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MINDELL v. KRONFELD

June 8, 2004.

GEORGIA MINDELL, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID KRONFELD and BONCHER AND ANDERSON, LTD. f/d/b/a ARIA MODEL & TALENT MANAGEMENT, LTD. Defendant.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before this Court are two motions to dismiss Plaintiff Georgia Mindell's ("Plaintiff" or "Mindell") Amended Complaint. The first motion to dismiss was filed by David Kronfeld ("Kronfeld") to dismiss all counts filed against him. The second motion to dismiss was filed by Boncher & Anderson, Ltd., f/d//b/a Aria Model & Talent Management, Ltd. ("Aria") to dismiss Count IV of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, Kronfeld's motion to dismiss is GRANTED in its entirety. Additionally, Aria's motion to dismiss Count IV of Mindell's Amended Complaint is GRANTED.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

  Aria is a booking agency for models and actors, with its principal place of business in Chicago, Illinois (Am. Compl. ¶ 9). Mindell was hired by Aria as a talent agent to primarily book film and television actors. (Am. Comp. ¶ 12). Marie Anderson ("Anderson") and Mary Boncher ("Boncher") were the co-owners of Aria on Plaintiff's May 30, 2000 hire date. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11). On or about November 2000, Kronfeld was introduced to the employees of Aria as a new co-owner/chairman. (Am. Compl. ¶ 13). Mindell alleges that during her employment with Aria, she was subjected to sexual harassment and unwelcome sexual advances by Kronfeld. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3). As a result of Kronfeld's alleged behavior, Plaintiff asserts that the working environment at Aria became hostile, and that Kronfeld's conduct was so pervasive, it altered the conditions of employment and interfered with Mindell's work performance. (Am. Compl. ¶ 19). Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Boncher, Anderson and Robert Schroeder ("Schroeder"), Mindell's immediate supervisor from February or March 2001 until approximately June 30, 2001, contributed to the hostile work environment at Aria.

  A. Plaintiff's Allegations Against Kronfeld

  In her Amended Complaint, Mindell provides specific incidents and encounters with Kronfeld that she believes constituted sexual harassment and contributed to a hostile work environment at Aria. The first incident occurred at Kronfeld's first staff meeting at Aria. During that meeting, Kronfeld stated that he: (1) knew nothing about the talent agency business but was very interested in it because he greatly enjoyed "beautiful young models"; (2) intended to make up for his lack of social life by owning this business; (3) felt the ["Kronfeld"] his employees saw at work and the ["Kronfeld"] his employees saw at parties could be two different people and not to hold it against him or judge him; (3) wanted his business affairs kept confidential and that, otherwise, the "trust that we all share will be destroyed"; and (4) would ensure that all employees would make substantial money in salaries and bonuses in return of their loyalty. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20).

  Additionally, on or about December 14, 2000, at Aria's Christmas party, Mindell alleges that Kronfeld hugged and kissed all of the female employees, including her. (Am. Compl. ¶ 21). On or about December 18, 2000, Kronfeld and Mindell attended another company party. At this party, Kronfeld stood one inch from Mindell and asked her whether she had a boyfriend. Mindell stated that she did have a boyfriend, and the relationship was serious. Kronfeld then stated that he thought Mindell's boyfriend was lucky and that he wished that he was her boyfriend. (Am. Compl. ¶ 22).

  On or about January 11, 2001, Kronfeld insisted that each employee (most of whom are female) meet him alone in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, his place of residence. (Am. Compl. ¶ 23). Mindell and Vicki Fellner ("Fellner") went to the meeting together. Id. Upon arrival, Kronfeld greeted each woman with hugs and kisses. Id. No substantive business was conducted at the meeting Id. Kronfeld told Mindell that his affairs were private and confidential. Id. Kronfeld then kissed Mindell and Fellner on their cheeks. Id.

  In mid-January 2001, Anderson and Mindell attended the ATMC, a talent/model convention, in Hilton Head, South Carolina. (Am. Compl. ¶ 24). While in the airport awaiting the departure of their flight, Anderson advised Mindell that Kronfeld was going to join them in Hilton Head. At that time, Mindell requested that Anderson not leave her alone with Kronfeld at the convention. (Am. Compl. ¶ 25). On or about January 17, 2001, following a group dinner at the talent/model convention, Kronfeld and Mindell were together in the lounge of the hotel. (Am. Compl. ¶ 26). After Plaintiff told Kronfeld that she wished to leave the lounge, Kronfeld insisted that she stay. Id. Mindell excused herself to use the washroom, and upon returning to the lounge, intended to tell Kronfeld that she was leaving. Id. Before she could do so, Kronfeld pulled her down forcefully on his lap, grabbed her face, and pulled her face close to his. Id. Kronfeld asked Mindell when she would date him and break up with her boyfriend. Id. When Mindell protested, Kronfeld tried to kiss her on the lips. Id. Mindell pulled away and left. Id. Later that evening, Plaintiff became physically ill. Additionally, on or about January 19, 2001, while waiting to go to dinner at the talent/model convention, Kronfeld told Mindell to stand up so that he could view her outfit. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). Kronfeld repeatedly said that Mindell had a nice figure and that any man would love to be with her. Id.

  Upon returning from the convention, Anderson and Boncher advised Mindell that her job was in jeopardy. (Am. Compl. ¶ 28). On or about February 5, 2001, Mindell put on a presentation to demonstrate her value to the company. (Am. Compl. ¶ 29). Thereafter, Kronfeld held weekly meetings, during which he hugged and kissed all of the female staff members, including Mindell. (Am. Compl. ¶ 30). On several occasions during the winter and spring of 2001, and on or about July 10, 2001, Mindell reported Kronfeld's conduct to Schroeder, her immediate supervisor, and advised him that Kronfeld's conduct was unwelcome harassment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 33). Schroeder told Mindell that she should pretend to be on the telephone when Kronfeld arrived in her office, yet took no action to confront Kronfeld about Mindell's allegations. (Am. Compl. ¶ 34).

  Because no action was taken against Kronfeld after her complaints, Mindell believed that any further complaints to Anderson or Schroeder regarding Kronfeld would result in her termination from Aria. (Am. Compl. ¶ 35). On or about July 10, 2001, Kronfeld approached Mindell when she was on the telephone and directed the following behaviors towards her. Kronfeld: (1) hugged Mindell; (2) kissed her; (3) told her how tan and beautiful she looked; and (4) asked her to go on a trip with him and said, "You think I'm kidding? I'm serious." (Am. Compl. ¶ 36). Subsequent to these actions, Mindell left the room. Id. Several minutes after Mindell left the room, Kronfeld blocked the hallway passage, pushed Mindell against the wall, pressed his body against hers, and put his face approximately one inch away from hers. (Am. Compl. ¶ 37). Mindell then stated, "Come on, are you serious about taking a trip?" Kronfeld then asked if Mindell would go on a date with him. Id.

  On or about July 25, 2001, while Mindell was in her office talking on the telephone, Kronfeld entered and placed his hands on her shoulders and began tickling her neck. (Am. Compl. ¶ 38). Mindell extended her arm and motioned Kronfeld to stop. (Am. Compl. ¶ 38). Moments later, Kronfeld stood near Mindell, and looked at her while she continued her telephone conversation. Id. Kronfeld left Plaintiff's office only after she expressed her anger towards him with a menacing look. (Am. Compl. ¶ 38).

  On July 27, 2001, Mindell's supervisor, Schroeder, gave her an ultimatum: either she quit or she would be terminated. (Am. Compl. ¶ 39). On ...


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