United States District Court, C.D. Illinois
ORDER AND OPINION
E. SHADID CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant's Motion  for Summary
Judgment as to Plaintiff Laura Broadstone. For the reasons
set forth below, Defendant's Motion  is GRANTED in
part and DENIED in part.
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,
Laura Broadstone, began working for Sherman's in Peoria
on February 14, 2011 as a commission-based sales
professional. During her tenure at Sherman's, Broadstone
consistently ranked among the top salespeople. Like her
co-Plaintifffs, however, Broadstone's relationship with
other Sherman's employees was more complicated.
those employees was Jim Torok. Torok, one of Sherman's
store managers, was not particularly liked by most
Sherman's employees. Broadstone complained about Torok to
another Sherman's manager, Tony Hnilicka, on February 6
and March 6, 2014. According to Broadstone, she told Hnilicka
that she was having a problem with Torok treating her
different than he treated other men, making humiliating and
rude comments to her, and not splitting commissions with her.
Doc. 36-2 (Broadstone Dep. at 133). Broadstone testified that
Hnilicka responded to her complaint by stating that she was
not being treated differently than men. Broadstone Dep. at
135. Broadstone also complained to Hnilicka about Torok on
March 6, 2014. Plaintiff testified at her deposition that she
again complained to Hnilicka about Torok treating her
differently than male employees and also complained that
Torok interfered with her attempted sale of furniture to a
customer Broadstone had worked with in the past. Id.
March 24, 2014, Broadstone told Assistant Manager Paul Dan
Stein that she wanted to speak with Hnilicka and Human
Resources Manager Renee Boesch about Torok treating her
differently than men. Id. at 160-61. She also told
Stein that other salespeople-Josh Osterman, Joe Moon, Roger
Bauer, Jeff Brooks, and Dennis Farney-witnessed Torok's
conduct and would be able to vouch for her claims.
Id. at 170-73. Stein informed Hnilicka and Boesch
that Broadstone was complaining about Torok picking on her,
but he did not mention Broadstone's complaint that she
was being treated differently than men. Boesch and Hnilicka
proceeded to interview five or six of the salespeople
Broadstone listed. Doc. 29-1 (R. Boesch Dep. at 196-97).
According to Boesch, Hnilicka led the interviews and asked
the salesmen whether Broadstone was the problem, to which
some agreed. R. Boesch Dep. at 197. On March 28, 2014, Boesch
and Hnilicka decided to discipline Broadstone for
“complaining about multiple team members to multiple
team members, ” being disruptive in her conversations,
and not going to Human Resources. Doc. 31-1, at 95 (Employee
April 29, 2014, Hnilicka received a telephone call from a
customer who was upset about a mattress Broadstone recently
sold to him. Willie Oliver, another Sherman's
salesperson, was present and heard Hnilicka's side of the
phone conversation with the customer. According to Hnilicka,
the customer claimed that Broadstone represented that the
clearance mattress was only tried out in the store and that
it was discounted simply because it was the last year's
model. Doc. 31-3 (Hnilicka Dep. at 36-37). The customer
complained that Broadstone lied in order to sell him a used
mattress because when it was delivered it was dirty and had
markings on it. Hnilicka Dep. at 52. The stock keeping unit
(“SKU”) for the mattress indicated that it was a
“satisfaction” mattress, meaning that it had been
purchased and returned by a customer who was not satisfied
with it. Broadstone admitted at her deposition that she did
not see that the mattress was a satisfaction mattress.
Broadstone Dep. at 342. However, Broadstone also testified
that the words “never used” were written on the
mattress tag, and that she explained to the customer that she
was unsure why this particular mattress was on clearance.
Similarly, Oliver testified that he went to look at the
clearance mattresses immediately after the incident and
observed four mattresses with “never used”
written on the tags. Doc. 36-3 (Oliver Dep. at 34); Doc.
36-1, at 3 (photograph of a mattress tag with “never
used” written on tag).
resolved the customer's complaint by replacing the
half-price clearance mattress with a new mattress at no
additional charge. Hnilicka then informed Boesch that a
customer had called in and reported that Broadstone lied by
selling him a used mattress she was pretending was a new
mattress. Hnilicka and Boesch met with Broadstone on May 1,
2014, provided her with an Employee Transaction Form, and
terminated her employment with Sherman's. See Doc. 31-1,
at 97 (Employee Transaction Form). Sherman's stated in
the Employee Transaction Form that, “[b]ased on the
customer's very detailed knowledge of what our sales
terminology was, we feel that Laura blatantly violated
procedure to increase her sales. We are therefore terminating
her employment effective immediately.” Id. At
his deposition, Hnilicka testified as follows:
Q. Did Laura ask you to take you down to the mattress area
and show you the mattresses there to explain what had
A. I believe.
Q. Did you go down with her and look?
Q. You didn't believe-it was serious enough [for] you
[to] believe it warranted termination, correct?
A . Yes.
Q. But you didn't think it was necessary for you to hear
Laura's side of the story and have her show you the
mattresses that ...