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BARON v. W.W. GRAINGER

November 18, 1996

Aileen Baron, Plaintiff
v.
W.W. Grainger, Inc., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GETTLEMAN

 Plaintiff, Aileen Baron, has filed a two-count complaint against Defendant, W.W. Grainger, Inc., ("Grainger"), alleging that defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her religion and discharged her in retaliation for complaining about such discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et. seq. ("Title VII"). Defendant, W.W. Grainger, Inc., has filed a motion for summary judgment on all counts. Plaintiff has filed a motion to strike defendant's reply to certain of plaintiff's responses to its Local Rule 12(M) statement, defendant's response to plaintiff's Rule 12(N) statement, and certain attached affidavits. Because the rulings on the motions to strike will affect the evidence that may be considered in the summary judgment motion, the court addresses the motions to strike first. For the reason set forth below, plaintiff's motions to strike are granted in part and denied in part, and defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied.

 FACTS

 Plaintiff was first hired by defendant as a purchasing assistant in its purchasing department on April 12, 1993. The purchasing department has the primary responsibility of obtaining goods and services used by defendant in its operations. Plaintiff worked as a purchasing assistant until she was discharged on November 30, 1993.

 In April or May 1993, Sheila Luna, a co-worker of plaintiff, made a statement to plaintiff to which plaintiff took offense and found to be anti-Semitic. When plaintiff told Luna that she lived in Skokie, Luna referred to the town as "Jewtown." Luna's supervisor, Linda Stone, overheard the comment. Stone later discussed the incident with Luna, informing her that such remarks were inappropriate in the workplace. Thereafter, plaintiff reported the comment to her immediate supervisor, Donald St. Aubin ("St. Aubin"). St. Aubin allegedly discussed the remark with his supervisor, Roger DeGroot ("DeGroot"). The parties dispute whether St. Aubin ever discussed the incident with Luna. When plaintiff asked DeGroot about the action taken by defendant with respect to the comment, DeGroot informed her that the incident had been handled.

 Defendant has a written manual on workplace harassment which states that supervisors should report any incidents of ethnic, religious, racial, or sexual harassment of which they become aware to the Human Resources Department. Both parties agree that the "Jewtown" comment was never documented in Luna's file or elsewhere, nor was it reported to the Human Resources Department. Defendant contends, however, that the written manual's statements are only guidelines, and that plaintiff's supervisors believed that the "Jewtown" remark did not rise to the level of harassment.

 Plaintiff specifies two other incidents of discriminatory conduct: (1) Luna told her a story about a woman who was mean to her mother, and made it point to tell plaintiff that the woman was Jewish; (2) plaintiff's co-worker, Jennifer Weed, mentioned to plaintiff that a Jewish woman in the personnel department was always the first to get out her fur coat and made a remark to the effect of "you people and your fur coats" (which plaintiff interpreted as referring to Jewish people). Plaintiff did not report these comments to her supervisors nor to any of defendant's management personnel. However, on several occasions plaintiff did tell DeGroot that, in general, she thought that she was being discriminated against at work. Defendant admits these allegations, but claims that when DeGroot asked plaintiff about the type of discrimination or the details surrounding it, plaintiff simply responded, "You'll find out." Plaintiff also claims that she was subject to discriminatory treatment by her supervisors; however, plaintiff fails to provide any details of such treatment, nor does she offer citations to the record in support of these allegations.

 In July, 1993, plaintiff received her three month review. Plaintiff received a "3" on a scale of 1 to 6 (6 being the highest score), which meant that she was "meeting most responsibilities and objectives." The "Areas of Improvement" Section of the review stated that several complaints had been made about plaintiff's critical tone of voice and inappropriate comments when dealing with customers. Plaintiff was also criticized for her uncooperative behavior and unprofessional demeanor. Plaintiff reviewed her evaluation and made oral and written comments about her disagreement with sections of the report. The parties disagree as to whether plaintiff commented on the negative evaluations of her interpersonal skills. Prior to this three month review, St. Aubin estimated that he received fifty complaints regarding plaintiff's unprofessional behavior.

 In October, 1993, plaintiff received a six-month performance evaluation. Plaintiff was rated as meeting "only some responsibilities and objectives," which amounted to a "2" on the 1 to 6 scale. The review stated that plaintiff's quality of work had failed to improve; in particular, her error ratio had increased from a 3.2% to a 4.3%. Plaintiff was again criticized for uncooperative behavior and unprofessional demeanor. St. Aubin stated in the review that defendant had received seven complaints about plaintiff's unprofessional behavior and that, if improvement did not follow, disciplinary action, up to and including termination, would be taken. Plaintiff reviewed her evaluation, but unlike with the three month review, she did not make any written comments.

 Plaintiff alleges that around the time of her three month review, St. Aubin began keeping a "secret file" to collect derogatory comments about plaintiff's work and demeanor. Defendant admits that it began documenting plaintiff's performance in detail, and that it kept such documentation in the purchasing department where plaintiff would not have access to it. Defendant also admits that it did not keep such files on other employees. However, defendant explains that it undertook such procedures because it was concerned that plaintiff would retaliate against the complainants if she were to discover their identity. Moreover, defendant claims that, contrary to plaintiff's assertions, such documentation did not begin until after plaintiff's three month review.

 In late November 1993, DeGroot, St. Aubin, and Michael Regan of the Human Resources Department ("Regan") determined that plaintiff had not improved in her work and her behavior. On November 30, 1993, plaintiff was discharged.

 Plaintiff's complaint asserts that defendant did not properly respond to her complaint concerning her co-worker's "Jewtown" comment. Moreover, plaintiff claims that, because she complained about discrimination to her supervisors and made statements that she may need to file a lawsuit to redress her injuries, she was discharged from her job. Plaintiff alleges that such conduct constitutes discrimination on the basis of religion and retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII. Defendant files the instant motion for summary judgment on all counts.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Motions to ...


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