Klinger responded the same day:

Let's talk about this. She and Janet approached me last month about her wanting to look for something different but it was not a discussion where an end date was set. I reviewed her resume and gave her feedback on 4/22. We left it that she was going to revise and send to me again but I haven't heard back.

Id. Hollis denies that she told anyone that she was interested in moving off the Mars / Wrigley account. Resp. to Defs.' SUMF ¶ 32.

         On May 26, 2015, Landek held an all-staff meeting for the Mars / Wrigley account during which he introduced himself as the new account lead, announced the planned restructuring and the addition of two positions, and introduced Epstein. After the meeting, Hollis approached Landek and Feller to ask about the reorganization. Hollis wanted to know what her role would be going forward, given that the account now appeared "top-heavy" with three management positions: senior facility manager, facility manager, and operations manager. Hollis Dep. at 57:17-58:5. Landek then told Hollis that she was being transitioned off of the account with a target date of July 15, 2015. Id. at 58:7-21. He also told her that JLL would be actively looking for a replacement for her position. Id. at 59:1-7. According to Hollis, this was the first time she learned that JLL planned to move her off the Mars / Wrigley account.

         The next day, Landek sent Hollis an email regarding the transition similar to the one he had sent Epstein:

Just wanted to ensure that you and I are in agreement and have clear understanding / expectation since our meeting yesterday. JLL will be actively recruiting for your replacement on the Mars Wrigley Account. During that time, you should be applying for other roles in the firm. Feel free to block time on my calendar next week if you'd like to walk through some of the various roles on the JLL site. In the event that we find a replacement for your position prior to you identifying a role, JLL will have you work in a variable capacity for the firm until our agreed upon date of July 15, 2015. If you are able to identify a role prior to July 15th we will work with the hiring team for that account on a transition date.Does this jive with your understanding as well?

Defs.' SUMF, Ex. 2 at 13. Hollis responded: "Thanks for the recap; yes, this is how I understand the process going forward." Id. Defendants contend that Hollis never blocked out time on Landek's calendar to look for other roles; Hollis alleges that Landek was never available. Resp. to Defs.' SUMF ¶ 54. On June 1, JLL posted Hollis's position on the JLL job search database.

         On June 24, Hollis emailed Klinger to tell her that she had applied for two more positions and to ask about the status of her other four applications. Defs.' SUMF, Ex. 2 at 15. Klinger responded that one of the positions had closed and that she contacted the recruiters for the remaining three. Id. On June 25, Hollis emailed Landek and Klinger to ask about the impact of her transition on severance pay, vacation time, and benefits. Id. at 21. On June 30, ...


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