United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Morris brought this suit against the Catholic Bishop of
Chicago under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29
U.S.C. § 621 et seq., alleging that she was
dismissed from her position as a parochial school teacher
because of her age. Doc. 1. The Bishop has moved for summary
judgment. Doc. 36. The motion is granted.
setting forth the facts, the court addresses the evidentiary
and Local Rule 56.1 issues that the parties raise in three
motions. Docs. 48, 52, 67.
Morris moves to strike as irrelevant two paragraphs from the
Bishop's Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement. Doc. 48 at 1-3. The
paragraphs assert facts regarding the ages of the elementary
school teachers at Morris's school, Most Blessed Trinity
Academy (“MBTA”), as of April 2016. Doc. 37 at
¶¶ 8-9; Doc. 37-8 at 6. (The Bishop asserts that
the data is from August 2015, but the cited personnel chart
includes teachers who were hired in January and February 2016
and includes information from as late as April 2016). Morris
argues that the evidence is irrelevant because she was fired
in May 2015, eleven months earlier. But the evidence is not
irrelevant just because it includes teachers who were hired
after Morris's departure and may not include some
teachers who were present at the time of Morris's firing.
Doc. 37-8 at 6 (personnel chart showing that six teachers
were hired after Morris was fired). Regardless of whether
they worked with Morris or were hired shortly after her
termination, the fact that four teachers older than Morris
worked at MBTA in April 2016 is highly relevant to her claim
that the school's management was biased against older
teachers. See Faas v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 532
F.3d 633, 643 (7th Cir. 2008) (affirming summary judgment in
part because two employees who “were several years
older than” the plaintiff were ranked as the best
performing employees in the district, and noting that
“[a] pattern where the protected-class members
sometimes do better and sometimes do worse than their
comparators is not evidence of age discrimination”)
(internal quotation marks omitted); Jackson v. E.J. Brach
Corp., 176 F.3d 971, 986 (7th Cir. 1999) (affirming
summary judgment in part because the defendant continued to
employ several individuals who “were the same age or
older” than the plaintiff). The fact that the average
age of MBTA teachers was 49.5, even after any personnel
changes made in 2015 and 2016, is likewise relevant to
assessing Morris's age discrimination claim. See
Jackson, 776 F.3d at 986.
Morris moves to strike on hearsay grounds a paragraph from
the Bishop's Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement. Doc. 48 at 3-4.
The paragraph asserts that at the beginning of the 2014-2015
school year, the parents of three students who had been in
Morris's kindergarten or pre-kindergarten classes
expressed dissatisfaction with her teaching to assistant
principal Sandra Anderson and asked that they not be placed
in her second-grade class. Doc. 37 at ¶ 49. The
parents' statements are not hearsay because they are
offered not for the truth of the matter asserted
(i.e., that Morris was, in fact, an unsatisfactory
teacher), but rather as evidence that Anderson believed, on
the basis of the parents' complaints and requests, that
Morris was not adequately performing her job. See Brill
v. Lante Corp., 119 F.3d 1266, 1271 (7th Cir. 1997)
(holding that out-of-court statements about an employee were
not hearsay because the question was not whether the
statements were true, but whether the supervisor had an
“honest belief” that the statements were true).
the Bishop moves to strike the affidavit of one of
Morris's former students. Doc. 52 at 1-3. Morris offers
the affidavit to challenge the Bishop's factual
assertions regarding what actually happened during a
classroom lesson (of which more below) that prompted Anderson
to counsel Morris about her teaching. Doc. 46 at ¶ 59.
The court need not resolve the motion because, even if the
affidavit were stricken, the relevant portion of Morris's
factual assertions (that the student did not cry as a result
of the lesson and that the lesson was not fraught with
interruptions) would remain supported by Morris's own
the Bishop moves to strike the affidavit of Morris's
coworker Beverly Beinlich. Doc. 52 at 3-4. Morris offers the
affidavit to support her assertion that most of the
second-grade students with known behavioral issues were
assigned to her class rather than to the class of Eileen
Burke, who was in her twenties, and that Anderson picked on
Morris as well as Beinlich and Sue Connor, teachers close in
age to Morris. Doc. 47 at ¶¶ 7, 8, 14. The court
need not resolve the motion because, even if Beinlich's
affidavit were stricken, Morris's factual assertions
would remain supported by Morris's and Connor's
the Bishop moves to strike Morris's assertion in her
Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement that, during the 2014-2015
academic year, “most of the students with known
behavioral issues such as ADHD, anger issues and
miscellaneous related psychological problems” were
assigned to her class rather than Burke's, insofar as the
assertion relies on nonexpert psychological diagnoses. Doc.
52 at 4-5. To support her assertion, Morris cites the
affidavits of three former MBTA teachers, all of whom are lay
witnesses. Doc. 47 at ¶¶ 7-8. In response to the
Bishop's objection, Morris clarifies that the teachers
“are not giving an opinion as to a health problem or
offering any detailed medical diagnosis regarding the
students … assigned to Morris and not to Ms. Burke,
” but instead base their averments on their
“knowledge about students with behavioral issues as
opposed to students who do not.” Doc. 59 at 10. On that
understanding, the court will disregard Morris's
reference to ADHD and other “psychological problems,
” and will interpret her Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C)
statement as an assertion about the readily observable
behavioral problems of the students in her class.
See Fed. R. Evid. 701 (providing that a non-expert
witness may give opinion testimony that is “rationally
based on the witness's perception” and “not
based on scientific, technical, or other specialized
knowledge”); Farfaras v. Citizens Bank & Trust
of Chi., 433 F.3d 558, 565-66 (7th Cir. 2006)
(permitting a lay witness to testify that an individual was
“depressed” because the witness used the term in
its lay, rather than clinical, sense).
Morris moves to strike many of the Bishop's responses to
her Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement, Doc. 50, on the
grounds that they are extraneous or contain legal argument.
Doc. 67. In setting forth the facts below, the court will
disregard the portions of the Bishop's responses that
contain extraneous matter or contain legal argument.
these preliminaries resolved, the following facts are set
forth as favorably to Morris as the record and Local Rule
56.1 permit. See Hanners v. Trent, 674 F.3d 683, 691
(7th Cir. 2012). On summary judgment, the court must assume
the truth of those facts, but does not vouch for them.
See Arroyo v. Volvo Grp. N. Am., 805 F.3d 278, 281
(7th Cir. 2015).
was born on July 10, 1959. Doc. 46 at ¶ 10. She has
worked as an elementary school teacher at several schools
over the course of her career. Id. at ¶ 11. In
June 2006, while Morris was teaching at Our Lady of the
Wayside, a report noted that she needed improvement in two
areas related to classroom management. Id. at ¶
17. The report was based on, at most, a twenty-minute
observation by the principal, and no one at the school ever
counseled Morris on her work performance. Ibid.
2011, Morris was hired by then-principal Sandra Perez as a
pre-kindergarten teacher at MBTA, which is operated by the
Archdiocese of Chicago. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 12.
MBTA was a challenging place to teach; it had high student
turnover, and most students came from low-income,
non-English-speaking families. Doc. 47 at ¶¶ 1-2.
It was the norm at MBTA for students to exhibit behavioral
problems in the classroom. Id. at ¶ 2.
Erica Jordan took over as the principal of MBTA after the
2011-2012 school year. Doc. 46 at ¶ 13. Jordan asked
Morris to teach kindergarten for the 2012-2013 school year
and then moved her to second grade for the 2013-2014 school
year. Ibid. Jordan testified that after she observed
Morris's second-grade classroom early in the year and
found the children loud and off task, she had an informal
conversation with Morris about how her classroom operated.
Id. at ¶ 41. Morris disputes that her classroom
was loud during the 2013-2014 year and asserts ...