United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. ELLIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Defendant Great Lakes Credit Union (“GLCU”)
terminated Plaintiff Elizabeth Farias from her job as a loan
sales specialist, Farias filed suit against GLCU for
violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.
GLCU moves for summary judgment. Because Farias has failed to
demonstrate that GLCU terminated her because of her age, the
Court grants GLCU's motion for summary judgment.
a state chartered not-for-profit credit union offering
financial products to its members. Credit union members
remain members for life, meaning that GLCU places a premium
on maintaining member relationships.
December 1998, GLCU hired Farias as a data entry clerk. From
2002 to 2015, Farias served as a loan sales specialist at
GLCU. In this role, she processed loan applications, pulled
credit reports, quoted interest rates and loan terms,
answered phones, and forwarded documents to GLCU members.
Farias acknowledges that, in her role, it was important to
ensure that loan applications contained accurate information.
Farias had the highest annual sales volume in her department
in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014. In 2015, she increased her
sales goal volume by $200, 000 over the previous year.
her time as a loan sales specialist, Farias had several
supervisors, all of whom counseled her on work performance
issues. Between December 5, 2003 and August 31, 2013, Farias
reported to Lisa Anderson. On April 24, 2013, Anderson
conducted a counseling meeting with Farias because Farias had
processed an auto loan with an incorrect interest rate and
had not set up automatic payments for a member. From
September 1, 2013 to December 2, 2014, Farias reported to
Sarah Zaworski, the daughter of GLCU's CEO and president.
When Zaworski became Farias' supervisor, Farias, at 52
years of age, was the oldest employee in her department.
Farias claims Zaworski told her she made the most money in
2014 but admits that she did so in a positive way. She also
admits that she made more money because she had been in the
department longer than any other GLCU employee.
18, 2014, Zaworski had a counseling meeting with Farias to
address performance issues that arose on February 28 and May
24, 2014. As documented, the complaints included, among other
things, Farias telling a member she would apply a promotional
interest rate but did not, causing the member to have to call
back and speak to another representative to have it
processed, Farias informing a member that documents were in
the mail twice but never sending them out, and Farias failing
to inform a member that an auto loan had been denied. Farias
acknowledged these complaints. In July 2014, Farias received
telephone etiquette and member service skills training from
Lisa Hopton, a GLCU staff development manager. On August 4,
2014, Zaworski issued Farias a verbal warning for lack of
communication and member complaints after she completed an
online application without obtaining the necessary documents
and quoted an automatic payment discount without setting up
automatic payment for the member. Additionally, Farias made a
mistake in the processing of an auto loan, having a check for
the loan cut at the wrong branch for the wrong amount,
causing problems for the member and the staff at the GLCU
branch where he went to retrieve his check.
December 2, 2014 to June 5, 2015, Farias reported to Melissa
Panganiban. On December 23, 2014, Farias received a written
warning from Panganiban for rate errors and member complaints
that occurred on November 10 and December 12, 2014.
Specifically, on November 10, Farias quoted a vehicle loan
rate of 2.24% when it should have been 3.99%. The member
demanded GLCU honor the lower rate, causing GLCU to lose
$888.17 in interest income. A similar error occurred on
December 12, when Farias quoted an interest rate of 1.99% on
a used vehicle when the proper interest rate was 3.74%,
causing GLCU to pay the difference in interest rates,
January 2015, GLCU used secret shopping services provided by
Support EXP to evaluate Farias' sales and service skills.
To complete this exercise, Support EXP contacted random
members and paid them $15 to $20 per secret shop to evaluate
their sales and service experiences with GLCU employees. GLCU
set 4.80 as the minimum sales and service rating it expected
its employees to receive. In January 2015, when Support EXP
conducted secret shopping of Farias, she received scores of
2.45 for service and 1.72 for sales. When this exercise was
repeated in March 2015, she received a 4.15 rating for
service and 2.67 for sales. Members commented that Farias did
not ask them for their names, that she did not offer other
products, and that she was slow to answer their phone calls,
even allowing the phone to ring as much as eight times before
Farias' secret shop scores did not meet GLCU's
minimum expectations, Farias did receive some positive
feedback, with notations made in feedback reports that she
had busy months, had closed a high volume of loans despite
being sick, was productive, had received some compliment
emails, and was doing well in learning a new system. But the
feedback was not all positive, with additional
recommendations included about improving her customer
service, accuracy, and communication skills.
during this time period, a member complained that Farias did
not set up his account for automatic payments, causing him to
receive delinquency notices. And on April 4, 2015, a member
tried to pick up a loan check, but Farias had not prepared
the check nor delivered it to the local branch for the member
to pick up. Farias maintains that this member did not have an
appointment and had not alerted her in advance. On April 8
and 11, 2015, Panganiban reviewed Farias' recorded calls,
finding that Farias had difficulty instructing members about
GLCU's procedures and loan approvals, did not understand
member inquiries, and did not transfer members to the
on the secret shop results and additional member complaints,
Panganiban gave Farias a final written warning with a
three-day suspension on April 20, 2015. When she received
this final warning, Farias knew she could be terminated if
she made one more mistake. But Farias' problems
continued. That same day, a member complained that he did not
want to work with Farias or send loan paperwork to her
because she “talked to him like she had a chip on her
shoulder and was pushy.” Doc. 43-5 at 18. Then, on
April 22, a member complained that Farias quoted a vehicle
loan rate of 2.74% when the rate should have been 4.49%,
meaning GLCU had to reprocess the loan and honor the lower
quoted rate, losing $943.60 in interest. This happened again
on May 21, when Farias quoted a rate of 4.49% that should
have been 7.74%, causing lost interest of $3, 879.22. On May
28, a member complained that Farias did not inform him of a
$92 credit card balance transfer fee, which GLCU then waived.
These errors in April and May 2015 caused GLCU a loss of $4,
914.82. In light of the errors and because Farias had already
been given her final written warning, Panganiban recommended
Farias' termination. Zaworski, Panganiban's immediate
supervisor, reviewed the termination decision, agreed with
it, and forwarded it to Janet Popelka, GLCU's assistant
vice president of human resources and staff development.
Panganiban, along with Popelka, made the final decision to
terminate Farias. GLCU terminated Farias' employment on
June 5, 2015.
time Farias was terminated, Zaworski was not her supervisor.
Farias does not have any specific information that GLCU
fabricated or manufactured member complaints, but she never
saw any underlying documents to support the errors.