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Yodhes v. American United Life Insurance Co.

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

April 16, 2018

BETTY YODHES, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN UNITED LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

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

         This cause is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant American United Life Insurance Company (“AUL”) (Dkt. No. 46). The motion is fully briefed and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the motion 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 properly supported 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.”). However, 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).

         This Court's Local Rule 56-1(f) provides:

(f) Court's Assumptions About Facts. In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court will assume that: (1) the facts as claimed and supported by admissible evidence by the movant are admitted without controversy except to the extent that:
(A) the non-movant specifically controverts the facts in that party's “Statement of Material Facts in Dispute” with admissible evidence; or
(B) it is shown that the movant's facts are not supported by admissible evidence; or
(C) the facts, alone or in conjunction with other admissible evidence, allow the court to draw reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor sufficient to preclude summary judgment.
(2) facts that a non-movant asserts are true to the extent admissible evidence supports them.

         II. BACKGROUND

         As noted above, the Court must consider the properly supported facts of record in the light most favorable to Plaintiff Betty Yodhes, the non-moving party. The only evidence Yodhes points to in her brief in opposition to the instant motion is her own affidavit. AUL argues that many (24) of the facts asserted by Yodhes in her Statement of Material Facts in Dispute are not properly supported and must not be considered by the Court because, while they appear in Yodhes' affidavit, they contradict or are inconsistent with her deposition testimony.

         The rule in this circuit is clear:

“As a general rule . . . this circuit does not permit a party to create an issue of fact by submitting an affidavit whose conclusions contradict prior deposition or other sworn testimony.” Buckner v. Sam's Club, Inc., 75 F.3d 290, 292 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Bank of Ill. v. Allied Signal Safety Restraint Sys., 75 F.3d 1162, 1168 (7th Cir. 1996) (“We have long followed the rule that parties cannot thwart the purposes of Rule 56 by creating ‘sham' issues of fact with affidavits that contradict their prior depositions.”). Thus, where deposition testimony and an affidavit conflict, “the affidavit is to be disregarded unless it is demonstrable that the statement in the deposition was mistaken, perhaps because the question was phrased in a confusing manner or because a lapse of memory is in the circumstances a plausible explanation for the discrepancy.” Russell v. Acme-Evans Co., 51 F.3d 64, 67-68 (7th Cir. 1995). In the alternative, supplemental affidavits can be employed “to clarify ambiguous or confusing deposition testimony.” Buckner, 75 F.3d at 292.

Dunn v. Menard, Inc., 880 F.3d 899, 910-11 (7th Cir. 2018). Therefore, where the difference between Yodhes' deposition testimony and affidavit, as asserted by AUL, could be material to the Court's decision, the Court has addressed below AUL's assertion that the statement in the affidavit should be disregarded. Otherwise, the Court has simply omitted the fact or, if the fact serves to give context to Yodhes' argument, has included it in the recitation of facts below, forgoing, in the interests of judicial economy, an analysis of whether it should be excluded under the sham affidavit rule.

         AUL is an insurance company headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. Yodhes began her employment with AUL in September 2014 as a Plan Manager in AUL's Plan Services-Trust Department. As a Plan Manager, Yodhes served clients who purchased retirement plans from AUL for the benefit of their employees. Her duties included anticipating and meeting clients' day-to-day needs, ensuring that client requests were timely addressed, and “just making sure the clients stayed happy.” Dkt. No. 48-1 at 5.

         Jeanne Goble, Manager of Plan Services-Trust, was Yodhes' direct supervisor. Assistant Vice President of Plan Services, Joe Miller, led the Plan Services Department and directly supervised Goble. Goble supervised both Plan Managers and Plan Services Consultants. Plan Managers and Plan Services Consultants perform the same basic job duties and are collectively referred to as Plan Managers. While Yodhes was employed, two female Plan Managers and one male Plan Manager separated from AUL, and four male Plan Managers were hired. The four newly hired males were Ed Spieth (October 24, 2014), David Engel (December 15, 2014), Ken Pavnica (January 25, 2015), and John Peterson (February 2, 2015). Only Peterson reported directly to Goble. When Yodhes began, thirteen of eighteen Plan Managers were female. Just prior to Yodhes' resignation, twelve of nineteen Plan Managers were female. Of the Plan Managers who reported to Goble, half were male and half were female.

         All the Plan Managers worked on different plans, which varied by number of participants and amount of assets. Each client's requirements were unique, with some requiring more communication, some requiring additional administrative tasks, some requiring faster turnaround times on assigned tasks, and some being easier to work with than others.

         Shortly before her employment began, AUL provided Yodhes with online training materials, which AUL referred to as “Learning Links, ” that Yodhes was expected to review and complete during the first thirteen weeks of her employment. Yodhes reviewed only some of the materials and took just one of the Learning Links examinations.

         It is Yodhes' opinion that, contrary to AUL's assertion that the Learning Links were intended to be a self-directed training program, in practice, employees-including Yodhes- required additional input and oversight by an experienced Plan Manager. In Yodhes' opinion, AUL did not provide Yodhes with the necessary support to complete the Learning Links. In addition, Yodhes believes that AUL did not give her sufficient time to complete the Learning Links sessions because she was assigned a full caseload approximately two weeks after she started working at AUL. AUL employed an outdated computer system and did not provide Yodhes with adequate training regarding how to operate the system, perform the complex data entry maneuvers necessary, or interface across several programs to find necessary information. AUL provided Yodhes with no training or guidance with respect to each client's particular needs or preferences, leaving her to try to learn that information through trial and error.

         In addition to the Learning Links training, the Plan Services-Trust Department provided a mentorship program connecting new Plan Managers with more experienced Plan Managers who were designated as “subject matter experts.” Goble arranged for Yodhes to shadow eight Plan Managers during her first three weeks at AUL, to observe their day-to-day duties. This permitted Yodhes to observe the subject matter experts as they worked on their own caseloads, but there was insufficient time for them to impart their expertise regarding the subject matters identified.[1] Goble also held periodic (weekly or at least monthly) one-on-one sessions with Yodhes during which Yodhes could ask questions or get help with any critical matters. Yodhes could also email Goble to ask questions.

         On September 24, 2014, a Plan Manager named Jennifer Wallace unexpectedly left AUL. When a Plan Manager leaves or transfers, the clients he or she serviced are assigned to other Plan Managers. Rather than disperse Wallace's caseload among multiple Plan Managers, AUL opted to assign Wallace's entire caseload to Yodhes, even though she had only been on the job for about two weeks and had not yet been properly trained with respect to the use of AUL's computer system. Goble believed that Yodhes' seventeen years of prior experience in the retirement services industry would help her in servicing Wallace's clients.

         One of the clients Yodhes received from Wallace's caseload was MNS. Ilan Amir, an AUL employee who served as the Relationship Manager for the MNS plan, advised Yodhes on how to best service the MNS plan to keep the client happy. In conjunction with her work on the MNS plan, Yodhes was required to create agendas for calls with the client and send Outlook calendar appointments in order to schedule calls with client contacts. Yodhes viewed these as secretarial duties. The agendas were created with information in notes that Yodhes took during calls with MNS. Wallace, who serviced the plan before Yodhes, also had to do these tasks. These tasks were not required by Goble, but rather by the client contacts for MNS. Yodhes spoke with some, but not all, of her fellow Plan Managers (both males and females) about creating agendas for calls, and they told her that their clients did not require that of them. Yodhes testified that she did not know whether other Plan Managers were required to send calendar appointments to schedule calls with clients.

         Beginning around the end of September 2014, Yodhes noticed that Miller would stare at her breasts when he would talk to her. He made no effort to conceal what he was doing, often staring for long periods of time. This occurred between ten and twenty times throughout Yodhes' employment and became more pronounced and more frequent as time went on.

         By late October 2014, Amir told Yodhes he was disappointed with her performance, as she was not handling the plan in the manner he had instructed. In mid-November 2014, AUL Client Account Executive, Ben Winecki, reached out to Goble and Miller to tell them that MNS had lost confidence in Yodhes because of her lack of attention to detail and poor communication practices and requested that the plan be reassigned. Yodhes asked to be removed from the MNS plan. Goble consulted with Mona Duncan, another Manager of Plan Services-Trust, and upon considering the plan assignment factors, decided to move the MNS plan to Naomi Miller, a longtime Plan Manager, and assign ten of Naomi Miller's plans to Yodhes. Unlike the MNS plan, which was fairly new to AUL, the ten plans were well-established, two sets of the plans had the same client contacts (thus reducing communication needs), and one of the plans had just one participant. At least six of the ten plans had lower asset values than the MNS plan.

         In November 2014, AUL's Human Resources Department conducted focus group discussions with Plan Managers in the Department. Based on the recommendations from the focus groups, Goble revamped the training regimen. Beginning in mid-December 2014, training for new and recent hires covered the same information provided in Learning Links, but was conducted in a group setting. Yodhes had not been provided with this type of formal training session when she was initially hired and was only invited to attend some of the sessions when they were offered to her new male coworkers.

         Additionally, instead of relying solely on subject matter experts, it was decided that new and recent hires would be assigned an individual mentor to assist with challenges as they arose. Although individual mentoring was not rolled out to the team until January 22, 2015, Goble informed ...


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