Palucki v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 84 C 9818.
|01 June 1988
|No. 84 C 9818.,84 C 9818.
|U.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
|Robert H. PALUCKI, Plaintiff, v. SEARS, ROEBUCK & COMPANY, Defendant.
L. Steven Platt, Hugh B. Arnold, Arnold & Kadjan, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff.
John F. McClure, Michael A. Stiegel, Neil P. Stern, Arnstein, Gluck Lehr & Milligan, Chicago, Ill., for defendant.
In November of 1982 Robert Palucki, ("plaintiff") age 41, was discharged from his employment at the Sears department store located in Park Forest, Illinois. Defendant Sears maintains that the plaintiff's termination was compelled by his consistently poor performance as division manager of the jewelry, cosmetics, and shoe division of the store. In response to Sears' action, Palucki brought this suit against his former employer charging that his termination was based upon age, and that it violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. The matter is before the court at this time on the defendant Sears' motion for summary judgment. After reviewing the evidence, and in particular the deposition testimony of the plaintiff and one of his former coworkers, I have concluded that the defendant's motion for summary judgment must be granted.
A summary judgment motion requires the court to conclude whether there remains any genuine issue of material fact that cannot be resolved in favor of the movant with what evidence there is before the court, and that the case need not be submitted further to a trier of fact in a trial. Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 56(c). Summary judgment is not appropriate "... if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2507, 91 L.Ed.2d 202, 208 (1986). In its most basic formulation Rule 56 requires summary judgment if the evidence before the court "is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 243, 106 S.Ct. at 2507, 91 L.Ed.2d at 208.
Paulucki was initially hired by Sears in 1958. Between 1966 and 1981, he served as a division manager over several department units at the Park Forest store. Included among these divisions were housewares, furniture, and home appliances. And as division manager of these units he had been required to perform basic managerial functions such as supervising employees, buying merchandise, promoting sales, and ensuring effective customer service.
In an effort to maximize retail sales and overall efficiency, Sears reorganized many of its departments and delegated greater responsibility than ever before to some of its former division managers. In following through with this newly founded policy here in the Chicago area, the jewelry and cosmetic divisions in the Park Forest store were consolidated with the shoe division. This happened similarly in several other outlets. Relying on Palucki's 15 years of experience and on the skills he had acquired as a division manager, Sears assigned him in November of 1981 as the division manager of this consolidated unit. This assignment was approved by Palucki's immediate supervisor, the Park Forest store manager, Russell Arnold. Arnold, at the same time he gave his approval, was aware that Palucki, despite his prior history of satisfactory work, had from time to time demonstrated certain inabilities in managing and communicating with the employees under his supervision. Nonetheless, Arnold believed that Palucki's experience in certain of the divisions of Sears, many of which were being newly formed at the time of the assignments, would serve Palucki well under the new arrangement.
As time progressed, however, it became clear to Arnold that Palucki's job performance in the new assignment was falling woefully below his, Arnold's expectations. Despite Palucki's many years of experience in merchandising and supervising employees, the newly consolidated division seemed to encounter an endless number of problems. These problems related principally to Palucki's repeated failure to adhere to Sears' newly instituted programs and policies. The record shows that during Palucki's one year tenure with this new consolidated division responsibility there were repeated several serious and recurring difficulties which went unresolved.
The record before the court points to numerous incidents of improper management on the part of Palucki. As division manager, he failed repeatedly to properly schedule the hours of the employees in his division in order that he might efficiently utilize them fully and at the same time stay within Sears' proscribed budgetary program. Records often had to be redone by supervisory personnel because they had turned out to be incorrect or incomplete. Palucki failed to implement the new market plans by not displaying the proper sales merchandise, or by failing to provide the right floor plan for enhancing sales. Additionally, Palucki showed increasing inability to complete his inventories and finish his case reports. His persistence in not promptly updating the requisite inventory cards became a source of great irritation to his superiors in the company. Palucki's inability to follow company security procedures, especially in the jewelry department, is well documented in the record before me. Despite Palucki's familiarity with company security procedures a number of other improprieties resulted. Under Palucki's supervision, jewelry was allowed to remain in unsecured areas without proper documentation; shipments were not picked up in a timely manner; and inventory cards were not attended to. These problems were regularly brought to Palucki's attention, yet, nevertheless, they continued.
Finally, Palucki proved to be incapable of training and supervising the workers under him. Even though he was continually warned, both verbally and in writing, that he should train his employees so that they could operate efficiently in more than one area, he failed to follow through in these matters. His poor performance resulted in declining sales and in a strained relationship between himself and the workers under him.
Throughout Palucki's stay under the new consolidated division programs, Sears made an ongoing effort to get him to be aware of his difficulties, hopeful that he could remedy them. In addition to repeated verbal warnings the company informed Palucki in writing on a number of occasions that his work must improve. Early in April of 1981, Palucki on one occasion was given a written deficiency interview outlining his failure to display merchandise particularly selected by Sears. In February of 1982, after he had been in his new assignment five months, Palucki was written up in a memorandum by his operating manager because of a security breakdown that occurred in the jewelry department....
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