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Schambers v. Key Benefit Administrators, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 16, 2018

TONIA SCHAMBERS, Plaintiff,
v.
KEY FAMILY OF COMPANIES, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Key Family of Companies' (“Key Companies”) motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 33). The motion is fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, now GRANTS the Defendant's motion for summary judgment for the reasons set forth below.

         I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment 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.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). A party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must show what evidence it has that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Premium Analyst

         Key Companies provides benefit plan administration to insurance carriers. In March 2008, Plaintiff Tonia Schambers began working as a Premium Analyst in Key Companies' Operational Accounting Department. She began as a temporary employee but transferred to regular employee status within months of her initial hiring date. Prior to Key Companies, Schambers worked for two years in accounts receivable at Wellfount Pharmacy and Standard Management.

         By 2010, Schambers had been promoted to Cash Posting Team Lead in the Operational Accounting Department, and reported directly to Vice President of Commission and Premium Accounting, Gretchen Wilkening, who is female. As team lead, Schambers had the authority to develop corrective action plans and give written warnings, and also was involved in the hiring process. Schambers considered the new position a promotion.

         Wilkening evaluated Schambers' work performance annually. In her performance evaluation of Schambers for the period of September 2010 to September 2011, Wilkening noted that Schambers needed to be more receptive to suggestions from peers and to consider other perspectives when working collaboratively. In August 2011, Wilkening counseled Schambers and one of her colleagues for “ongoing communication issues” and admonished both employees to keep verbal communications limited to work-related topics and to maintain a professional manner. Dkt. No. 33-3 at 3. She stated that further issues would result in a formal written warning.

         In Schambers' September 2011 to September 2012 evaluation, Wilkening stated that she wanted Schambers to get more involved in process improvement. Patrick Cohen, Vice President of Billing and Eligibility, who was Wilkening's supervisor, also signed the review. The review stated:

Tonia, this is a decent review but I do expect more. I believe there are several key areas within this review that focus should be directed to, mainly anything with a scoring of 3 or below. We elevated you from Poster to Team Lead primarily based on the skill level you bring to this task. You have also proven yourself worthy of completing almost every task assigned with little follow up or guidance which is a major asset to the department. Where we felt you may have been weak was in the area of leadership. In reading this review I continue to see some alarm bells in this regard. Following Corporate guidelines, Consistently leading Team Meetings, Treating Co-Workers with Dignity … are all areas where I expect a Team Lead to excel, not simply just be meeting the requirements and never below them. Please make an effort to improve in these areas and do not be afraid to ask for help as to how to do this.
One requirement I would like to add within your next review period is some recommended reading. I think that your intentions are good but that sometimes you are a bit abrupt and possibly taken out of context. I would like you to focus on Diplomacy. I will select the reading material on this subject and then I'd like for the 3 of us (Gretchen, Tonia, Patrick) to read and discuss together.

Dkt. No. 33-2 at 83. Also during this period, Schambers received a documented verbal warning for failing to clock out when she left the building for breaks.

         In the September 2012 to September 2013 review, Wilkening noted significant improvement in Schambers' leadership qualities. Wilkening stated, “I am confident in [Schambers'] ability to lead the posting team through the possible hurdles ahead and still ‘get the job done' in the best way possible.” Id. at 88. Cohen provided similar praise and stated, “Great job [Schambers]. I know we have provided you tough feedback in the prior reporting period and I'm really glad to see the types of comments above. It shows me that you took that feedback constructively and worked to make positive change. . . . Keep up the great work!” Id. at 89.

         Following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, Key Companies received a significant increase in its workload. In Schambers' September 2013 to September 2014 review, Wilkening complimented Schambers on handling the new challenges associated with the increased business. Cohen praised her for responding to prior feedback about her performance.

         B. Applications for Promotions

         In October 2014, Schambers applied for a Reporting and Audit Specialist position. Key Companies offered Schambers the job, but she declined the offer because it would have been a lateral move and not a promotion. Schambers stated that she aspired to a managerial role and did not have interest in a lateral move.

         In December 2014, Key Companies created two new Team Lead roles: Weekly Admin Premium Processing Team Lead and Monthly Admin Premium Processing Team Lead. Key Companies gave the Weekly Team Lead to Schambers effective December 22, 2014. Schambers received a pay raise and ...


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