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GUZMAN v. ABBOTT LABORATORIES
August 10, 1999
MARTA GUZMAN, PLAINTIFF,
ABBOTT LABORATORIES, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alesia, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the court is defendant Abbott Laboratories' motion to
"strike inadmissible portions of plaintiff's filings in response
to defendant's motion for summary judgment" and motion for
summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56(c). For the following reasons, the court denies in part and
grants in part defendant's motion to strike and defendant's
motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff Marta Guzman ("Guzman") is a female of Mexican
ancestry who worked for the defendant Abbott Laboratories
("Abbott") from July 1, 1985 to August 16, 1996. Abbott is an
Illinois corporation engaged in the development, manufacture, and
sale of pharmaceutical, nutritional, hospital, chemical, and
medical diagnostic products.
On May 26, 1998, Guzman filed a three-count complaint against
defendants Abbott Laboratories, Susan Kenski-Sroka, Denise
Vickers, Marsha Christoffel, and Kay Neeland.*fn2 Both Count I
and II are claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and Count III is a
claim under Illinois tort law. Count I alleges that defendants
violated Title VII by terminating her employment because of her
Mexican ancestry. Count II alleges that defendants violated Title
VII by creating a hostile working environment. Count III alleges
that the defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress on
On July 19, 1998, the court (1) dismissed Counts I and II
without prejudice as to the individual defendants, Susan
Kenski-Sroka, Denise Vickers, Marsha Christoffel, and Kay
Kneeland and (2) dismissed Count III without prejudice as to all
The matter is currently before the court on Abbott's motion for
summary judgment. Abbott contends that it is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law on Count I because (1) Guzman has failed to
establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination and (2)
even if Guzman has established a prima facie case, Abbott has
legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating her
employment. Abbott also contends that it is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law on Count II because (1) Guzman has failed to
establish that her supervisors created a hostile working
environment and (2) even if her supervisors did create a hostile
working environment, Guzman has failed to establish that Abbott
knew or should have know of the harassment. The court is also
reviewing Abbott's motion to strike several of the exhibits
Guzman has attached to her response
to Abbott's motion for summary judgment.
In order to understand this court's opinion, one must be aware
of a number of facts. For the sake of clarity, a recitation of
these facts are in three parts. Part A discusses events which
occurred with respect to Abbott's motion to strike. Part B
discusses events which occurred with respect to Guzman's
employment discrimination claim. Part C discusses events which
occurred with respect to Guzman's hostile working environment
A. Events relating to Abbott's motion to strike
On August 13, 1998, Abbott served Guzman with a set of
interrogatories and a request for production of documents. Among
the requested documents were the following:
 All documents that constitute, refer, or relate
to instructions, job training, or your
responsibilities at ABBOTT LABORATORIES.
 Any and all documents you removed from the
premises at ABBOTT LABORATORIES or received from
past or present employees of ABBOTT LABORATORIES.
 All documents which constitute, reflect, refer,
or relate to any communications, consultations,
or transmissions of information between you and
any other person relating to the damages and/or
injuries you claim to have suffered as a result
of incidents alleged in your Complaint.
 All medical records, hospital records, letters,
correspondence and documents from and to all
physicians, clinics, and any other medical
personnel concerning your mental, psychological,
and/or emotional health or condition between July
1, 1985 to present.
 All documents and other information regarding
medication or other treatment prescribed to you
for your emotional, psychological or mental
conditions from July 1, 1985 to present.
(D.Mot. to Strike ¶ 1.) Guzman's responses were due on September
12, 1998. However, Guzman did not respond until November 16, 1998
after several letters between the parties' attorneys.
Nevertheless, Guzman did not produce several of the exhibits
attached to her response to Abbott's motion for summary judgment
prior to the close of discovery.
B. Events relating to Guzman's employment discrimination
Abbott first hired Guzman as a bilingual secretary in its
international division. On April 6, 1987, Guzman became an
accounting clerk within Abbott's international division. Almost
two and a half years later, on July 17, 1989, Abbott promoted
Guzman to the position of Network Administrator for Abbott's
Stock Retirement Plan.
From 1989 to 1992, John Olin ("Olin") was Guzman's direct
supervisor. As Guzman's supervisor, Olin evaluated Guzman's work
performance. On August 22, 1991, Olin noted that Guzman's
"multiple and sometimes extended absences last year prevented the
progress" for which he was hoping. (D.Ex.37.) Between November of
1991 and November of 1992, Olin recorded more than forty-four
days on which Guzman was absent from work in eleven separate
incidents. After these absences, Olin formally warned Guzman that
her repetitive absences were resulting in her inadequate
performance because she was not able to complete her daily tasks.
During late 1993, Abbott decided to out-source the Retirement
Funds network to Putnam Investments. Thus, the Network
Administrator position was eliminated. Sometime thereafter,
Guzman decided to interview for a position in the Credit
Department. On October 31, 1994, Guzman became Senior Credit
Assistant and received training and training materials. As Senior
Credit Assistant, Guzman reviewed,
inputted information into and accessed information from the
Accounts Receivable Management System, released orders for
shipment, contacted customers regarding delinquent accounts, did
paperless inquiries on customer complaints, and resolved customer
From December 16, 1994 through January 4, 1995, Guzman took
vacation or personal leave from work. Then from January 11, 1995
through January 30, 1995, Guzman took sick leave from work.
On March 15, 1995, Keith Harper ("Harper") and John Moore
("Moore"), two of Guzman's supervisors, met with Guzman to
discuss her responsibilities and their expectations. At this
time, Harper and Moore went over Guzman's 1994 Performance Review
with her. This review stated that she did not completely
understand her job assignment, required a high degree of
structure to optimize her output, became distracted when working
on more than one task, and required additional training.
On April 28, 1995, Harper and Denise Vickers ("Vickers"),
another of Guzman's supervisors, met with Guzman to discuss her
performance and tardiness. However, Guzman asserts that the main
topic of this meeting was not her performance but rather the
personality conflict between her and Moore. (Pl.Ex.10.) To
accommodate Guzman's concerns about her relationship with Moore,
Guzman was temporarily transferred to another set. Then, at the
end of July, Susan Kenski-Sroka ("Kenski-Sroka") requested that
Guzman be transferred to her set.
During July of 1995, Marsha Christoffel ("Christoffel"),
another supervisor, noticed an increase in the volume of past due
accounts in Kenski-Sroka's set. Then, during August of 1995,
Kenski-Sroka also noticed an increase in the number of past-due
accounts in her set. Based on these increases, Christoffel and
Kenski-Sroka met with Guzman to discuss her past-due accounts. At
this time, they discovered that Guzman did not understand how to
read the reports or how to distinguish between the "bills from"
account and the "bill tos" (sic) account. Guzman claims, however,
that at this time she did understand these tasks but that neither
Christoffel nor Kenski-Sroka listened to her protestations that
she did understand. (Pl.Ex. 21 at 10 ¶ 72.)
On September 5, 1995, Kenski-Sroka provided Guzman with
additional written instructions of her job duties. However,
Guzman claims this was done to embarrass her because the
instruction sheet was so large that it looked as if it was
prepared for the visually impaired. (Id. at 10 ¶ 76.)
On October 25, 1995, Kenski-Sroka and Christoffel informed
Guzman that her performance was marginal and that they were
placing her on probation. Thereafter, Christoffel advised Guzman
that it was absolutely imperative that her attendance and
performance improve within ninety days or she would be
However, on November 13, 1995, Guzman fell in the parking lot
and went to the Employee Health Department. That day, Guzman left
the office and did not return until January 8, 1996. Due to this
last absence, Abbott extended Guzman's probationary period until
March 29, 1996.
During this extension, Christoffel and Kenski-Sroka met with
Guzman on February 7, 1996. In this meeting, Christoffel and
Kenski-Sroka advised Guzman that one of her accounts had a
past-due balance of over $131,000 and that she had failed to
contact this account during the month of January. However, Guzman
claims that this failure was due to her absence from work.*fn3
(Pl.12(N) Statement at 16 ¶ 69.)
On February 12, 1996, Christoffel and Kenski-Sroka met with
Guzman again. At this meeting, they noted Guzman's incorrect or
insufficient documentation on specific
accounts and also her lack of follow-up or inappropriate
follow-up on eight accounts. Christoffel and Kenski-Sroka also
met with Guzman on February 20, 1996, February 26, 1996 and March
5, 1996 to discuss continuing deficiencies. At the March 5th
meeting, Kenski-Sroka pointed out to Guzman her continuing
problems of not following up with customers, not providing
appropriate follow-up, and not paying attention to detail.
On March 14, 1996, Guzman received her Performance Review for
the period from January 1, 1995 through December 31, 1995. This
review stated that Guzman had not performed satisfactorily and
that, instead of taking responsibility for her own performance,
she blamed others for her poor performance. On this day,
Christoffel and Kenski-Sroka met with Guzman. During this
meeting, they discussed her Performance Review and explained to
her that, if her performance did not improve by March 29th, she
would be terminated.
The following day, Guzman was admitted to and released from
Saint Therese Medical Center for depression. (Pl.Ex. 21 BB.)
Thereafter, on March 18, 1996, Guzman called in sick to work and
did not return until August 3, 1996.
On August 13, 1996, Christoffel and Vickers met with Don Salby,
the head of the Credit Department, and Mike Spengler in Human
Resources. During this meeting, they discussed Guzman's failure
to improve her performance during her probation and decided to
terminate her employment. Later that day, Christoffel and Vickers
met with Guzman to advise her that her employment would be
terminated as of August 16, 1996.
C. Events relating to Guzman's hostile working environment
Guzman alleges that Moore, Harper, Kenski-Sroka, Vickers, and
Christoffel harassed her on a daily basis by making derogatory
comments about her Mexican ancestry and about the Hispanic
doctors who were Abbott's clients. (Pl.Ex. 8 ...