United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JORGE L. ALONSO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
David Haworth sues defendants, the Board of the Round Lake
Area Schools Community Unit School District 116
(“Board”) and Constance Collins, for terminating his
employment in retaliation for his exercise of his rights
under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”),
29 U.S.C. 2601. This case is before the Court on
defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following
reasons, the Court denies the motion.
LOCAL RULE 56.1
Rule 56.1 requires a party opposing summary judgment to file
“a concise response to the movant's statement [of
material undisputed facts] that shall contain . . . a
response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's
statement, including, in the case of any disagreement,
specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record,
and other supporting materials relied upon, ” LR
56.1(b)(3)(B), and “a statement . . . of any additional
facts that require the denial of summary judgment.”
Defendants argue that plaintiff's statement of additional
material facts should be stricken to the extent that it
misstates the cited record, is improperly argumentative, and
contains inadmissible hearsay.
is some truth in defendants' position, and the Court will
disregard those portions of plaintiff's statement that
are improper, extraneous, or argumentative. However, it will
not strike the statement or any portion of it, which would
only require the Court to “waste time by . . .
engag[ing] in busywork and judicial editing, ” rather
than “addressing the merits” of the case.”
U.S. Bank Nat. Ass'n v. Alliant Energy Res.,
Inc., No. 09-CV-078, 2009 WL 1850813, at *3 (W.D. Wis.
June 26, 2009). The Court bears in mind that the purpose of
Local Rule 56.1 is “to isolate legitimately disputed
facts and assist the court in its summary judgment
determination, ” Brown v. GES Exposition Servs.,
Inc., No. 03 C 3921, 2006 WL 861174, at *1 (N.D. Ill.
Mar. 31, 2006), as district courts do “not have the
advantage of the parties' familiarity with the record and
often cannot afford to spend the time combing the record to
locate the relevant information, ” Delapaz v.
Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011). Despite
its shortcomings, plaintiff's statement achieved this
purpose by identifying disputed facts and pointing to
evidence in the record. Even if plaintiff cited certain
hearsay statements, at the summary judgment stage evidence
need only be admissible in substance rather than form,
see Cairel v. Alderden, 821 F.3d 823, 830 (7th Cir.
2016) (“‘To be considered on summary judgment,
evidence must be admissible at trial, though ‘the form
produced at summary judgment need not be
admissible.'” (quoting Wragg v. Vill. of
Thornton, 604 F.3d 464, 466 (7th Cir. 2010))), and
plaintiff is likely to be able to cure these problems at
Lake Area Schools Community Unit School District No. 116 is a
public school district in Lake County, Illinois. (Pl.'s
LR 56.1 Resp. ¶ 1, ECF No. 62.) Plaintiff worked in
human resources for the Board, beginning in May 2014.
(Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) During the onboarding
process, plaintiff submitted a “Certificate of Employee
Health Examination, ” in which he disclosed that he had
a history of epilepsy, but he was not then taking medication
for the condition, nor was he under any medical management
for it. (Id. ¶ 5.)
supervisor, Director of Human Resources Jerri Ryan, gave
plaintiff a performance rating of “Excellent” for
the 2014-2015 school year, the highest of the four possible
ratings (“Excellent, ” “Proficient, ”
“Needs Improvement, ” and
“Unsatisfactory”). (Id. ¶¶
9-10.) For the following school year, plaintiff was promoted
to Associate Director of Human Resources. (Id.
¶ 11.) At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, Ryan
gave plaintiff a lower rating of “Proficient.”
(Id.). On July 1, 2016, plaintiff succeeded Ryan as
the Director of Human Resources, as part of a plan for
Ryan's transition to retirement. (Id.
¶¶ 12-13.) Ryan replaced plaintiff as Associate
Director of Human Resources so that she could serve as a
resource for him while he learned the Director role.
(Id. ¶ 13.)
Director of Human Resources, plaintiff was a member of the
“cabinet, ” a group of senior administrators who
met weekly with the district's superintendent, Dr.
Constance Collins, to discuss ongoing issues and
developments. (Id. ¶ 14.) During the 2016-2017
school year, Dr. Collins noticed “deficiencies”
in plaintiff's performance in his new role. (Id.
¶ 15.) Plaintiff and Dr. Collins began to have
one-on-one meetings at a local Panera Bread restaurant to
improve their relationship. (Id. ¶¶
15-16.) While Ryan had supposedly put off retiring to serve
as a resource for plaintiff to draw on while he learned his
new position, plaintiff believed that, far from supporting
him, she undermined his efforts to learn the Director of
Human Resources role. (Id. ¶ 20.)
January 2017, plaintiff prepared a proposal for a
reorganization within the Human Resources department.
(Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) When they met to discuss
the proposal, Dr. Collins pointed out errors with the
proposal's data and informed plaintiff that “she
expected greater things [from him] than that.”
(Id. ¶ 22.)
February 7, 2017, Dr. Collins met with plaintiff to discuss
his strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas where he
needed to improve. (Id. ¶ 25.) Dr. Collins told
plaintiff she expected greater clarity in communication with
the Board and with her, and she gave three examples of
situations in which his performance had been deficient: (a)
in selecting a professional development software platform,
plaintiff had not considered the full cost of the operation
and implementation of the system (a criticism that plaintiff
disputed); (b) plaintiff had raised his voice in an argument
with Dejan Kozic, the Board's Technology Director; and
(c) plaintiff had brought a number of proposals to her
without first verifying the accuracy of the information they
March 12, 2017, Dr. Collins emailed plaintiff to inform him
that she had not yet received “closed session
item” notes from him, which she needed for her regular
meeting with the Board President the following morning.
(Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff acknowledged that it was
Dr. Collins's expectation that she would always receive
these notes at least twenty-four hours before these meetings
and he had not provided them in a timely manner.
March 23, 2017, Dr. Collins met with plaintiff again to
discuss his performance deficiencies, including (a) his
failure to inform her that a former teaching assistant who
had been hired as a teacher was erroneously being paid as
both a teaching assistant and a teacher simultaneously; (b)
his decision, without consulting Dr. Collins or the Board,
that a counselor would not have to repay approximately $25,
000 she had been mistakenly overpaid; (c) his approval,
without Dr. Collins's knowledge, of a realignment in the
salary schedule for school social workers, at a significant
cost; (d) his allowing a payroll specialist to handle the
situation with the overpaid counselor, rather than contacting
the counselor himself; (e) his handling of the selection of
the professional development software platform, as they
discussed during their February 7, 2017 meeting; (f) the
erroneous data concerning the reorganization within the Human
Resources department; (g) the argument with Kozic; (h)
plaintiff's listing his title as “Executive
Director of HR” on an organizational chart; (i) his
overall communication concerning a transfer of an employee
who reported to Heather Bennett, Public Relations Officer;
and (j) his communication and transparency with Dr. Collins
generally. At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Collins
informed plaintiff that he was going to receive a rating of
“Needs Improvement” for the 2016-2017 school
year, and would be placed on an “improvement
plan” for the 2017-2018 school year. (Id.
April 2, 2017, plaintiff suffered two seizures and was
hospitalized. (Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff's wife
notified Ryan, who in turn notified Dr. Collins.
(Id. ¶ 29.) ...