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COUGHLIN v. WRIGLEY MANUFACTURING COMPANY

May 6, 2004.

KAREN R. COUGHLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
WRIGLEY MANUFACTURING COMPANY, LLC., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARK FILIP, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT WRIGLEY MANUFACTURING COMPANY, LLC'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Plaintiff has sued her employer, Defendant Wrigley Manufacturing Company, LLC ("Defendant" or "Wrigley"), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), alleging that she was subjected to a gender-based hosfile work environment. Defendant has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is granted.

RELEVANT FACTS

  Defendant is in the business of manufacturing chewing gum.*fn1 Plaintiff is a woman in her early thirties who began work at Defendant's Chicago plant in 1990. Plaintiff started out as a "helper" and then became an operator of gum wrapping machines. Plaintiff's grandmother worked at the plant years ago and Plaintiff's former husband worked there for ten years. Plaintiff's uncle and current husband work at Wrigley's Chicago plant. Plaintiff's mother, a supervisor at the Wrigley plant, has worked there for thirty-three years. As explained, Plaintiff began at the Wrigley plant in 1990, and she does not allege any harassing acts occurred during her first ten years of employment there.

  The first incident at Wrigley about which Plaintiff complains took place in July or August of 2000, when she returned to work after being on maternity leave for the birth of her third child. (See D.E, 20 at 9; see also id. at Ex A, 34-35, 37.) Her coworker, Tom Carey, related that other employees had been saying that Mr., Carey, rather that Plaintiff's husband, was the father of her third child. (See D.E. 19 at 5.) Plaintiff got along very well with Mr. Carey, (see D.E, 20 at Ex. A, 57, 115), but he would not tell Plaintiff who was making the statements. (See id. at 115.) No employees admitted making such statements. (See D.E. 19 at 5), and Plaintiff has not presented evidence that any employees made such comments to her. (See D.E. 20 at Ex, A, 57, 114-16.) Several employees,*fn2 including Plaintiff's supervisor at the time, Lori Karpiel (with whom Plaintiff got along well, (see id. at 57, 115)) stated upon seeing the child that it did not resemble Plaintiff's previous child that Plaintiff also had with her current husband.*fn3 Plaintiff did not complain to her employer about these circumstances.*fn4 (See id. at 116-17.)

  In approximately August of 2001, Wrigley held a meeting of all the employees at its Chicago plant to discuss sexual harassment and the company's policy forbidding such harassment. This meeting appears to be part of an overall workplace sensitivity program at Wrigley and not directed to Plaintiff in particular. Plaintiff attended the meeting and signed a document verifying that she had done so. The meeting was conducted by Marilyn Turner of the Wrigley personnel department. Ms. Turner informed employees that Wrigley had a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment and showed them a videotape that depicted examples of prohibited conduct. Plaintiff testified that Ms. Turner made it clear to employees that they should report any harassment to their supervisors. As a result of the meeting, Plaintiff understood that comments of a sexual nature are among the things prohibited by Wrigley's harassment policy.

  In about December 2001, Plaintiff observed three gum trays that contained carvings of graphic sexual scenes in the sugar compounds that stick to the bottom of the trays. (See D.E. 20 at Ex. A, 74-78.) Another employee named Adam passed around the three trays on that day and he told Plaintiff that an employee in another department carved the images. (See id. at 77.) Plaintiff asked coworker Mike Lynch who was depicted in one of the carvings. He responded that it was her and then said, "Oh, no, it is not you. It doesn't have — it has big boobs." (Id. at 78.) Plaintiff did not report the episode; however, according to Plaintiff, when Wrigley supervisors nonetheless became aware of the carvings, the matter was brought up in a supervisors' meeting shortly after the incident. According to Plaintiff, at that meeting, the manager of Wrigley's Chicago plant instructed the supervisors to put a stop to that kind of activity. Plaintiff does not assert that any other carvings were made thereafter.

  The following month, in January 2002, four of Plaintiff's male coworkers, Joe Gussich, Dave Paskash, Lou Resendez, and Rudy Resendez, were "pitching money" in the aisle by the machines in Plaintiff's department. After Rudy Resendez threw a dime near Plaintiff's machine, Mr. Gussich said `"don't throw a dime; that's only worth a penny,'" and then Mr., Gussich threw a penny near her. They saw that Plaintiff got upset, but `"they were just all laughing and joking about it.'" (D.E. 19 at 2.) The money pitching stopped after Plaintiff turned around and went back to her machine. Plaintiff did not mention this incident to a supervisor until approximately five months later.

  In April 2002, Plaintiff asked Mr. Paskash why he and Mr. Gussich, who normally got along, seemed to be at odds, in response to Plaintiff's question, Mr. Paskash said that Mr. Gussich told him that Mr. Gussich engaged in sex acts with a female employee in the elevator during breaks and that when someone else confronted Mr. Gussich about what he was saying about this female employee, Mr. Gussich figured that Mr. Paskash must have leaked the information, (See D.E. 20 at Ex. A, 56.) If Plaintiff reported this incident to her employer, she didn't do so until August 1, 2002, or some three to four months later. (See id.; see also id. at 137-38) Plaintiff was also occasionally exposed to a juvenile stunt of Mr. Gussich and Mr. Paskash (which stunt they did to various others, including both male and female employees, and each other) that involved them imitating a dog urinating. More specifically, on occasion, when Plaintiff would squat down to fix her machine, Mr. Gussich and Mr. Paskash, as if to imitate a dog urinating,*fn5 "would come over, raise one leg, pu[t] their crotch near [her] face and say tea time." (Id. at 109.) Mr. Gussich and Mr. Paskash did this to both male and female employees, and Plaintiff saw the two do this same thing to Plaintiff's former supervisor, Lori Karpiel, (See id.) According to Plaintiff, "[i]t was just a thing the guys would do all the time. They would even do it to each other." (Id.) Plaintiff did not complain to anyone about this behavior. (See id. at 110.)

  In May 2002, certain comments were made to Plaintiff by Yaser Hassan, her supervisor's supervisor, about Plaintiff and Frank Molina, a mechanic assigned to maintain Plaintiff's machine. Plaintiff describes the first of such incidents as follows,
Well, Yaser came by my machine when I had a day off and he said, "Oh, 1 thought you had a second job or something," and then he was saying, "pretty soon you will be calling Frank `Uncle Frank'." And T asked him, "what does that mean?" and he just laughed and patted Frank Molina on the shoulder and walked away.
(D.E. 20 at Ex. A, 56.) A week or two later, after Plaintiff was asked to work overtime, Mr., Hassan said to Plaintiff: "You don't need to work overtime. I am sure you are making a lot of money on your second job." When Plaintiff asked what kind of job Mr. Hassan meant, he said "You know." After Plaintiff said she didn't know what he meant, Mr. Hassan either said `"Oh, Uncle Frank will tell you' or just kind of laughed it off and walked away.'" (D.E. 20 at Ex. A, 92.) Plaintiff interpreted Mr. Hassan's comments as suggestions that she was a prostitute and Frank Molina was her pimp because it is Plaintiff's understanding that "uncle" is a commonly used term to describe a pimp or "sugar daddy."

  Also in May 2002, Ashley Lynch, Plaintiff's coworker, and Ashley's father Mike Lynch, also Plaintiff's coworker, sometimes would ask Plaintiff "How's business?" as they passed by Plaintiff's machine. On one occasion, when Ashley and Mr. Lynch were talking by Plaintiff's machine, Mr. Hassan came by and said, "Oh, get out of there. That's a bad influence over there." (D.E. 20 at Ex. A, 92.) Mr. Hassan then said to Plaintiff "Oh, why do you want to be hanging around with a college student? You will be teaching her bad habits." (D.E. 20 at Ex. A, 95.)*fn6

  Another of Plaintiff's coworkers, Martin (a/k/a "Marcel") Rachel, told Plaintiff in May that Mr. Hassan and Plaintiff's supervisor, Brenda Stewart, told Mr. Rachel not to talk to Plaintiff, that she would ruin his marriage. (See D.E. 19 at 6.) Plaintiff took this to mean that Mr. Hassan and Ms. Stewart were suggesting to Mr., Rachel that Plaintiff would have an affair with him. (See id.) Plaintiff asked Ms. Stewart whether she had made that statement. (See D.E. 20 at Ex. A, 117.) Ms. Stewart said "no, that Marcel must have t[aken] her comments the wrong way," and Ms. Stewart expressed her denial to Mr. Rachel. (See id. at 117-18.) Nonetheless, Ms. Stewart apologized to Plaintiff. (See id.)

  At some point in 2002 prior to the third week of June, Grant Giessert, a male co-worker and mechanic, made offensive gestures and an improper comment to Plaintiff, On one day, Mr., Giessert held a grease gun and, as described by Plaintiff, "he had it by his groin and he pumped the grease out of it real slow and then he wiped it on my sweatshirt, and I told him he was nasty, and Marcel started laughing, and then I just like punched him and 1 walked away." (Id. at 100.) The following weekend, when Plaintiff and Mr. Giessert were working overtime, Plaintiff asked Mr. Giessert to get her sweatshirt from another department. When he returned, Mr. Giessert said "[o]h, sorry it took me so long. I had to stop off and take care of myself since you wouldn't." (Id. at 100-101.) Plaintiff became upset and scolded Mr. Giessert. He apologized.

  After Plaintiff told a coworker about Mr. Giessert's comment, the coworker told Plaintiff "to go to personnel." (Id. at 101.) Plaintiff, however, did not report the conduct at that time because she "didn't want anybody to get fired." (Id.) Instead, Plaintiff talked to her friend, coworker Mr. Carey, about it and he "confronted Grant himself and told him, `Do you know you can get fired for that?'" (Id. at 101,) According to Plaintiff, Mr., Giessert then "confronted me and said, `Why are you telling everybody about it? I said I was sorry, I don't want to lose my job over this.' He asked me not to say anything and I agreed." (Id.)

  Plaintiff asked supervisory employee Jim Browne why Mr., Hassan made the "second job" and "Uncle Frank" type of comments. (See id. at 93.) She asked him "did 1 do something to make Yaser think anything different about me; you know, sexually, did 1 do something to make him think mat I had a side job as a hooker or anything." (Id.) Mr. Browne responded "Oh, no. Yaser just jokes around a lot, you know. He is not mad at you or thinking anything different." (Id.) Plaintiff asked whether she should report Mr. Hassan's comments to her supervisor, Ms. Stewart. (Id.) Mr., Browne said "no, that there was nothing to worry about." (Id.)

  Plaintiff did, however, report Mr. Hassan's comments to Ms. Stewart in the third week of June 2002. At that time, Plaintiff also reported to Ms. Stewart the "pitching money" incident involving Mr. Gussich and Mr. Paskash. Ms. Stewart explained that she had not heard of the "pitching money" incident but would look into it. Ms. Stewart also said that "she knows how Yaser is because she had to turn him in to personnel herself for harassment when she first became a supervisor." (Id. at 98.) Ms. Stewart did not further explain the nature of the previous report about Mr., Hassan that she mentioned. Plaintiff "had known from being in the office that [Mr. Hassan] was picking on [Ms. Stewart] quite often. She [Ms. Stewart] was reporting him to Rich Kane, and several times Rich Kane came down and ...


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