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Miranda v. Wisconsin Power & Light Company

August 1, 1996

MARY LOU MIRANDA,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

WISCONSIN POWER & LIGHT COMPANY,

DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

No. 94 C 878 Barbara B. Crabb, Judge.

Before CUMMINGS, BAUER, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

KANNE, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED MAY 17, 1996

DECIDED AUGUST 1, 1996

After she quit her job in 1994, Mary Lou Miranda sued her former employer for allegedly discriminating against her on the basis of her race, age, and physical disability. Ten months later, the district court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment on all of Miranda's claims for relief. She now appeals only with respect to her claim of race discrimination and her claim that she was constructively discharged by being subjected to a hostile and abusive working environment because of her physical disability. Finding no merit in these claims, we affirm.

I.

This appeal arises from the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendant. In its decision, the district court recited the undisputed facts as illustrated by the record. Neither party has offered a contrary assessment, and so we take those undisputed facts as found by the district court.

Miranda is a Hispanic woman who was employed by Wisconsin Power & Light Company ("WPL") at its customer service center in Janesville, Wisconsin. Miranda held the position of customer service representative, which entails handling telephone inquiries from WPL customers. Two of her supervisors at the center were David Ross and Janet Shields.

Whatever the truth of the particulars, it is clear from the record that Miranda chafed under Ross's supervision. She claims that beginning in 1992, he treated her unfairly and in a manner inconsistent with his treatment of her colleagues by restricting her interaction with fellow workers and by singling her out for scrutiny.

In May 1993, Miranda met with Verna Richardson, a WPL human resources manager, to discuss Ross's treatment of her. Miranda alleged that Ross did not allow her adequate time to use the bathroom to accommodate her medical condition and that he had created a hostile working environment by monitoring her more closely than other employees and restricting her interaction with other employees. Richardson summarized Miranda's allegations in a memorandum, which she then shared with Ross.

During her meeting with Ross, Richardson provided him with a copy of a statement by Miranda's physician stating that she suffered from diverticulosis, an intestinal disorder characterized by the presence of small, pouch-like sacs (diverticula) protruding from the intestine. This condition causes painful bowel movements and necessitates frequent trips to the bathroom. It was at this meeting that Ross first learned of Miranda's condition. Following this meeting and the circulation of information regarding Miranda's condition to supervisors in the customer service center, Miranda was allowed to use the bathroom as required. In addition to her diverticulosis, Miranda began to suffer from pain in her right arm and wrist in January 1994, and on the advice of a physician, Ross arranged light-duty work for Miranda during her period of recuperation.

In February 1994, Gary Schmidt, the manager of the customer service center, directed Ross to obtain updated information on Miranda's diverticulosis. Ross prepared a memorandum, and this memorandum was reviewed by other WPL officials. It requested an updated diagnosis and information on the particular accommodations required by Miranda's diverticulosis. Ross submitted this memorandum to Miranda for presentation to her physician.

In October 1993, Ross and Shields notified the center's employees that WPL was creating, and soliciting applications for, five customer service supervisor positions, which would be filled on the basis of merit rather than seniority. Miranda was one of twenty-three people who applied for these positions. WPL decided only to consider the thirteen applicants who were WPL customer service center employees, and of these thirteen, only eleven-- including Miranda--had satisfied WPL's two-year service requirement. WPL policy required that an employee applying for an hourly supervisory position submit to a performance evaluation from his or her supervisor. Ross completed an evaluation of Miranda's performance, and the two of them met on November 3, 1993, to discuss the details of the evaluation.

Ross selected Shields and two others to serve with him on panels interviewing applicants for the supervisor positions. Shields, who is white, and Odell Nickelberry, a black man, interviewed the applicants to assess their leadership and communications skills. Ross and Jackie Krayer, both of whom are white, interviewed the applicants to determine their technical qualifications for the positions. Shields and Nickelberry asked each applicant the same five questions and scored answers on a scale of one to five. They scored Miranda with 12 out of a possible 25 points. Ross and Krayer posed thirty-one identical questions to each applicant and scored the applicants individually. In this interview, Miranda achieved 98 out of a possible 155 points.

Following the interviews, Shields, Nickelberry, Ross, and Krayer met to tally the results. The five highest-scoring applicants were offered the positions, and all accepted. Miranda was not among them; in fact, she attained one of the lowest total scores. Miranda's score disqualified her from further consideration for the position, meaning that even if the higher-scoring applicants had declined the positions, WPL would not have offered it to Miranda. All five of the persons selected for the supervisor positions were white.

Miranda subsequently quit her job with WPL and filed this lawsuit on November 22, 1994. In her complaint, Miranda alleged that WPL failed to promote her to a supervisor position on account of her race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. sec. 2000e et seq., and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. sec. 1981, and on account of her age (Miranda was fifty-five at the time the district court granted summary judgment.) in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. sec. 621 et seq. She also alleged that WPL violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. sec. 12101 et seq., by subjecting ...


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