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CARTER v. RESEARCH INTERNATIONAL USA

March 6, 2003

MICHELL CARTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RESEARCH INTERNATIONAL USA, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John W. Darrah, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Michell Carter, ("Carter"), filed suit against Defendant, Research International USA, Inc. ("Research"), alleging retaliation pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Presently before the Court is Research's Motion for Summary Judgment.

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). All the evidence and the reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Miller v. American Family Mutual Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 997, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000). Summary judgment may be granted when no "reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

In the instant case, Carter did not file a response to Research's Motion for Summary Judgment and has has not disputed any of Research's statements of material facts. Therefore, all the material facts averred by Research are deemed admitted. See Oates v. Discovery Zone, 116 F.3d 1161, 1167 (7th Cir. 1997); L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). Although Carter failed to respond to Research's statement of material facts and such facts are deemed admitted, Research's Motion for Summary Judgment will only be granted if Research can demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Johnson v. Gudmundson, 35 F.3d 1104, 1112 (7th Cir. 1994).

Research is a full service, international marketing research company that offers a wide range of services to clients in the consumer and business-to-business markets. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 4). One of the services that Research provides is telephone market research surveys regarding its clients' products. (Id. ¶ 5). Research operates a Call Center in Chicago where Telephone Interviewers conduct surveys. (Id. ¶ 6).

The primary duty of a Telephone Interviewer is to conduct telephone market research surveys. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 16). A computer automatically dials a phone number to reach potential survey respondents. When someone answers a call, the telephone interviewer reads survey questions about the client's products from a computer screen and enters the respondents answers. (Id. ¶ 17). The Telephone Interviewers sit in cubicles that have adjoining cubicles on either side. (Id. ¶ 18). Telephone Interviewers are not allowed to talk to co-workers while on the call floor when they are not conducting an interview to assure that respondents on calls with other telephone Interviewers do not hear casual conversation between Telephone Interviewers in nearby cubicles. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20).

Research monitors Telephone Interviewers in order to ensure that they conduct the surveys according to Research's standards. (Def's 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 29). Research selects some telephone Interviewers to monitor other Telephone Interviewers while they conduct surveys. These employees monitor the surveys by tapping into the Telephone Interviewers' phone lines, unbeknownst to the Telephone Interviewer conducting the survey. (Id. ¶ 30). The monitor listens for whether the Telephone Interviewer follows the interviewing guidelines, uses proper telephone etiquette, and reads survey questions verbatim. (Id. ¶ 31). As they listen to the survey, the monitors rate the Telephone Interviewer by completing a Monitoring Evaluation ("Evaluation") form. (Id. ¶ 32). The monitors are not the Telephone Interviewer's supervisors. (Id. ¶ 33).

During Carter's employment at Research, Tom Paul ("Paul") was the Director of the Call Center. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 9). As Director, Paul supervised employees including the Administrative Supervisor, Shift Operating Supervisor, TeleServices Assistants, and Telephone Interviewers. (Id. ¶ 10). During this time, Tom Paxton ("Paxton") was the Administrative Supervisor. His responsibilities included hiring employees, maintaining personnel records, and processing the paperwork when an employee was terminated. (Id. ¶ 11). Paxton did not have the responsibility for investigating employee complaints, disciplining employees, or making the decision to terminate employees in cases of misconduct. (Id. ¶ 12).

At the time of Carter's employment, Arnell McClear ("McClear") and Rick Shaheen ("Shaheen") were Shift Operating Supervisors. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 13). Their duties included ensuring that Telephone Interviewers were properly monitored while they conducted market research surveys and investigating employee complaints. (Id. ¶ 14). McClear and Shaheen supervised TeleServices Assistants, also known as Bay Supervisors, who directly supervised the Telephone Interviewers. (Id. ¶ 15).

Carter was hired as a Telephone Interviewer on April 17, 2001. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 21). On that date, Carter acknowledged her receipt of Research's Standards of Merit ("SOM"). (Id. ¶ 22). In an orientation session, the Research trainer read through the SOM with Carter and other new hires. (Id. ¶ 23). Carter was aware of the contents of the SOM. (Id. ¶ 24).

The SOM prescribes rules on the length and frequency of breaks and includes a dress code. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 25). The SOM provides that failure to adhere to Research's break policy may result in termination. (Id. ¶ 26). The SOM also contains Research's policy against harassment. The policy states, in pertinent part, that no adverse action will be taken against an employee who reports violations of the policy and participates in the investigation of such violations. Any employee who feels that she is the victim of harassment was to immediately report the matter to the Telephone Central Manager or the Telephone Center Director. (Id. ¶ 27). Carter received a copy of the harassment policy at her orientation. (Id. ¶ 28).

On May 31, 2001, TeleServices Assistant Natalie Navarro ("Navarro") monitored Carter. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 34). Carter received 43 out of 67 available points, a score of 64%. (Id. ¶ 35). When Navarro completed the Evaluation, she placed it on top of some papers in Carter's cubicle. (Id. ¶ 36). Later, when Navarro asked Carter what happened to the Evaluation, Carter responded that she had not seen the Evaluation. (Id. ¶ 37). Navarro found the torn up Evaluation in the garbage and taped it back together. (Id. ¶ 38).

Navarro brought the Evaluation to McClear and told him where she had found it. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 39). On the next day that Carter worked, she met with McClear and the Office Manager, Jason Thurwanger, to discuss the Evaluation. (Id. ¶ 40). McClear asked Carter if she intentionally had torn up the Evaluation. (Id. ¶ 41). Caret denied intentionally tearing up the Evaluation. (Id. ¶ 42). Carter stated that when she returned to her cubicle, she threw out the Evaluation, along with other papers, in the process of cleaning her desk. (Id. ¶ 44). Carter also stated that when Navarro asked Carter what happened to the Evaluation, Carter responded that she had not seen the Evaluation. (Id. ¶ 45). McClear informed Carter that if he thought that she had intentionally torn up the Evaluation, he would have to terminate her employment. (Id. ¶ 47).

Research maintains an Infraction Log for each employee. It uses the Infraction Log to document when an employee violates company policy. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Statement ¶ 48). Beginning in June 2001, Carter's supervisors documented Carter's abuse of Research's break policy as established in the SOM in Carter's Infraction Log. (Id. ¶ 49). Twice on June 17, 2001, TeleServices Assistant Tanika Blackledge ...


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