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Reed v. Freedom Mortgage Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 25, 2017

Joseph L. Reed, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Freedom mortgage Corporation, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued April 12, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. l:15-cv-00954 - James B. Zagel, Judge.

          Before POSNER, ROVNER, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

          ROVNER, Circuit Judge.

         Joseph L. Reed sued his former employer, Freedom Mortgage Company, under the Illinois Human Rights Act, alleging race-based discrimination. After concluding that Reed lacked evidence of racial bias, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Freedom Mortgage. Reed challenges the court's decisions on evidentiary matters as well as the court's ultimate conclusion on summary judgment. We affirm.

         I.

         Freedom Mortgage is a full service residential mortgage lender based in New Jersey, with offices around the country. Reed and co-worker Felicia Bates initially came to work for the company as temporary employees from a staffing agency. On November 1, 2012, Freedom Mortgage hired Reed and Bates as full-time Broker Liaisons at its Downers Grove, Illinois office at the recommendation of Regional Operations Manager Cheryl Bidstrup. Reed and Bates reported directly to Bidstrup who, in turn, reported to the Regional Branch Manager, Vickie Sperry Reed and Bates are African-American and both Bidstrup and Sperry are white.

         The regular hours of operation for the Downers Grove office were 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., although some employees worked other schedules with the permission of senior management. Other employees worked a different schedule in order to accommodate accounts in other time zones. Freedom Mortgage had an employee handbook that contained the company's official Attendance Policy, which stated that seven or more absences, late arrivals, or early departures in a twelve month period could trigger disciplinary action, including termination of employment. Reed understood that he was expected to start work at 8 a.m. each day. He assumed that his co-workers were all on the same schedule but he admitted that other employees may have had permission to work alternate schedules of which he was not aware.

         On January 21, 2013, Bidstrup sent an email to the twenty-nine employees who reported directly to her:

Vickie and I pride ourselves on being flexible with our staff and in making the Chicago branch a pleasant place to work. Unfortunately, however, our good natured dispositions with regard to the office atmosphere have been and are being taken advantage of. Therefore, I find it necessary to reiterate the following requirements.
• Our work hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in the Downers Grove physical location with an hour for lunch and 2-15 minute breaks. Any deviation from these hours or location must be prior approved by Vickie or me. There will be no further "setting your own hours" and assuming that you can stay until 6:00 pm to make up for coming in at 9:00 am.
• If you are going to be absent or late, you must contact me prior to 8:00 am with the reason for your absence or tardiness. If I am unavailable, your voicemail message will be time stamped.
• The technical ability to work from home is to be utilized for after-hours work only and only when needed. Working from home during regular business hours must be prior approved by Vickie or me and will only be approved in an extreme emergency and is at our discretion. There are only 3 Operations' employees who currently work remotely on a regular basis and have been ...

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