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HARRIS v. FRANKLIN-WILLIAMSON HUMAN SERVICES
May 11, 2000
MARCIA HARRIS, PLAINTIFF,
FRANKLIN-WILLIAMSON HUMAN SERVICES, INC., LABORERS' INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS LABORERS' DISTRICT COUNCIL, RANDALL J. MAYHEW, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, District Judge.
Pending before the Court are Defendants' three motions for
summary judgment and Defendants' three motions for sanctions
pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 11 and
28 U.S.C. § 1927 against Marcia Harris and her attorneys (Docket Entry Nos.
88, 98, 105, 62, 120, and 124, respectively). As to the motions
for summary judgment, Defendants maintain that they are entitled
to summary judgment on all counts of Harris' First Amended
Complaint. Specifically, they maintain that Harris has not
established a prima facie case under any of the counts.
As to the sanctions, Defendants assert that Harris filed this
lawsuit for the sole purpose of harassing Defendants, causing
undue delay, and needlessly increasing the costs of litigation.
Specifically, they maintain that many of the allegations in her
First Amended Complaint are not supported by the evidence and
that Harris and her attorneys knew that some of the allegations
were not supported by evidence when they filed the First Amended
Complaint. Harris objects to Defendants' request for sanctions
arguing that she and her attorneys have acted in good faith
throughout the litigation. Furthermore, Harris contends that
Defendants' failure to recognize the twenty-one day "safe harbor"
rule contained in Rule 11 merits denial of their motions for
sanctions. Having reviewed the pleadings and the applicable case
law, the Court rules as follows.
II. Procedural Background
Initially, Marcia Harris filed suit against Franklin-Williamson
Human Services, Inc. ("FWHS"), Laborers' International Union of
North America ("LIUNA"), Southern Illinois Laborers' District
Council ("SILDC"), and Randall Mayhew ("Mayhew") on September 16,
1998 (Docket Entry No. 1). Subsequently, Harris filed a
five-count amended complaint against Defendants (Docket Entry No.
3). The First Amended Complaint alleges: (a) sexual
discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I); (b) sexual
harassment and retaliation pursuant to Title VII (Count II); (c)
age discrimination pursuant to the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA") (Count
III); (d) violations of the Violence Against Women Act,
42 U.S.C. § 13981 et seq. ("VAWA") (Count IV); and (e) tortious
interference of contract (Count V). Counts I, II and IV are
against all Defendants; Count III is against FWHS and Count V is
against LIUNA, SILDC and Mayhew.
On February 17, 1999, the Court heard oral argument on several
of Defendants' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment and
took the matters under advisement. In March of 1999, the Court
denied FWHS' motion for partial summary judgment; Mayhew, LIUNA
and SILDC's motion to dismiss and/or summary judgment; and FWHS'
motion to dismiss, to strike or for more definite statement
(Docket Entry Nos. 40, 41 and 42, respectively).
The parties proceeded with discovery and in April 1999, Harris'
deposition was taken. In all, the parties deposed nineteen people
from May 1999 to June 1999. After reviewing the depositions,
Defendants Mayhew, LIUNA and SILDC served Harris' attorneys
with their Rule 11 sanctions on May 25, 1999. In response to the
sanctions, Harris filed a motion for leave to file a second
amended complaint on June 15, 1999 (Docket Entry No. 56). On June
16, 1999, Mayhew, LIUNA and SILDC filed Rule 11 sanctions with
the Court (Docket Entry No. 62). Subsequently, Defendants moved
for summary judgment on all counts of the First Amended Complaint
(Docket Entry Nos. 88, 98 and 105).
On August 16, 1999, the Court held a hearing on Harris' motion
for leave to file a second amended complaint. The Court orally
denied the motion for to leave file a second amended complaint
I've seen a lot of cases where individuals, such as
the plaintiff in this case, come to me or the
magistrates and complain about all of the fishing
expeditions that defense wants to take and how they
want to go into discovery, that they shouldn't be
allowed, because the standard argument is that the
plaintiff's lawyer is not getting paid by the hour
and the defendant's lawyer is. But this case is
extraordinarily different because here we have the
plaintiff coming in, an individual who says they
should have gone on a fishing expedition because they
should have known that I would have gone from
specific allegations to general allegations and try
to open this thing up simply because I couldn't prove
it against one guy. I now want to see who else is out
there and open this thing wide open, so they should
have contemplated that and given me and done the
discovery in advance. I think it's a disingenuous
I think that it is clear in this case that the
defendants, the employer and the other defendants
would be extraordinarily prejudiced by the amendment
of this complaint because they, at the very least,
would have to come in and ask for an extension of
time for discovery. If I didn't grant it, they would
be stuck. If I granted it, they would be delayed. The
motion is simply denied.
(August 16, 1999 hearing on motion for leave to file second
amended complaint, pages 44-45, lines 24-23).
Harris began working for FWHS in 1978. In 1989, she was
promoted to the position of Director of Rehabilitation Services.
In September of 1994, the employees of FWHS elected to become
members of SILDC. Mayhew was the Director of Organizing in charge
of the union organization and campaign at FWHS. Harris alleges
that Mayhew committed numerous offensive acts against her and
that she made repeated complaints to FWHS during her employment
Specifically, Harris alleges that on September 20, 1994, Mayhew
assaulted, intimidated and harassed her while she was working at
the Rehabilitation Center and that after the September 20, 1994
incident, Mayhew threatened, assaulted, intimidated, sexually
harassed and/or stalked Harris on more than one occasion on the
premises of FWHS' Rehabilitation Center. Harris' complaint
further alleges that on or about September 20, 1994, Mayhew
contacted Kenneth Bleyer, an attorney for FWHS, and told Bleyer
that he controlled the County Boards in Franklin and Williamson
Counties and that unless Harris was fired, Mayhew would make
things difficult for FWHS with respect to its position with the
union, and after that Mayhew threatened FWHS with adverse union
actions, including strikes, if FWHS did not discipline,
discharge, demote or otherwise make things difficult for Harris.
She further asserts that agents and/or employees of Defendants,
including Mayhew, did the following: (1) assaulted, intimidated,
stalked and harassed her; (2) circulated a letter falsely
implying that she had been tested for herpes; (3) circulated a
flyer depicting her as a witch; (4) circulated a picture of a
nude female with "call Marcia 618-996-3082" written on it; and
(5) circulated a document entitled "The Great American Bitch
Award" which named Harris as the recipient and stated the award
was given to her for "being a c____t." Harris also claims that in
January 1996, she informed First Amended Complaint Markley, then
acting administrator of FWHS, that Mayhew made or caused to be
made threatening comments to her and threatened to shoot her. She
claims that right after she and Markley talked, Markley issued
her two written reprimands regarding her handling of a union
Subsequently, in July of 1997, FWHS transferred Harris from her
position of Director of Rehabilitation Services and assigned her
to the position of Director of Development and Marketing. At this
time, Harris was 49 years old and replaced (in the interim) by
Karen Freitag, age 44.*fn3 Ultimately, the position was filled
by Robert G. Ford, age 44. Harris maintains that she was
transferred from her position as Director of Rehabilitation
Services because of her sex, her age and in retaliation. Harris
alleges that this transfer was an adverse employment action. She
also alleges that her new office was infested with roaches.
Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings and affidavits,
if any, "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c). The movant bears the burden
of establishing the absence of fact issues and entitlement to
judgment as a matter of law. Yorger v. Pittsburgh Corning
Corp., 733 F.2d 1215, 1218 (7th Cir. 1984).*fn4 The Court must
consider the entire record, drawing reasonable inferences and
resolving factual disputes in favor of the non-movant. Tregenza
v. Great American Communications Co., 823 F. Supp. 1409, 1411
(N.D.Ill. 1993), aff'd, 12 F.3d 717 (7th Cir. 1993), cert.
denied, 511 U.S. 1085, 114 S.Ct. 1837, 128 L.Ed.2d 465 (1994).
In reviewing a summary judgment motion, the Court does not
determine the truth of asserted matters, but rather decides
whether there is a genuine factual issue for trial. Harms v.
Godinez, 829 F. Supp. 259, 261 (N.D.Ill. 1993). No issue remains
for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the
non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.
If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not sufficiently
probative, summary judgment may be granted. . . ." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91
L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Accord Brownell v. Figel, 950 F.2d 1285,
1289 (7th Cir. 1991).
In a 1995 case, the Seventh Circuit noted that this standard
should be applied "with added rigor" in employment discrimination
cases, in which intent and credibility are crucial issues. See,
e.g., DeLuca v. Winer Industries, Inc., 53 F.3d 793, 797 (7th
Cir. 1995) (quoting Robinson v. PPG Industries, Inc.,
23 F.3d 1159, 1162 (7th Cir. 1994) and Sarsha v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.,
3 F.3d 1035, 1038 (7th Cir. 1993)). DeLuca affirmed prior
Seventh Circuit pronouncements that in employment discrimination
cases, which often involve issues of motive and intent, summary
judgment must be approached with caution. Huhn v. Koehring Co.,
718 F.2d 239, 242 (7th Cir. 1983) Huhn relied on an earlier
case which recognized that, although summary judgment is improper
in employment discrimination cases which involve "weighing of
conflicting indications of motive and intent," where a plaintiff
has no evidence of discriminatory motive to "put on the scales
for weighing," summary judgment is appropriate. Id.
A. Count I — Sex Discrimination
Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate
against an employee
because of the employee's race or sex. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq. The plaintiff must prove that she was a victim of
intentional discrimination. St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks,
509 U.S. 502, 509, 113 S.Ct. 2742, 125 L.Ed.2d 407 (1993). A
plaintiff can satisfy her burden of proof in a sex discrimination
case in two ways: through direct evidence of discriminatory
intent or through indirect evidence demonstrated by the
burden-shifting method presented in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973).
Pasqua v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 101 F.3d 514, 516 (7th
Cir. 1996); Von Zuckerstein v. Argonne Nat'l Lab.,
984 F.2d 1467, 1472 (7th Cir. 1993). Here, Harris has not presented direct
evidence of discrimination, and thus the Court turns to the
burden-shifting method of McDonnell Douglas.
The first step for Harris under the McDonnell Douglas method
is to establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination.
Gonzalez v. Ingersoll Milling Machine Co., 133 F.3d 1025, 1032
(7th Cir. 1998); Pasqua, 101 F.3d at 516. To establish a prima
facie case of sex discrimination, Harris must show: (1) she is in
a protected class; (2) she is qualified for her position; (3) she
suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) that others,
similarly situated but not of the protected class, were treated
more favorably. Morrow v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 152 F.3d 559,
561 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Geier v. Medtronic, Inc.,
99 F.3d 238, 241 (7th Cir. 1996)).
Once the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden
shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for its action. Cowan v. Glenbrook Sec.
Servs., Inc., 123 F.3d 438, 445 (7th Cir. 1997). Then the burden
shifts back to the plaintiff to show the defendant's reason is in
fact pretext for discrimination. Bahl v. Royal Indemnity Co.,
115 F.3d 1283, 1290 (7th Cir. 1997). The ultimate burden of proof
remains with the plaintiff at all times. See Kirk v. Federal
Property Management Corp., 22 F.3d 135, 138 (7th Cir. 1994).
First, the Court must determine whether Harris has established
a prima facie case of sex discrimination.*fn5 Defendants
maintain that Harris cannot set forth a prima facie case of sex
discrimination. Harris responds that she was moved out of her
position as Director of Rehabilitation and replaced by a man
because she is a woman. She further argues that there is a
genuine issue of fact as to whether she was meeting FWHS'
legitimate expectations and whether FWHS' reason for transfer was
pretextual. Based on the following, the Court concludes that
Harris has failed to establish a prima facie case of sex
The Court finds that Harris cannot establish that she suffered
an adverse employment action. The Seventh Circuit has defined an
adverse action as follows:
[A] materially adverse change in the terms and
conditions of employment must be more disruptive than
a mere inconvenience or an alteration of job
responsibilities. A materially adverse change might
be indicated by a termination of employment, a
demotion, evidenced by a decrease in salary, a less
distinguished title, a material loss of benefits,
significantly diminished ...