The opinion of the court was delivered by: CASTILLO
Plaintiff Daniel Iovin ("Iovin") sues defendant Northwestern Memorial Hospital ("NMH"), alleging national-origin discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq. NMH's motion for summary judgment is presently before the Court. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted and this action is dismissed with prejudice.
The following undisputed facts are gleaned from the parties' respective Local General Rule 12 statements of material facts and accompanying exhibits.
Iovin was born in Arad, Romania in 1957 and immigrated to the United States in 1980. (Def.'s Facts PP 7, 8). On April 12, 1993, he was hired as a senior systems analyst in NMH's Information Services Department ("IS") at an annual starting salary of $ 47,000. (Id. PP 1, 20). NMH is an academic medical center and is an Illinois corporation. (Id. P 2). Iovin was initially interviewed and hired for the position by Debra Barford, manager of application systems in the IS department, and Leslie Purdy, director of application systems. (Id. P 22). At the time that they made the decision to hire Iovin, both Barford and Purdy knew that he was of foreign descent. Barford specifically knew that he was Romanian. (Id. P 23). In an affidavit submitted in opposition to NMH's motion, Iovin acknowledges that both Barford and Purdy were aware that he was of foreign descent, he adds, however, "My national origin was of great significance to them. I was hired to be the scapegoat for all problems that arose under Barford. I was hired by them because the fact that I was foreign made me more susceptible to manipulation." (Iovin Aff. P 17).
Iovin also testified during his deposition that one reason Barford hired him may have been to get even with another employee (Scott Leslie) because she knew that Leslie did not like immigrants. (Def.'s Facts PP 58, 67); Iovin Dep. at 565-66)
We shall detail Iovin's allegations momentarily; however, to provide a flavor of the nature of Iovin's charges, we note here that Iovin's complaint and submissions in opposition to NMH's motion for summary judgment essentially allege that various employees at NMH--Iovin specifically identifies approximately 14 employees--and others engaged in a widespread conspiracy of discrimination against him. For example, among the individuals believed by Iovin to be embroiled in the conspiracy against him include: his two supervisors, co-workers, lower-level employees, the director of NMH's employee assistance program, the head of NMH's employee health services, his HMO physician, and his treating psychiatrist. Iovin contends that these individuals along with several accomplices who attempted to "cover up" the conspiracy, discriminated against him based on his national origin by creating a hostile work environment.
As just noted, Iovin claims that the very reason behind his supervisor's decision to hire him was to discriminate against him based on his national origin by assigning him to work with a co-worker who hated immigrants. (Def.'s Facts P 58). Moreover, Iovin contends that the hostile work environment to which he was subjected was created and maintained by the conduct of such NMH employees as Nan Burgess, the head of NMH's employee health services, who contributed to the conspiracy of discrimination against him by not paying attention to him when he sought health services, by the tone and manner in which she spoke to him, and by throwing away his blood and stool specimens. (Def.'s Facts P 168). Iovin also contends that Rick Derer, an independent consultant working with the IS department discriminated against him by asking such questions as "Hey Dan, how's it going, what's going on, how about that project" and by trying to "cover up" the discrimination that was taking place. (Id. P 193). Finally, Iovin believes that the physicians he has seen are involved in the conspiracy by virtue of the fact that they have not treated him fairly or by trying to show that his health had been degrading severely.
(Id. P 199-203).
Iovin was assigned to work under Debra Barford ("Barford"), Manager of Application Systems, and her supervisor, Leslie Purdy ("Purdy"), a Director of Application Systems. (Def.'s Facts PP 20, 21). Both Barford and Purdy interviewed Iovin for the position of senior systems analyst. (Def.'s Facts P 22).
Central to his complaint, is the allegation that he was hired as a management trainee in a management-track position in the IS department at NMH. (Iovin Aff. PP 15, 16). Other than Iovin's testimony to this effect there is no evidence in the record to corroborate this contention. The NMH job advertisement to which Iovin responded, Iovin's offer of employment letter from NMH, and NMH's job description for a senior systems analyst are all devoid of any references to management training or that the position was a management-track position. (Def.'s Facts PP 32, 33). Moreover, NMH's assertion that the IS department does not have management trainees or management-track career positions is not controverted by Iovin. (Id. P 39).
Iovin's assertion that he was hired into a management trainee position derives from his preemployment interview with Barford during which he related to her that he had offer from another employer where he was told that he would be made a manager within 3 to 5 years. Iovin contends that Barford remarked "something to the effect of 'we will do it much quicker than that.'" (Iovin Aff. P 15) However, in his deposition testimony, Iovin admitted that Barford never promised or guaranteed to make him a manager before 3 to 5 years.
(Iovin Dep. 205, 210). At most, Iovin's deposition testimony indicates that Barford indicated that her goals involved having Iovin help her with her administrative and managerial duties as soon as possible and that this was simply an objective that she was shooting for. (Id.) Similarly, in his follow-up interview with Purdy, Iovin admitted that Purdy never specifically stated to him that he was being hired for a management-track position or that he was a management trainee. (Id. 226-27).
Iovin was initially assigned to work on a number of projects, including two projects aimed at automating and updating NMH's billing process and forms (respectively known as the Electronic Data Interchange ["EDI"] project and the Universal Billing form project ["UB 92"]). (Def.'s Facts PP 24, 25). Both the EDI and the UB 92 projects were on the mainframe, which was an entirely new program for Iovin, whose computer experience dealt almost exclusively with mini-computers. (Def.'s Facts PP 17, 18, 26). Iovin devoted a good amount of time to learning the new programs and received several vendor demonstrations relating to the EDI project. (Def.'s Facts P 79). Nevertheless, Iovin contends that his progress was impeded because the reference manuals he was given were outdated and obsolete. (Iovin Aff. P 26).
An element of Iovin's discrimination claim is that Barford did not provide him with the training and supervision that she indicated she would supply. Iovin contends that Barford promised she would provide such training in conjunction with her "promise" that he would be on a management-track position and in view of the fact that his prior experience was primarily with mini-computers. (See Iovin Aff. PP 16, 25). Iovin maintains that instead of training him, Barford ignored him, claiming she was busy although she spent much of her time "chatting" with other employees. Iovin also maintains that Barford avoided him but went out of her way to speak to others. (Id. P 23). In regard to Barford's availability to train Iovin, NMH notes, and Iovin does not controvert, that in June, 1993, NMH laid off several employees. Although Iovin himself was not laid off, six additional IS employees were assigned to Barford. (Def.'s Facts P 72). As a result, Iovin spent less training time with Barford who occasionally directed him to other individuals for technical assistance. (Def.'s Facts P 74).
Iovin does not controvert that after this influx of additional employees, the time Barford had to spend with any of the people under her was very limited. (Id. 72). In his deposition, Iovin testified that he was provided "positive assistance" from several co-workers, including technical and procedural assistance and questions about the EDI project. (Def.'s Facts P 75; Iovin Dep. at 469-70). Although he does not dispute that others assisted him, in his affidavit, Iovin states that he only received a total of approximately six hours of training from his co-workers and that most of this time was consumed by efforts to straighten out a faulty software program that had been installed on his computer. (Iovin Aff. P 24). Iovin admits that at Barford's suggestion, Iovin attended several seminars (one of which related to the UB 92 project) and received several vendor demonstrations relating to the EDI project. (Def.'s Facts PP 77-79). As one instance of discrimination, Iovin specifically cites the fact that he was not permitted to attend a particular EDI seminar in May of 1993. The parties dispute the reason why Iovin was not permitted to attend this seminar. Barford and Purdy assert that they denied Iovin's request to attend based on budgetary constraints. (See Barford Aff. P 19; Purdy Aff. P 6). Barford also believed that Iovin could obtain the same information from the vendor demonstrations. (Barford Aff. P 19). Iovin maintains that Barford specifically told him that money was not the reason that he was denied the EDI training. (Iovin Aff. P 27). Iovin also notes that in the past two non-Romanian employees were permitted to attend the EDI training. (Pl.'s Facts P 88).
Iovin asserts that Bar ford discriminated against him in myriad ways other than her failure to train him. Indeed, he testified that "everything Barford did . . . was discrimination. Everything she said, everything she didn't say, everything she implied, everything she did or didn't do was discrimination." (Iovin Dep. at 780). According to Iovin, the fact that Barford hired him was predicated on a discriminatory intent--viz., so that Barford could subject Scott Leslie to work with an immigrant and so that Barford could scapegoat Iovin. (Iovin Aff. P 17; Iovin Dep. 565-66). Iovin also contends that Barford harassed him based on his national origin by "manipulating" him
and by once claiming that he did not understand "plain English." (Def.'s Facts PP 59, 60; Pl.'s Add'l Facts P 6). And, Iovin complains that he was required to do more photocopying than anyone else. (Pl.'s Facts P 100).
On October 27, 1993, Barford and Purdy met with Iovin. NMH characterizes the meeting as a six month review, whereas Iovin states that it was "supposed to be an initial PMP meeting where they would discuss the goals for the plaintiff." (Def.'s Facts P 114; Pl.'s Facts P 114). In any event, there is no dispute that this meeting took place. At the meeting, Iovin was advised that he was being removed from the EDI and UB 92 projects and being reassigned to a laboratory support project where he was familiar with the system and software package. (Def.'s Facts PP 116, 129).
The reassignment did not affect Iovin's compensation, benefits, or job title. (Def.'s Facts P 136). Iovin was advised that he was being removed from the projects for the following reasons: (1) to help him cope and recover from illness by relieving some stress; (2) because he was not up to speed on technical issues; and (3) because he didn't have friends. (Id. P 131).
Iovin believes that he was removed from the projects because he was being scapegoated and as a product of discriminatory animus. (Pl.'s Facts PP 131, 132). Nevertheless, even before he received his six-month review, Iovin knew his performance was lacking with regard to the EDI and UB 92 projects. In a memo to Barford dated October 12, 1993, Iovin admitted his shortcomings with respect to the projects. (Iovin Dep. at 946). Likewise, in his deposition, Iovin admitted that Barford's assessment that he was "not up to speed on technical issues" necessary for the EDI and UB 92 projects was valid. (Def.'s Facts P 121; Iovin Dep. at 671). Likewise, prior to his removal from the projects, Iovin agreed with Barford's five specific complaints about his performance. (Iovin Dep. at 946). These criticisms included the following: (1) he did not know the TSO environment; (2) it had taken him too long to learn the Timeline product; (3) he had a limited understanding of the terminology necessary for these projects; (4) his technical knowledge and experience on the mainframe and with the various software packages he was expected to use such as TSO, Panvalet and CICS were limited and therefore he had to "depend greatly on others:" and (5) he had difficulty in properly maintaining Gant Charts/spreadsheets for the UB 92 project. (Def.'s Facts P 118; Iovin Dep. at 946-47).
Some of Iovin's more egregious allegations of discrimination concern a co-worker named Scott Leslie ("Leslie"). Soon after Iovin began working at NMH, Leslie allegedly began harassing Iovin by making generally derogatory remarks to Iovin. Two of Leslie's remarks specifically referred to Iovin's national origin. (Def.'s Facts PP 42, 43). First, on or about September 2, 1993, Leslie said to Iovin, "I don't like immigrants and I'm against immigrants. I'm against a lot of warm bodies that they keep bringing here from other countries while at the same time there are a lot of qualified U.S. citizens and Americans who are laid off and lose their jobs because of warm bodies who accept being paid dirt cheap." (Iovin Dep. at 315). The second allegedly derogatory remark made by Leslie occurred on October 27, 1993, prior to Iovin's performance review that day. (Iovin Dep. at 631). Iovin testified that he overheard Leslie state to several co-workers: "I don't understand these things--there is a friend of mine who was telling me about these immigrants." Iovin testified that Leslie then "generally . . . got into saying about how . . . immigrants are coming to this country and accept dirt pay and take away the jobs from well qualified and educated Americans, and he concluded by saying something about NAFTA." (Iovin Dep. at 632).
On September 22, 1993, Iovin met with Krista Bremberg and Shawn Williams of NMH's Human Resources Department and told them that he was unhappy with his job situation. Iovin complained not about Leslie's conduct, but rather about his supervisor Barford whom he felt was "making the rounds and not talking to [him] but to everybody else on the team." (Iovin Dep. at 573). Iovin specifically admits that he did not advise Bremberg and Williams that Leslie had made a remark about immigrants and explains that this was because they never asked. (Pl.'s Facts P 149). Bremberg and Williams asked Iovin if he wanted to switch managers, Iovin replied that he hadn't thought about it. (Def.'s Facts PP 149, 150; Iovin Dep. at 579).
Although Iovin testified that he had complained about derogatory remarks regarding immigrants to several people (including Purdy, human resource personnel, and to nurses), Iovin testified that he did not divulge Leslie's name or any of the specifics until October 27, 1993, during his meeting with Barford and Purdy.
(Iovin Dep. at 323, 567). After listening to Iovin's complaint, Purdy responded by telling Iovin that "we don't tolerate that kind of stuff around here. I'm sorry." (Iovin Dep. at 641-42). Purdy then instructed Iovin that if he "should ever hear such comments again to let her know." (Id.). On either the same day or the next, Purdy met with Scott Leslie and advised him that a co-worker had made a complaint to management alleging that he had been making unfriendly remarks about immigrants and advised him to cease from such conduct immediately. (Def.'s Facts P 44). On November 3, 1993, Barford met with Leslie and issued him a written warning stating:
NMH policies protect all employees in the workplace against discrimination and harassment in any form on the basis of national origin, religion, gender, or any other personal attributes. All allegations of this sort are taken seriously as a possible violation of this policy. You are hereby advised that, if these allegations are correct, any and all activity of this sort on your part will not be tolerated and must stop immediately. Any further allegations of the type of behavior will ...