Reid v. Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of Am.

Decision Date14 March 2013
Docket NumberNo. 11 C 8683,11 C 8683
PartiesKENDALL REID and BRADLEY SEARS, Plaintiffs, v. NEIGHBORHOOD ASSISTANCE CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Court Judge:

Before the Court is Defendant Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America's ("NACA") Motion for Summary Judgment. (R. 44.) For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant's Motion.

BACKGROUND
I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

Under Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1 ("Local Rule 56.1"), the moving party must file "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue." Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009). The purpose of Local Rule 56.1 is to permit the parties to identify the relevant admissible evidence supporting the material facts, not to make factual or legal arguments. See Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006) (holding that a "statement of material facts did [ ] not comply with [Local] Rule 56.1 [because] it failed to adequately cite the record and was filled with irrelevant information, legal arguments, and conjecture"). District courts may rigorously enforcecompliance with Local Rule 56.1. See, e.g., Stevo v. Frasor, 662 F.3d 880, 886-87 (7th Cir. 2011) ("Because of the high volume of summary judgment motions and the benefits of clear presentation of relevant evidence and law, we have repeatedly held that district judges are entitled to insist on strict compliance with local rules designed to promote the clarity of summary judgment filings."). With these principles in mind, the Court turns to the relevant facts.

II. Relevant Facts

Plaintiffs Kendall Reid and Bradley Sears were "at-will" employees of NACA. (Def.'s 56.1 Statements ¶ 20.) ("Def.'s 56.1"). NACA is a not-for-profit corporation that "counsel[s] potential homeowners . . . to assist them in purchasing a home." (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 2.) These potential homeowners are also known as "members." (Id.) NACA's objectives are to "combat . . . discriminatory and predatory lending practices" and to "make home ownership a realistic possibility for thousands of people who had thought it impossible." (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 3.) NACA hired Reid and Sears as mortgage consultants in NACA's Chicago Office in October 2007 and May 2010, respectively. (Id. at ¶¶ 15,16.) NACA's Chicago Office "consisted of an office manager, several mortgage consultants, and two administrative assistants." (Id. ¶ 18.) From early 2010 until the time of their terminations, Plaintiffs reported to Norma Martinez, the office manager of the Chicago Office. (Id. ¶ 18.) Martinez reported to Donald Meadows, NACA's Regional Operations Director for the region that included NACA's Chicago Office during 2010. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 19.) Meadows was physically based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Id.)

In April 2010, Norma Martinez placed posters on the walls of the Chicago Office "indicat[ing] that the Illinois minimum wage was increasing to $8.25." (Pls.' 56.1 Statement of Additional Facts ¶ 17.) ("Pl.'s 56.1 SOF") On or after July 1, 2010, at a Chicago Office staffmeeting, Reid asked Don Meadows whether NACA would pay the increased minimum wage. (Pls.' 56.1 SOF ¶ 18.) After July 1, 2010, Reid testified that he complained to NACA management or employees several times about the minimum wage increase. (Id. ¶ 18.) Specifically, Reid contends that he complained to Don Meadows that "[NACA] did not make the adjustments on our hourly wage." (Id. ¶ 19.) Sears made similar complaints to Meadows and Martinez. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.)

Reid also complained about mortgage consultants not receiving proper overtime pay. Following the "big Chicago HomeSave" tour sometime after July 2010, Reid "raised the issue of the wages and overtime not being right for tours with Norma [Martinez] and in one conversation with Don Meadows." (Id. ¶ 21.) Specifically, Reid complained that "he and other mortgage consultants worked 13 hour days but were not paid for working 13 hours a day." (Id.)

Finally, Reid complained about NACA's practices regarding the processing and splitting of compensation for mortgage applications. As part of his work as a mortgage consultant, Reid signed Form 1003 Applications ("Form 1003"). (Id. ¶ 22.) According to Plaintiffs, on a Form 1003, a mortgage consultant at NACA represents that he or she "interviewed the client applying for the mortgage," "gathered the appropriate information to close the file," and "did not rely on the information of others." (Id.) During the time when NACA was implementing federal Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act ("SAFE Act") regulations, Reid and Meadows were the only two employees licensed in Illinois to sign Form 1003s. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 22.) Reid averred that Meadows signed off on loan applications and documents completed by other non-licensed mortgage consultants. (Id. ¶ 13.) According to Reid, he came to believe this practice was illegal in February or March of 2010 after speaking with Hazel McLamore, a U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Affairs ("HUD") representative who was auditing NACA's files. (Id. ¶ 23.) Ms. McLamore "confirmed that NACA practices of having licensed mortgage consultants signing off on loan files worked on by unlicensed mortgage consultants was illegal." (Id.) Reid complained that this practice was illegal to Norma Martinez and Don Meadows. (Id. ¶ 24.) Reid also complained about NACA's practice of splitting commissions between licensed and unlicensed consultants to Don Meadows and at a staff meeting. (Id. ¶ 25.) Reid testified that he first complained about signing documents and splitting commissions around March, April, or May of 2010, and that he made his last complaint on this subject around late September of 2010. Sears made similar complaints to NACA management regarding NACA's practices pertaining to compensation splitting and requiring "mortgage consultants to affix their names to Form 1003 Applications." (Id. ¶¶ 29-32.)

On Friday, October 8, 2010, Reid left the NACA office at 6:30 p.m. to attend a Chicago Bulls basketball game. (Id. ¶ 20; Pls.' 56.1 Resp. ¶ 21.) According to Reid, Norma Martinez gave Reid permission to do so. (Pls.' 56.1 SOF ¶ 2.) On the morning of October 9, 2010, Martinez told Reid at the Chicago Office that "he was being suspended until further notice." (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 22.) Plaintiffs contend that Martinez told Reid that "even though he worked the ten hour day on Friday[,] it was unfair for him to leave early when everyone else had to stay to 8:00 pm." (Pls.' 56.1 Resp. ¶ 22.)

On October 11, 2010, Rachelle Pride, NACA's National Real Estate Director, visited the Chicago Office. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 23.) On that day, the only Chicago employees present in the office were Sears, Martinez, and Mariola Jasinska, another mortgage consultant. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 25.) At her deposition, Pride testified that on October 11, she informed NACA's CEO, Bruce Marks, that on her visit she saw practices that "w[ere] out of NACA policy," including "financialand sensitive documents for the NACA members that were visible . . . on top of desks in different places" and "alcoholic beverages in one of the offices." (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 27; Pride Dep. 24:22, 28:11, 25:20.) Pride testified that she asked Marks for a directive, and he instructed her "to ask the two mortgage consultants for their office keys and to ask them to leave the office." (Pride Dep. 28:19-24.) Pride then explained to Sears that he "had the documents" everywhere and that she "had been given a directive to ask him for his key and to ask him to leave the premises." (Pride Dep. 32:17-24.) On October 14, 2010, NACA decided to terminate both Sears and Reid. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 45-46.)

On November 2, 2011, Plaintiffs filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois, alleging common law and statutory Illinois retaliatory discharge claims. (R.1, Compl.) Plaintiffs alleged that NACA terminated them in retaliation for their complaints about NACA's alleged failure to pay minimum wage and overtime in violation of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL") and Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act ("IWPCA"), as well as complaints about practices regarding compensation-splitting and signing mortgage applications allegedly prohibited by the Illinois Residential Mortgage License Act ("IRMLA") and the SAFE Act. On December 7, 2011, Defendant removed this case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, and 1446. (R. 1, Not. Removal.) Defendant moved for summary judgment on September 21, 2012. (R. 44.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment under Rule 56(a) is appropriate "if 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). 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. LibertyLobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). In deciding summary judgment motions, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S. Ct. 1769, 167 L. Ed. 2d 686 (2007). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (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). "[D]istrict courts presiding over summary judgment proceedings may not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations, both of which are the...

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