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U.S. EEOC v. ARMSTRONG WORLD INDUSTRIES

February 15, 2002

U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
V.
ARMSTRONG WORLD INDUSTRIES, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY, United States District Judge.

ORDER

This case is before the court for ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment (#16) filed by Defendant Armstrong World Industries, Inc. Following this court's careful and thorough review of the documents presented by the parties and the arguments of the parties, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (#16) is GRANTED.

FACTS

In May 1995, Dean Dandurand complained to Patterson that Olson would get very close to him and rub her breasts against his arm and back. In addition, Paul Scroggins complained about Olson's language. Beth Stauffer from human resources conducted an investigation. In the course of the investigation, Stauffer discussed the allegations against Olson with Deborah LaRocque,*fn1 who was the human resources manager at Defendant's Kankakee plant from 1991 to 1998. Following her investigation, Stauffer noted that Olson denied engaging in any inappropriate conduct and said she had cleaned up her language. Stauffer concluded that she could not say that one person was more at fault than any other and that the "whole crew" needed to undergo sexual harassment training as soon as possible. The record shows that, on June 22, 1995, Stauffer held a training session regarding sexual harassment which was attended by Olson, Scroggins, Dandurand and others.

Olson was interviewed for a leader position in December 1995. She was interviewed by five managerial/supervisory employees of Defendant, including LaRocque and Brian Fieleke, who was the supervisor on the midnight shift. Olson received some high ratings for technical experience because she knew all the jobs and was already working as a fill-in leader. However, she was ranked lower in other skills by most of the interviewers. LaRocque gave Olson an overall evaluation of 1, the lowest possible score. LaRocque testified that Olson was not the coach-type leader they were looking for. She stated that she was aware of many complaints from Olson's peers about her not interacting well, being very bossy and engaging in inappropriate behavior. LaRocque also stated that Olson did not communicate well with her team and was not good at making decisions on her own. LaRocque stated that, in her opinion, Olson was not qualified for the leader position. LoRocque testified that she told Olson that she needed to work on her communication skills and explained what they were looking for in a leader. According to LaRocque, Olson admitted that people told her she was bossy, did not get along well with other employees and stirred up trouble. LaRocque testified that Olson said she was working hard to "turn that around." At her deposition, Olson stated that she did not recall having this discussion with LaRocque. Fieleke testified that he did not believe Olson was qualified for the leader position because she needed to enhance her communication skills, conflict resolution skills and coaching technique.

Dean Cailteaux received much higher rankings at his interview and was chosen for the leader position. After she did not receive the leader position in December 1995, Olson told Fieleke that she no longer wanted to be a fill-in leader because, in her words, if she "wasn't good enough to hold the position on a permanent basis, . . . [she] must not be good enough to fill in on it."

On August 15, 1996, an incident occurred at work involving Olson and two male employees, Dandurand and Scroggins. Olson testified that Dandurand and Scroggins made sexual comments to her and touched her inappropriately. Olson testified that neither Dandurand or Scroggins had ever touched her inappropriately before this incident. Olson did not report the incident to anyone. However, Cailteaux noticed she was crying and upset and notified Fieleke. An investigation took place. When interviewed, Olson told Fieleke and LaRocque what had happened. She admitted she used inappropriate language and profanity in an effort to get Dandurand and Scroggins to stop their behavior. When he was interviewed, Scroggins claimed that he was verbally harassed by Olson. Based upon the investigation, Dandurand and Scroggins were issued Level II written warnings. Both were off work for five days without pay and were required to write a personal improvement plan during the time off which stated how they would change their behavior and improve their interactions with Olson and their co-workers. On August 26, 1996, after she returned from a previously scheduled vacation, Olson was issued a Level I written warning based upon her use of verbal sexual comments. At the meeting, Olson admitted using inappropriate language in her attempt to get Scroggins and Dandurand to stop what they were doing. She said she realized she was wrong and should have told Fieleke, LaRocque or Cailteaux instead of trying to handle the incident on her own.

On October 5, 1996, Olson was transferred to the day shift based upon a bid she had made prior to the August 1996 incident. Olson testified that she asked for an immediate transfer after the incident because she was nervous about working with Scroggins and Dandurand, but this request was denied.

In April 1997, Olson applied for an open leader position. She was informed by Don Meeler, the manager of the residential business unit team, that she would not be interviewed for the position. Meeler told her that she would not be interviewed because she was in the discipline process. LaRocque testified that she and Meeler made the decision not to interview Olson because Olson lacked the qualifications for the position and because Olson was in the discipline process. LaRocque stated that there was no written policy that someone in the discipline process could not be considered for a promotion but testified that "[a]nyone in discipline obviously is not the type of role model that we want to have as a leader." Victor Thomas was hired for the position in April 1997. Fieleke and LaRocque testified that they believed Thomas was more qualified than Olson for the position. LaRocque testified that Thomas had good communications skills, interacted effectively with his peers, was able to coach others to be successful and was able to make decisions on his own.

On June 16, 1997, Olson filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Illinois Department of Human Rights. In her charge, Olson stated:

Over the past ten years, I have applied for promotion including promotion to production leader. The last time I sought such a promotion was in April, 1997. I have been repeatedly passed over in favor of male employees who were less qualified than myself. In fact, no female hourly production worker has ever been promoted into a management-level position. I believe the reason I have been denied promotions has been my sex (female).
Over the past few years, I have been forced to work in a sexually-hostile environment and have been subjected to repeated acts of sexual harassment, including inappropriate verbal sexual comments as well as inappropriate touching. Despite my complaints to management, no corrective action has been taken. Instead, management has retaliated against me and other female employees who have complained about the sexually-hostile environment and sexual harassment by writing us up and disciplining us for pretextual reasons.

On December 3, 1999, Plaintiff, the EEOC, filed a Complaint (#1) against Defendant in the Northern District of Illinois. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq.) because Olson was denied a promotion in 1997 because of her sex and in retaliation for making a protected complaint of sexual harassment. On February 10, 2000, Judge Ronald A. Guzman ordered that the case ...


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