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Weeden v. University of Chicago Medical Center

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 9, 2019

LORETTA WEEDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARY M. ROWLAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In January 2011, Loretta Weeden was terminated from her job at that the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC) where she had worked for more than eleven years. Weeden alleges that UCMC discriminated against her based on her race, age, sex and disability when she was terminated. UCMC argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Weeden cannot establish a prima facie case of discrimination or that her termination was pretextual based on any of her claims. For the reasons stated below, UCMC's motion for summary judgment [49] is granted.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper where “the movant shows 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(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The substantive law controls which facts are material. Id.

         The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (1986). After a “properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (quotation omitted). Construing the evidence and facts supported by the record in favor of the non-moving party, the Court gives the non-moving party “the benefit of reasonable inferences from the evidence, but not speculative inferences in [its] favor.” White v. City of Chi., 829 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal citations omitted). “The controlling question is whether a reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the non-moving party on the evidence submitted in support of and opposition to the motion for summary judgment.” Id. (citation omitted).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Weeden began working at UCMC's Chicago Biomedicine Information Services (CBIS) as a Data Center Operator and later became Senior Data Center Operator. (Dkt. 77, ¶6).[1] Weeden is female, African-American, and was 62 years old at the time of her termination. (Id. ¶2). Between 2008 and 2011, she reported directly to Mark Benson and Steve Slowiak. (Id. ¶8). When Weeden was hired, UCMC provided her with a copy of its Pay Recording Policy, and Weeden's direct supervisor explained the policy to her. (Id. ¶9). Weeden was aware of, had access to, and understood the terms of the policy throughout her employment with UCMC, and knew she was obligated to comply with the policy. (Id. ¶10). The Pay Recording Policy requires employees to record their hours through a Time & Attendance System. (Id. ¶11). The policy states, in relevant part, “[a]n employee paid on a bi-weekly basis must clock-in his/her own time at an approved location as designated by his/her manager. Clocking another employee's time or allowing someone to clock one's own time is not permitted, and will be grounds for immediate termination for a first offense.” (Id. ¶12). Weeden understood that UCMC's Pay Recording Policy required her to clock in her own time, and that clocking other employees in or out or permitting other employees to clock her in and out, was a violation of the Pay Recording Policy that could result in immediate termination for a first offense. (Id. ¶15). No supervisory or managerial employee ever instructed Weeden that deviation from the Pay Recording Policy's requirement of recording one's own time was permissible, and no supervisor ever instructed her that employees were allowed to clock each other in or out. (Id. ¶16). Weeden was aware that with one exception not applicable here, employees clocking other employees out was improper. (Id. ¶17).

         Before January 4, 2011, Weeden stated that at least five other coworkers clocked her in or out on at least nine occasions. (Id. ¶22).[2] She said that at least one employee had her Social Security number which he used “for years” to clock her in or out. (Id. ¶23). Before January 4, 2011, Weeden also clocked out at least one other employee. (Id. ¶24). On January 4, 2011, Plaintiff was scheduled to work from approximately 2:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with her co-worker Bill Lindmark. (Id. ¶29). She left at approximately 7:30pm but did not clock out, told Mr. Lindmark she was going shopping and to do some errands, and returned to work at 10:30pm to clock out. (Id. ¶¶30-32). That day, Mr. Lindmark emailed Mark Benson and informed him that Weeden had left work to go shopping and did not return for more than two hours. (Id. ¶33). The next day, Mr. Slowiak began to investigate Weeden's time recording practices. (Id. ¶36).

         On January 6, 2011, Weeden met with Mr. Slowiak and Sarah Austin, then UCMC Manager of Employee and Labor Relations. (Id. ¶38). At the meeting, Mr. Slowiak, Ms. Austin, and Weeden discussed the allegation that Weeden had clocked at least one other employee out and allowed another employee to clock her out. (Id. ¶39). Weeden admitted to Mr. Slowiak and Ms. Austin that she had violated the Pay Recording Policy. (Id. ¶40). Weeden admitted that she had clocked other employees out, and that other employees had clocked her out. (Id. ¶41). She did not tell Mr. Slowiak and Ms. Austin that she experienced a “flareup” or other debilitating condition that prevented her from returning to work on January 4, 2011. (Id. ¶45). Because of Weeden's admissions about her violations of the Pay Recording Policy, UCMC offered her the opportunity to resign in lieu of termination, which she declined. (Id. ¶47). UCMC then terminated her for violating the Pay Recording Policy. (Id. ¶48).

         The same month, Mr. Lindmark met with Anthony Rubino, Director of Technology and Infrastructure, and Ms. Austin to discuss Weeden's allegation that Mr. Lindmark had clocked her out in violation of the Pay Recording Policy. (Id. ¶50). During the meeting, Mr. Lindmark admitted that he previously clocked Weeden out from work and had also previously allowed her to clock him out from work. (Id. ¶51). Based on Mr. Lindmark's admitted violation of the Pay Recording Policy, UCMC offered Mr. Lindmark the opportunity to resign in lieu of termination, which Mr. Lindmark accepted. (Id. ¶52). Mr. Lindmark is a white non-disabled male, and he was 59 years old when he resigned. (Id. ¶53).

         While still employed at UCMC, Weeden had regular conversations with her co-workers about when she might be retiring. (Id. ¶65). Mr. Slowiak asked Weeden three times in 2009 and 2010 when she intended to retire because he wanted to give her a party. (Id. ¶66). Weeden testified that she could not describe the bases of her disability claim, and that the condition she considered a disability in 2011 was her hip, for which she never requested an accommodation from UCMC. (Id. ¶67).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Compliance with Local Rule 56.1

         UCMC argues that Weeden's submissions do not comply with Local Rule 56.1 and her pro se status does not excuse her non-compliance. (Dkt. 77).[3] The Court has discretion to require strict compliance with the local rules and “even pro se litigants must follow these rules.” Welcher-Butler v. Brennan, 619 Fed.Appx. 550, 550 (7th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted). See also Coleman v. Goodwill Indus. of Se. Wis., Inc., 423 Fed.Appx. 642, 643 (7th Cir. 2011) (“Though courts are solicitous of pro se litigants, they may nonetheless require strict compliance with local rules.”) (citations omitted). Local Rule 56.1 requires, among other things, the party opposing summary judgment provide “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.” The Court will not outright strike or disregard Weeden's Local Rule 56.1 responsive statement, however, as discussed in footnote 2, supra, the Court deems a number of UCMC's facts admitted because of Weeden's responses. As for her statement of material facts (Dkt. 68), Weeden did not fully comply with Local Rule 56.1. Under “Material Fact”, she states that she served discovery about the alleged video evidence and recites UCMC's response, and otherwise lists as material facts her characterization of UCMC's arguments on summary judgment. In addition to not being compliant with Local Rule 56.1, Weeden's statements in response to summary judgment are not relevant and/or not supported by admissible evidence. While the Court liberally construes Weeden's pleadings and draws ...


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