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GUZMAN v. ABBOTT LABORATORIES

August 10, 1999

MARTA GUZMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
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.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

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 Guzman.

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 defendants.

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 claim.

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:

  [2] All documents that constitute, refer, or relate
      to instructions, job training, or your
      responsibilities at ABBOTT LABORATORIES.
  [5] Any and all documents you removed from the
      premises at ABBOTT LABORATORIES or received from
      past or present employees of ABBOTT LABORATORIES.
  [8] 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.
  [19] 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.
  [20] 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
  claim

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 complaints.

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 terminated.

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 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
  claim

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 ...


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