to promote her. Dombrowski is a female; thus, she is a member of
a protected class. Accordingly, the first element of her prima
facie case is not in dispute. Furthermore, neither party disputes
Dombrowski's performance. Thus, the second element of the prima
facie case is also not in dispute. Arlington, however, contends
that Dombrowski has failed to establish element three of her
prima facie for her wrongful transfer claim and element four of
her prima facie case for both her wrongful transfer and failure
to promote claims.
Arlington alleges that Dombrowski has failed to establish the
third element — an adverse employment action — for her wrongful
transfer claim. Although an "adverse employment action has been
defined quite broadly" by the Seventh Circuit, Smart v. Ball
State Univ., 89 F.3d 437, 441 (7th Cir. 1996), the court has
noted that "not everything that makes an employee unhappy is an
actionable adverse action." Id. Indeed, minor and trivial
employment actions, see id., and employment actions that merely
inconvenience the employee, see Lederer v. Argonaut Ins. Co.,
No. 98 CV 3251, 2000 WL 126933, at *9 (N.D.Ill. Jan.28, 2000),
are not actionable. Instead, the action must materially affect
the employment conditions. Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, Ind.,
91 F.3d 922, 932 (7th Cir. 1996). "A materially adverse change
might be indicated by a termination of employment, a demotion
evidenced by a decrease in wage or salary, a less distinguished
title, a material loss of benefits, significantly diminished
material responsibilities, or other indices that might be unique
to a particular situation." Crady v. Liberty Nat'l Bank & Trust
Co., 993 F.2d 132, 136 (7th Cir. 1993). Furthermore, a dramatic
decrease in the skill level required to perform one's job
responsibilities can rise to the level of an adverse employment
action. See Dahm v. Flynn, 60 F.3d 253, 257 (7th Cir. 1994).
In this case, Dombrowski retains the same job title, salary and
benefits which she had at Trackside before her transfer. However,
Dombrowski contends that after her transfer she has significantly
less responsibilities. Prior to her transfer, her
responsibilities included supervising, disciplining, hiring, and
firing the mutuel clerks and putting together the budget and the
payroll for the mutuels' department, (Pl.'s 12(N) Statement at
12, ¶¶ 6 & 17, ¶¶ 48-49.) After her transfer, her
responsibilities became setting the schedule for four full time
clerks and one part time clerk, balancing and making the deposits
for the money room and emptying the lottery machines. (Pl.'s Ex.
1 at 12:7-20 & 315:18-22.) Furthermore, she complains that since
her transfer she has never been asked to share her expertise in
mutuels and customer relations and has learned nothing new about
the running of the food and beverage operation. (Id. at
316:1-16 & 317:3-8.) Arlington on the other hand, contends that
Dombrowski's key job responsibilities remain unchanged. (Def.'s
12(M) Reply Statement at 18-19, ¶ 40 & Tab 5.) While the court
has doubts that Dombrowski actually suffered a materially adverse
employment action, there is a question of fact as to whether
Dombrowski's job responsibilities materially changed after her
transfer. Thus, the court must find that Dombrowski has
established the third element of her prima facie case with
respect to her wrongful transfer claim.
Arlington also alleges that Dombrowski has failed to establish
the fourth element of her prima facie case for both her wrongful
transfer and failure to promote claims. The court agrees.
Although Dombrowski does not directly address this element, she
does state: "No other persons were transferred out of Trackside
except Dombrowski and her cousin Lisa Shirk. A male with less
experience got the job that was promised to Dombrowski while she
was transferred to Waukegan." (Pl.'s Resp. at 9-10.) The court
can only assume from the pleadings that the male to whom
is referring is Majchrzak.*fn5 Regardless, the court can find no
supporting evidence for this allegation nor does Dombrowski
provide any citations to the record or any argument that
Arlington treated Majchrzak — or any other male who was similarly
situated — more favorably. Accordingly, the court finds that
Dombrowski has failed to establish her prima facie case for her
wrongful transfer and failure to promote claims.
2. Legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason
Furthermore, even if Dombrowski established her prima facie
case, Arlington has established a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for transferring her and for failing to promote her.
Arlington contends that it transferred Dombrowski to the Waukegan
facility because Stumpf believed she would be an asset to the
other location. (Def.'s 12(M) Statement at 7, ¶ 31.) At this
time, unlike in prior years when Arlington closed the live meet
at the end of the season, Arlington announced it would have no
live meets during the 1998 racing season. Thus, Arlington had to
reduce its staff and transfer employees to various locations.
Dombrowski luckily was not a member of the employees whom
Arlington had to fire; Dombrowski was a member of the employees
whom Arlington tried to retain. As the Seventh Circuit has
stated, the court will "not sit as a super-personnel department
that reexamines an entity's business decisions." Debs v.
Northeastern Ill. Univ., 153 F.3d 390, 396 (7th Cir. 1998).
Thus, Arlington has offered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons
for transferring her employment to the Waukegan facility and for
failing to promote her.
Because Arlington established a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for its decisions, Dombrowski must now show that the
proffered reason is pretextual. In order to do so, Dombrowski
must "specifically refute the facts which allegedly support the
employer's proffered reasons." Mills v. First Federal Sav. &
Loan Ass'n, 83 F.3d 833, 845 (7th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted)
(emphasis in original). There are three ways to show that the
proffered nondiscriminatory reason is pretextual: (1) the
employer's explanation has no basis in fact; (2) the explanation
is not the "real" reason; or (3) the explanation is insufficient
to warrant the adverse employment action. Id.
In this case, Dombrowski contends that she has established
pretext by each of the aforementioned methods. However, the court
disagrees. First, Dombrowski does not establish that Arlington
did not have to reorganize due to the cancellation of the 1998
live racing season nor does she establish that this
reorganization did not warrant her transfer. Dombrowski
repeatedly asserts that Arlington did not need to reorganize
because the live racing season ends every year. What she is not
addressing is the fact that Arlington had no intention of holding
live racing the following year. Thus, Arlington was not dealing
with just a few off-season months, but with the possibility of a
year or more of no live horse racing. Second, Dombrowski does not
provide this court with any evidence that Arlington's motive to
transfer her was gender related and, thus, not the "real" reason.
Dombrowski alleges that certain comments allegedly made by Lager
and Stumpf indicate that Arlington's reorganization was not the
"real" reason for her transfer: Lager allegedly said that her
career was over and that she should just quit (Pl.'s Ex. 1 at
19:2-18.); Stumpf allegedly told Scalamonga that there was a
good possibility that Dombrowski would not even come to work
(Id. at 119:21-24.). However, these comments do not establish
or indicate that her gender was the basis for her transfer. Thus,
none of Dombrowski's arguments show that Arlington's proffered
reason for not promoting her and for transferring her employment
In sum, even if Dombrowski was able to establish her prima
facie case of employment discrimination, she has failed to show
that Arlington's proffered reason was pretextual or a lie.
Accordingly, Arlington is entitled to judgment in its favor on
Count I of Dombrowski's Second Amended Complaint.
D. Count II — Retaliation claim
Dombrowski also alleges that Arlington transferred her and
failed to promote her in retaliation for her complaints about
gender discrimination. Retaliation claims are analyzed under a
variant of the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting method. To
establish a prima facie case of retaliation, Dombrowski must show
that: (1) she engaged in statutorily protected expression; (2)
she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) there is a
causal link between the protected expression and the adverse
employment action. Eiland v. Trinity Hosp., 150 F.3d 747, 753
(7th Cir. 1998). Once Dombrowski establishes her prima facie
case, Arlington has the burden of producing a valid,
non-retaliatory reason for its action. See Sanchez v.
Henderson, 188 F.3d 740, 746 (7th Cir. 1999). In order to
prevail, Dombrowski must then rebut Arlington's proffered reason
by establishing that it is merely pretextual. Id.
Arlington does not address the first element of Dombrowski's
prima facie case; thus, the court will assume that Dombrowski has
established she was engaged in a statutorily protected activity.
Furthermore, although tenuous, as the court has previously
discussed, see Part II.C.1., Dombrowski has sufficiently
alleged that she suffered from an adverse employment action.
Thus, she has established the second element of her prima facie
case. Accordingly, the court will focus on the required causal
link between the adverse employment action and the protected
A plaintiff can establish the causal link "by showing that
there was a suspiciously short period of time between" her
complaint and the adverse employment action. Parkins v. Civil
Constructors of Illinois, Inc., 163 F.3d 1027, 1039 (7th Cir.
1998). As the time period between the two events increases, the
hint of a causal link decreases. Davidson v. Midelfort Clinic,
Ltd., 133 F.3d 499, 511 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing McClendon v.
Indiana Sugars, Inc., 108 F.3d 789, 796-97 (7th Cir. 1997)). In
this case, Dombrowski's latest complaint of gender discrimination
occurred in July of 1996. Arlington did not transfer her
employment or fail to promote her, however, until October of
1997. This thirteen-month time period is not sufficient to
establish a causal link. See Parkins, 163 F.3d at 1039 (finding
that a time period of three months between the protected activity
and the adverse employment action is insufficient); Davidson,
133 F.3d at 511 (finding that a five month time period is
insufficient). Thus, Dombrowski has failed to establish her prima
facie case of retaliation.
Furthermore, even if Dombrowski had established her prima facie
case, she has failed to establish that Arlington's proffered
nondiscriminatory, legitimate reason for transferring her and for
not promoting her, see Part II.C.2., was pretextual, see Part
II.C.3. Accordingly, Arlington is entitled to judgment in its
favor on Count II of Dombrowski's Second Amended Complaint.
For the foregoing reasons, the court grants Arlington's motion
for summary judgment. Final judgment in this case is
entered in favor of defendant Arlington International Racecourse,
Incorporated and against plaintiff Dana Hoffman-Dombrowski.