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BOEBEL v. COMBINED INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA

January 16, 2004.

TERRY L. BOEBEL, Plaintiff
v.
COMBINED INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID COAR, District Judge

JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE

? Jury Verdict. This action came before the Court for a trial by jury. The issues have been tried and the jury rendered its verdict.

? Decision by Court. This action came to trial or hearing before the Court. The issues have been tried or heard and a decision has been rendered.

  IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that For the reasons given in the attached Memorandum Opinion, Defendant's motion for summary judgment [Doc. 45] is GRANTED in its entirety.

  Summary Judgment is hereby entered in favor of the defendant Combined Insurance Company of America and against the plaintiff Terry L. Boebel.

  All other pending motions are moot and terminated. This case is closed.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

  Terry L. Boebel ("Boebel" or "Plaintiff) is one of ten former and current female employees who filed a lawsuit on December 14, 2001, seeking to represent a class of women employed by Combined Insurance Company of America ("Combined" or "Defendant"). This lawsuit, before the late Judge James Alesia, alleged hostile work environment, retaliation, and sex discrimination against women on a class wide basis. Judge Alesia objected to the joinder of the ten named plaintiffs in a class action suit, and instructed them to file an amended complaint. However, nine of the ten plaintiffs (including Boebel) filed a motion to dismiss their claims. On February 12, 2002, Judge Alesia dismissed these nine plaintiffs without prejudice. On March 8, 2002, eight of the nine plaintiffs, including Boebel, filed individual lawsuits. Before this Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's sex discrimination/harassment, and retaliation claims. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in its entirety. Page 2

  SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate if, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the 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." Schuster v. Lucent Technologies, Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)).

  When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and makes all reasonable inferences in her favor. See Haywood v. Lucent Technologies, 323 F.3d 524 (7th Cir. 2003). The Court accepts the non-moving party's version of any disputed facts, but only if those facts are supported by relevant, admissible evidence. Bombard v. Fort Wavne Newspapers, Inc., 92 F.3d 560, 562 (7th Cir. 1996).

  The moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of material fact for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Tel. Co., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 1995). If the moving party meets this burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Rule 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. To successfully oppose the motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings alone but must designate specific facts in affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions that establish that there is a genuine triable issue. Selan v. Kiley, 969 F.2d 560, 564 (7th Cir. 1992).

 DISCUSSION

  I. Overview of Plaintiff's Claims

  Plaintiff's allegations of discrimination are divided into three main categories: (1) hostile environment based upon sexual harassment; (2) sex discrimination as a result of the disparity in the quality of assignments provided to Page 3 Plaintiff and failure to promote because of her gender; and (3) retaliation by Combined supervisors because of Plaintiffs complaints of discrimination. For efficiency purposes, the Court will provide a separate section of undisputed facts for each category of alleged discrimination. All facts are taken from the Parties' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) and (b)(3) Statements of Undisputed Facts. All facts, unless noted otherwise, are undisputed, with all inferences resolved in favor of the non-movant. At the outset, however, the Court will set forth the employment hierarchy system at Combined, and Plaintiff's employment history with Combined.

  A. Combined's Employment Structure*fn1

  The entry-level position at Combined is a Sales Agent.*fn2 Sales agents are primarily responsible for selling insurance door-to-door.

  A Sales Agent reports to his or her Sales Manager.*fn3 Sales Managers also sell insurance door-to-door; however, Sales Managers also provide assistance to the Sales Agents they supervise, including training. Sales Managers also do paperwork and recruit Sales Agents to work for Combined.

  A Sales Manager reports to his or her District Manager. While District Managers are primarily responsible for deciding how to divide assignments between Sales Managers, Sales Managers and District Managers can work jointly to divide assignments. (Pl. Resp. to Def. Facts, ¶ 22).*fn4 District Managers are also Page 4 responsible for the supervision of Sales Managers.

  District Managers report to their Sub-Regional Manager. A Sub-Regional Manager will report to his or her Regional Manager. A Regional Manager will report to his or her Divisional Manager. Sub-Regional Managers, Regional Managers, and Divisional Managers are able to sell insurance as well. (See Def. Resp. to Pl.'s Facts, ¶ 14*fn5). However, some of the employment duties particular to Sub-Regional Managers and Regional Managers include supervising District Managers and Recruiting new Sales Agents.

  B. Plaintiff's Employment History With Combined

  Boebel began her employment with Combined in 1989, in the Midwest Division (located in Wisconsin) as a Sales Agent. Boebel spent the greater part of the next eleven years employed with Combined, holding various positions, and spending time in three different states — Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Boebel's first promotion at Combined came in 1991, when she was promoted to the position of a District Manager in Wisconsin. Boebel then occupied various sales positions in Wisconsin and Illinois with Combined until 1994, when she resigned to work in the field of investment insurance.

  In December 1995, Boebel returned to Combined as a Sales Agent, under the supervision of Ray Galindo ("Galindo"). In September 1996, Galindo promoted Boebel to the position of District Manager. The Plaintiff worked in various sales positions in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, until she resigned from Combined, in 1998.

  In December 1998, Boebel returned to Combined, this time to work in Wisconsin. Plaintiff resigned in 1999. In July 1999, Boebel returned to Combined as a Customer Service Agent in Iowa, working under Sales Manager Bonnie Shaffer ("Shaffer") and District Manager Lyle Meisner ("Meisner"). Boebel was promoted to the position of Sales Manager in Iowa in December 1999. Plaintiff resigned for the final time in Page 5 September 2000.*fn6

 II. Timeliness of Plaintiff's Allegations

  Before the merits of Boebel's claims can be addressed, the Court must address whether any of Boebel's allegations of discrimination are time-barred. In Illinois, a plaintiff must file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or equivalent state agency within 300 days after the "alleged unlawful employment practice." 42 U.S.C. § 2000 e-5(e)(1). The 300-day limit begins to run when the defendant has taken the action that injures the plaintiff and when the plaintiff knows that she has been injured. Sharp v. United Airlines. 236 F.3d 368 (7th Cir. 2001).

  Boebel filed her charge of discrimination with the EEOC on January 16, 2001. Therefore, the Defendant contends that any discrete acts of discrimination that occurred prior to March 22, 2000 are time — barred.*fn7 The Court agrees with the Defendant, and in analyzing Plaintiffs' sex discrimination and retaliation allegations, all discrete acts that occurred prior to March 22, 2000 are time-barred. However, in analyzing Defendants' sexual harassment/hostile work environment ...


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