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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. University of Chicago Hospitals

January 02, 2002

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSPITALS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 98 C 6109--Blanche M. Manning, Judge.

Before Harlington Wood, Jr., Coffey, and Williams, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Williams, Circuit Judge.

Argued May 16, 2001

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the University of Chicago Hospitals alleging that the Chicago Hospitals had unlawfully discriminated on the basis of religion when it constructively discharged Victoria Leyva. The district court granted summary judgment to the Chicago Hospitals, finding that the EEOC had not demonstrated constructive discharge nor any religious discrimination, only voluntary resignation. The EEOC appeals seeking reversal of that decision, so that it can move forward with its case. We believe that the EEOC has adequately demonstrated constructive discharge on the basis of religious discrimination, as alleged, so as to defeat summary judgment and proceed to trial. Therefore, we reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Facts

Victoria Leyva is an Evangelical Christian Baptist. Leyva was a recruiter in the University of Chicago Hospitals' ("Chicago Hospitals") Employment Department between December 1990 and July 1992, and before JoAnn Shaw arrived, she had received high marks from her immediate supervisor, Employment Department Manager William Thornton. For instance, in a June 30, 1991 annual performance evaluation, Thornton rated her a 3 overall on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest), where 3 was defined as performing at "levels which should be expected and considered acceptable" and as "doing a good job." He praised her abilities, describing her as an "excellent" recruiter and team member who achieved "excellent results and [had] gotten many compliments from her departments."

JoAnn Shaw is a Roman Catholic. In May 1991, she was hired by the Chicago Hospitals as Associate Director of the Chicago Hospitals and Director of Human Resources, which included the Employment Department. One of her explicit tasks was to improve the human resources function. So with her arrival came changes, particularly in evaluations of Leyva's performance. Leyva believed that this change was because of her evangelical religious beliefs.

Before she officially began her duties, Shaw met with Leyva in Leyva's office,*fn1 where she noticed a calendar entitled "Treasures of Inspiration: A Woman's Guide to Daily Living" and a five-inch clock inscribed with "Armitage Baptist Church, Chicago-Illinois. Pastor Charles Lyon." on Leyva's desk. Concerned that the items were too "religious in nature," Shaw directed Thornton to have Leyva remove the items. Thornton told Leyva to remove the items because they were "too religious, [and] too denominational." Leyva removed them. Shaw also attached a handwritten Post-It Note to Thornton's performance appraisal of Leyva, which stated "Baptist church referrals off desk."

Before Shaw was hired, Thornton and Leyva had recruited employees from churches, but after she arrived, Shaw issued a directive to all employees to stop recruiting at churches or church job fairs. This directive was a recurrent source of tension between Shaw and Leyva, as Shaw believed Leyva continued to recruit from her church. According to the Chicago Hospitals, however, the problems with Leyva were much more than recruiting from churches. Some of her supervisors believed she recruited exclusively from her church and hired unqualified people.

In October 1991, Thornton resigned (at Shaw's request), and he was replaced by Ralph Borkowicz. As the new middleman between Shaw and Leyva, Borkowicz reiterated Shaw's directive to Leyva not to recruit at church job fairs, and he told her that Shaw thought she was an "uncreative recruiter." Leyva denied recruiting at churches since the directive. Borkowicz and Shaw also carpooled together, and Leyva was a source of common discussion. According to Borkowicz, Shaw made it "very clear that she had a problem with [Leyva's] religious beliefs and bringing religion into the workplace," calling her a "religious fanatic." In addition, Shaw repeatedly stated that she wanted Leyva fired, which Borkowicz believed was because of Leyva's religion.

In early May 1992, Shaw told Borkowicz that "she was not happy -- this wasn't working out" and that she wanted him to fire Leyva. Borkowicz responded that he "didn't see any reason for terminating [Leyva], and [that Shaw] needed to do what she needed to do." A couple weeks later, Shaw told Borkowicz that she was going to start taking steps to remove him from his position because he refused to fire Leyva. She terminated him on May 21, 1992, and on that same day, according to Leyva, Borkowicz told her that he was terminated because he refused to fire her.

Leyva also testified that on June 6, 1992, Borkowicz warned her that Shaw said she "wanted [her] out, but that she was going to make it very hard for [her] so [she] would quit, and [she] would not be able to collect unemployment." Borkowicz told her that Shaw was "setting [her] up so that [she] would quit, gathering complaints and gathering whatever she could." Borkowicz told Leyva to "watch [her] back." In addition, he informed her of an example of Shaw's hostility toward her. Leyva had applied for a grant from the Chicago Hospitals' outreach program to her church for its tutoring program in the spring of 1992. In early May 1992, the employee advisory committee awarded Leyva's church $500 (which Shaw's assistant Roger Bottorff had lobbied for her to receive). Although Bottorff prepared a May 8, 1992 letter of congratulations signed by Shaw that notified Leyva that the $500 check could be picked up in a few days, at the time of her June 6th conversation with Borkowicz, Leyva had not received the letter. She did not know it existed. She stated that Borkowicz said to her, "the awards had been made, the checks had been cut and [Shaw] was holding it because [she was] a Bible thumper and a goody two-shoes, and [Shaw] was gonna make [her] sweat."

Borkowicz was replaced by Bottorff (Shaw's assistant and a project manager). Like Borkowicz, Bottorff told Leyva that Shaw did not want her to recruit at church job fairs, which Leyva again denied. He further instructed her (twice) not to hire "church people, the needy, or [her] friends." In June, Bottorff evaluated Leyva for her annual evaluation, giving her a rating of 2 overall, which is defined as performance "at or slightly above the minimum requirements for the job" and "improvements are needed." During her evaluation review, he implied that Leyva could be terminated if she did not improve. In preparing his evaluation, Bottorff did not ask ...


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