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Broadstone v. Sherman's Place, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

November 30, 2017



          James E. Shadid, Chief United States District Judge

         Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion [29] for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff Renee Boesch. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion [29] is GRANTED.


         Defendant, Sherman's Place, Inc. (“Sherman's”), is a corporation in the business of selling appliances, electronics, furniture, and mattresses. Sherman's has stores in Peoria, Normal, and Peru, Illinois. Plaintiff Renee Boesch[2] lived in Chicago for 11 years before she began working for Sherman's in August 2010 as a Human Resources Generalist. Her responsibilities included employee relations, employee complaints, maintaining policies and giving orientation training to new employees. Boesch's supervisor from August 2010 to September 2014 was John Willis, Sherman's Business and Accounting Manager. SOF ¶¶ 1-8.

         In July 2012, Boesch resigned her position at Sherman's and moved back to Chicago. However, after two weeks she called John Willis and asked for her job back. Sherman's agreed, and Boesch returned to her prior position at Sherman's on August 13, 2012. In June 2013, Sherman's President Paul Sherman appointed Boesch to Sherman's Ownership Thinking Team. As part of the Ownership Thinking Team, Boesch initially received a 0.25% share of Sherman's quarterly profits, which was later increased to 0.5%. Boesch remained on the Team until her resignation on January 28, 2015, at which point the Team consisted of 12-15 individuals out of approximately 150 total employees. Boesch was given a pay increase and promoted to Human Resources Manager on August 29, 2013, and she began reporting directly to President Paul Sherman beginning September 1, 2014. SOF ¶¶ 9-18.

         In November 2013, Boesch began dating a Sherman's coworker, David Weiss. Weiss was Paul Sherman's nephew. Boesch and Weiss purchased a home together in June 2014 and became engaged to be married later that same month. Boesch and Weiss did not supervise each other, and throughout their relationship they kept personal arguments outside the workplace. The engagement ended in September 2014 when Boesch moved out of the home after an argument with Weiss. The day they returned to work following the breakup, Paul Sherman sat down with Boesch and Weiss and told them he expected them to treat each other fairly, work with each other, and to be professionals. Thereafter, Boesch and Weiss rarely spoke to each other. According to Boesch, Weiss once glared at her and then smiled and began laughing at her. Additionally, Weiss would wear his engagement ring on his right hand, and toward the end of her employment Weiss would wear the ring on his wedding ring finger when he went into meetings where Boesch was present. SOF ¶¶ 19-33.

         Sherman's used two types of performance reviews during Boesch's tenure, a monthly one-on-one performance review and an annual core values review. Boesch had four performance reviews with Paul Sherman after the breakup. Three reviews were regular monthly performance reviews in September and October 2014 and January 2015. Boesch also had an annual core values review on December 11, 2014. That review noted that Boesch had an “[i]nfectiously positive attitude” and was “a joy to be around, ” that she had “taken [her] position/role to new levels without structured training or being given a plan” and that was “as close to the definition of ambition as [Paul Sherman] could get, ” and that she had not yet “fully come to terms with how much others respect [her] and [her] abilities.” Doc. 29-1, at 85. Boesch did not consider the core values review to be negative. On the afternoon of December 11, 2014, Paul Sherman again met with both Weiss and Boesch to talk about his expectations for them going forward, which he memorialized in identical employee transaction forms for Weiss and Boesch. Boesch thought the meeting occurred because “Dave was saying that we were treating him unfairly, ” and testified that “the truth is Dave just didn't get along with people.” SOF ¶¶ 34-43.

         In December 2014, Boesch started looking for jobs exclusively in Chicago. On January 13, 2015, Boesch sent a cover letter and résumé to Morgan Lewis in Chicago stating that she was “exclusively seeking employment in Chicago, my favorite city in the world and can relocate with proper notice.” She also explained that she was a “top manager and profit sharer in the company.” SOF ¶¶ 44-47.

         On January 28, 2015, Boesch learned that Weiss had filmed a commercial for Sherman's in the home the two still jointly owned. She became angry and emailed Weiss asking why he had not asked her first or secured her consent. Before Weiss responded, Boesch emailed a coworker stating that she was going to go home for the day and talk to her family. Weiss later replied to her email and apologized, satiating “I'm sorry, I didn't even think about it or think you'd have a problem with it since it was to help promote our mutual employer.” Doc. 29-1, at 92. Boesch and Weiss then agreed to meet in the lower showroom to discuss the matter. The discussion led to a shouting match, during which Weiss said Boesch was crazy for her reaction to the commercial and stated that they should go to Paul Sherman's office to discuss it.[3] Boesch refused to go to Paul Sherman's office with Weiss and instead went home without speaking to Paul Sherman about the argument.[4] SOF ¶¶ 48-56.

         On the evening of January 28, 2015, Boesch emailed Paul Sherman to inform him of her immediate resignation. She also sent multiple emails to Weiss expressing her personal and professional opinion of him. Boesch felt that following the breakup, Weiss manipulated her because he was Paul Sherman's nephew, and that the Sherman family wanted her out of the organization. When Boesch left Sherman's, her salary was $51, 000 per year.[5] Boesch subsequently moved to Chicago to take an HR position with PHD media, where she currently makes $95, 000 per year plus various benefits.[6] SOF ¶¶ 57-64.

         The following statements are culled from Plaintiff's Additional Material Facts. Doc. 41. Plaintiff alleges that Weiss became verbally abusive to Boesch shortly after the holidays of 2013, and would verbally abuse her about twice a week. Weiss's parents knew that he had anger management problems. When they were dating, Weiss would send Boesch text messages constantly at work. AMF ¶¶ 1-10.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the movant shows, through “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations … admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” 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. In resolving a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994).

         In order to withstand a motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). When presented with a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the record “in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and avoid[] the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true.” Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). If the evidence, however, is “merely colorable, or is not significantly probative or merely raises ‘some metaphysical doubt as the material facts, ' summary judgment may be granted.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50. Thus, in order to overcome the undisputed facts set forth in a defendant's motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff cannot rest on the allegations in ...

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