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KERR v. WGN CONTINENTAL BROADCASTING CO.

November 4, 2002

KATHERINE KERR, PLAINTIFF
V.
WGN CONTINENTAL BROADCASTING CO.; AND TRIO VIDEO, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles Ronald Norgle, Sr. United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is Plaintiffs motion to amend judgment, which is in substance a timely filed motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Plaintiffs motion is directed to the court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant WGN Continental Broadcasting Co. See Kerr v. WGN Continental Broadcasting Co., No. 01 C 7196, 2002 WL 1477629 (N.D. Ill. July 9, 2002). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs motion is denied, but the court expands its reasons for granting WGN's summary judgment motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Katherine Kerr sued WGN claiming that WGN discriminated against her in violation of Title VII by permitting a hostile work environment and by retaliating against her for complaining of the hostile environment. A short discussion of the factual background is necessary to place Kerr's motion to amend the judgment in context.

WGN is, inter alia, a broadcasting company that airs television programs locally in the Chicago area and nationally through cable television. WGN televises some of the games played by local sports teams, including the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and Chicago Bulls. WGN is not the exclusive broadcaster for such games, as other networks, such as ESPN and Fox Sports Net Chicago also broadcast their games.

To broadcast sporting events, WGN uses a mobile production facility, commonly known as a broadcast truck, which contains the equipment necessary to broadcast live from the stadiums where the games are being played. WGN does not own the broadcast trucks it uses for sporting events. Instead, WGN contracts with Co-Defendant Trio Video to provide WGN with broadcast trucks and related production personnel. Trio Video and WGN have had such contracts for a number of years.

In the early 1990's, Kerr began working with Trio Video and received assignments to work sporting event broadcasts. Kerr's job was that of a television stage manager, which is also known as an assistant director. In performing her duties, Kerr would sit in the broadcast booth during games and assist with the coordination of the show. Kerr was responsible for providing the on-air broadcasters with current information about the game, such as pitching and lineup changes. Kerr advised the broadcasters whether they were on or off the air and provided promotional materials and cues for on-air readings. Kerr's position placed her in front of video monitors that received images from cameras throughout the venue. Kerr also wore a headset/microphone to communicate with other production personnel, through which she necessarily heard all their communications.

Kerr alleges that she was subject to a sexually hostile environment when she worked WGN broadcast Chicago Cubs home games. According to Kerr, the camera operators would take gratuitous footage of female spectators and show that footage repeatedly on video monitors within Kerr's sight. Kerr also claims that the camera operators would engage in overtly sexual conversations on their communication equipment, which Kerr had no choice but to overhear. Kerr has alleged a litany of instances in which she was subject to viewing and hearing sexually oriented material. All of these instances occurred during WGN broadcast Cubs home games.

As noted above, WGN is not the exclusive broadcaster for Cubs home games. WGN broadcasts approximately 50% of the home games, with Fox Sports Net Chicago broadcasting the other 50%. Kerr's duties were not limited to WGN broadcasts or Cubs games. She also worked games played by other local teams, and worked on sporting events that were broadcast by other networks, such as Fox Sports Net Chicago and ESPN. Kerr's allegations of a hostile environment are limited to WGN broadcast Cubs home games. She makes no allegation of any improper conduct during any other broadcasts that she worked.

Kerr claims that in June of 2000 she complained to both WGN and Trio Video about the harassment. According to Kerr, her complaints had no effect on the allegedly hostile environment, and she encountered resistance when she complained to a WGN senior producer. Kerr alleges that on October 11, 2000, WGN informed Trio Video that WGN no longer wanted to use Kerr as a stage manager. Subsequently, Kerr alleges that Trio Video terminated her.

Kerr now moves to alter the court's judgment on her alternative theory that WGN can incur Title VII liability absent an employment relationship. Kerr argues that the court misconstrued the differences between so-called "de facto" employer liability and "interference" liability. The issue is fully briefed and ripe for ruling.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standards for Rule ...


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