United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 26, 2004.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES ZAGEL, District Judge
Defendant now moves to bar any testimony, evidence, argument or
exhibits concerning alleged misconduct by Taher Abusaad toward Sharon
Block and Kadija Malick. Plaintiff has alleged that Abusaad made
inappropriate comments about Ms. Block's bust during working. Unlike the
Plaintiff, Ms. Block did not allege any physical contact and did not
directly report this incident to her supervisors. Because of these
differences, I find that the probative value of Ms. Block's testimony is
substantially outweighed by the prejudice it would cause to the
Moreover, I consider the difficulties created by the fact that Ms.
Block is the niece of Plaintiff's trial cousel. Ms. Block's relation to
Plaintiff's cousel is a reasonable subject for cross-examination but it
is likely to be substantially outweighed by prejudice. To avoid
Rule 403 problems for both sides, 1 find this evidence is not to be admitted.
Plaintiff has also alleged that Abusaad inappropriately touched Ms.
Malick and made inappropriate comments to Ms. Malick while driving her
home after work. Ms. Malick reported this incident to her supervisors.
This instance is very similar to the allegations made by Plaintiff and is
admissible to show Defendant had prior notice of Abusaad's conduct.
Defendant's Motion in Limine 1 is GRANTED as to Sharon Block and is
DENIED as to Kadija Malick.
Defendant argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on Count 11 of
Plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff has alleged a claim of sexual
harassment. Under Title VII, an employer is strictly liable for the
sexual harassment of an employee by a supervisor. Burlington
Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998). In cases involving
no tangible employment action, an employer can escape liability if (1) it
exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any sexually
harassing behavior and (2) the plaintiff failed to take advantage of any
preventive or corrective opportunities provided. Id. at 765.
Given the facts of this case, I believe a reasonable jury could find for
the Plaintiff on this count. Therefore, summary judgment is
Defendant also argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on the
issue of punitive damages. Punitive damages are appropriate if the
defendant engaged in conscious wrongdoing, acted with malice, or acted
with reckless indifference in violation of the law. Zelinski v.
Columbia 300 Inc., 2003 WL 21544983 (7th Cir., July 10, 2003). Even
when the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff,
this burden cannot be met. Defendant had in place an anti-discrimination
policy, which included procedures and mechanisms designed to investigate
and act on complaints of sexual harassment. In fact, when Plaintiff
complained of Abusaad's allegedly inappropriate actions and comments,
Defendant conducted a prompt investigation and ultimately fired Abusaad.
Therefore, I find summary judgment on punitive damages is appropriate.
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED as to punitive
damages, and is otherwise DENIED.
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