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VAN HOUDNOS v. EVANS

January 21, 1986

KATHY VAN HOUDNOS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT EVANS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, District Judge:

OPINION AND ORDER

Sex discrimination employment case.

Judgment directed for the Defendant — notwithstanding the jury's verdict for the Plaintiff.

Plaintiff brought this cause of action alleging that six employees of the Illinois State Museum acted and conspired to deny her employment because of her sex in contravention of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1985. Prior to trial, the Court denied Defendants' joint motion for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff's allegations, if supported by the evidence, might establish liability under the civil rights statutes. The Court, however, expressed to counsel its concern with the element of causation necessary in Plaintiff's proof.

At the close of the Plaintiff's case, the Court directed a verdict for five of the six Defendants on the ground that Plaintiff had manifestly failed to carry her burden of proof with respect to these Defendants on the crucial elements of intent and causation. These same elements were not yet established as to the remaining Defendant but the Court determined that a more fully developed record — including Plaintiff's rebuttal of the Defendant's case — might elicit needed evidence.

The necessary evidence was not, however, forthcoming. At the close of all the evidence, the Court reserved a decision on the remaining Defendant's motion for a directed verdict. Fed.R.Civ.P. 50. Upon receipt of the jury's decision for the Plaintiff, the Court directed a judgment for the Defendant, the jury's verdict notwithstanding.

STANDARD

The standard for entering a directed verdict and a judgment notwithstanding the jury's verdict is the same. See Sparrow v. Yellow Cab Co., 273 F.2d 1 (7th Cir. 1960); Shaw v. Edward Hines Lumber Co., 249 F.2d 434 (7th Cir. 1957). In considering such motions, the Court must determine "whether the evidence presented, combined with all reasonable inferences permissably drawn therefrom, is sufficient to support the verdict when viewed in a light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is directed." Tice v. Lampert Yards, Inc., 761 F.2d 1210, 1213 (7th Cir. 1985).

The Court should not make credibility determinations. Brady v. Southern Railroad, 320 U.S. 476, 64 S.Ct. 232, 88 L.Ed. 239 (1943); Sonnentheil v. Christian Moerlain Brewing Co., 172 U.S. 401, 408, 19 S.Ct. 233, 235, 43 L.Ed. 492 (1899). Only the non-moving party's evidence and the moving party's uncontradicted and unimpeached evidence should be considered. Panter v. Marshall Field & Co., 646 F.2d 271 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1092, 102 S.Ct. 658, 70 L.Ed.2d 631 (1981), citing Brunner v. Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railroad, 240 F.2d 608 (7th Cir. 1957); see also C.A. Wright and A.R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 2524, p. 573 (1971).

FACTS

In accordance with these guiding principles, the Court accepts as established the following relevant evidence offered or unchallenged by Plaintiff:

Plaintiff Van Houdnos is a woman. She applied for the position of Art Gallery and Collections Assistant at the Illinois State Museum. Prior to her application, she had performed the duties required of a collections assistant while employed as a Curatorial Assistant "intern." Ultimately, a male, Mr. Lawrence Rhoads, received the Collections Assistant position.

The position the Plaintiff sought was under the direct supervision of Defendant, Robert Evans, the museum's Curator of Art. Evans stated to the Plaintiff that he preferred to have a man fill the Collections Assistant position. Evans was the official who had earlier approved the hiring of Plaintiff as a Curatorial Assistant "intern" under a CETA grant and had approved of her work in the intern position.

In the spring of 1979, Evans held a meeting of the museum's department staff. During the course of the meeting, Evans publicly stated his preference that a man be named Curatorial Assistant. It is reasonable to infer that those Defendants who attended this meeting knew of Evans' preference. Evans' uncontradicted testimony establishes that all the members of the art department had input into the content of the job questionnaire, but that he probably prepared it. The application forms, however, contained nothing discriminatory. The only reasonable inference that may be drawn from this fact is that Evans' preference for a man to fill the position did not influence the drafting of the application forms.

In light of Mr. Evans' expressed preference for a man as Collections Assistant, Plaintiff sought and received assurances from the museum's director, Defendant Bruce McMillan, that she would receive fair consideration for the open position.

Subsequent to and — it may be inferred — at least partially in response to Plaintiff's concern that she would not receive fair consideration for the assistantship, the museum administration convened an ad hoc screening committee composed of three experienced female museum employees: Defendants Maureen McKenna, Judi Johnson, and Susan Pickel-Hedrick. Each member of the screening committee was charged with reviewing individually each of the 26 applications eventually received and with ranking the applicants. Evans served as chairman of the screening committee but did not review or rank any of the candidates. Defendant Hedrick, the museum's assistant director and Evans' ...


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