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SALADINO v. ENVIROVAC

October 12, 2004.

NICOLE A. SALADINO, Plaintiff,
v.
ENVIROVAC, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PHILIP REINHARD, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

On August 14, 2002, plaintiff Nicole A. Saladino filed her two-count complaint against defendant Envirovac, Inc. Plaintiff's complaint states multiple claims — (1) sex discrimination (hostile work environment) in violation of Title VII, (2) retaliation in violation of Title VII, and (3) disability discrimination (failure to accommodate and disparate treatment) in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") — and asks the court, inter alia, to award plaintiff actual damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and costs.*fn1

On April 12, 2004, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

  Legal Standards — Summary Judgment

  Summary judgment will be granted only "when 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 a judgment as a matter of law.'"*fn2 Cerutti v. BASF Corp., 349 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Fed.R. Civ. P. 56). In making this determination, the court must "constru[e] all facts . . . and draw[] all reasonable inferences from those facts . . . in favor of the . . . non-moving part[y]. . . ." Id. (citation omitted).

  Statement of Facts

  The following facts are not in dispute. Defendant is a company located in Rockford, Illinois and engaged in the business of manufacturing vacuum and sewage collection systems for the transportation and building industry. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 3.) From March 1999 to May 1999, defendant employed plaintiff as a temporary customer service representative. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 9.) Defendant hired plaintiff in May 1999 as an order processing clerk. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 8; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 1; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 1.) In that capacity, plaintiff prepared, entered, and/or processed (1) orders from the trains, supermarkets, aviation, marine, and repairs departments, (2) invoices, (3) PIC tickets for outgoing shipments, and (4) credit memoranda. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 8, 10; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 4-5; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 4.) Plaintiff was also responsible for miscellaneous filing and performing various job functions for absent employees.*fn3 (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 10; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 5.) During the course of plaintiff's employment, she reported to the Contracts Department Manager, Dennis Tritt. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 12; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 2, 48.) Tritt also supervised Jennifer Beyer, Sheila Kadet, Kim Rice, and Billie Jo Johnson.*fn4 (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 8; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 8.) At the time plaintiff was hired, Tritt reported to Walt Peters. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 3; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 3.) However, in 2001 Tritt reported to the Director of Business Planning, Doug Wallace. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 13; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 3, 42-43; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 3.) In turn, Wallace reported to the President, Bob Schafer. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 14.)

  While employed by defendant, plaintiff received and reviewed defendant's employee manual and sexual harassment policy. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 16.) Defendant's non-harassment policy is set forth in the employee manual and posted on employee bulletin boards; it includes a statement that (1) sexual harassment is not tolerated and (2) reports of the same will be investigated. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 17; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 62.) If an employee believes that he or she is the victim of harassment, defendant's policy directs that employee to alert his or her manager, defendant's Human Resources Manager,*fn5 and/or defendant's president. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 18; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 62.)

  Plaintiff claims that she engaged in a consensual, sexual relationship with Rick White from June 1999 until May 2001. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 41, 46; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 35, 37; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 35.) White was defendant's Director of Operations. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 35.) White was not plaintiff's supervisor, plaintiff's immediate supervisor did not report to White and White had no successive, supervisory authority over plaintiff. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 36.) Additionally, Tritt had no input in the decision to terminate plaintiff and made no recommendation concerning that decision. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 60.) During the course of her relationship with White, plaintiff discussed their relationship with Nancy Kolar.*fn6 (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 42.) For example, plaintiff informed Kolar that White would come to her apartment and fondle her. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 42.) These discussions were not in the nature of complaints by plaintiff. Plaintiff also claims that White was having an affair with Bob Schafer's daughter, Stacy Schafer, during the time period that plaintiff and White were engaged in their sexual relationship. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 36; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 36.) When asked why she would continue her relationship with White in light of White's relationship with Stacy Schafer, plaintiff indicated to Kolar that she was not concerned with White's affair with Stacy Schafer. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 43.)

  Plaintiff perceived defendant's office as an open office for sexual jokes and comments. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 40; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 32; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 32.) In support, plaintiff claims that another individual employed by defendant, Sandy Nichols, informed her that White had asked to see Nichols' breasts while White and Nichols were in a conference room together. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 33; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 33.) Furthermore, plaintiff stated that White would grab plaintiff's breasts at the office. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 34; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 34.)

  Because she was performing her job in a satisfactory manner, plaintiff received a favorable evaluation from Tritt and a pay increase in May 2000. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 49-50.) In early-January 2001, plaintiff spent a weekend in the hospital because she was fatigued and "felt kind of out of whack." (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 58.) Following her stay in the hospital, plaintiff was absent from work for approximately two weeks. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 58.) Plaintiff also missed several other days of work during that same month. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 59.) On February 1, 2001, plaintiff's job title was changed to aviation spare parts coordinator. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 11; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 13.) From February 5, 2001 through February 19, 2001, plaintiff was again absent from work because she was "suffering from abdominal pain of unknown cause." (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 60.) She was released to return to work without restriction on February 19, 2001. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 61.)

  In April 2001, White and Stacy Schafer began living together and plaintiff decided to end her relationship with White.*fn7 (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 45, 47.) Plaintiff's decision was driven by her (1) belief that White's involvement with both her and Stacy Schafer was negatively affecting White's children and (2) fear that she would be fired if Stacy Schafer learned of White's relationship with plaintiff. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 47.) In addition to ending her relationship with White, plaintiff claims that she unequivocally informed him that she did not want him to telephone her or visit her home again. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 48.) Nevertheless, plaintiff stated that from May 2001 through July 2001 White would, inter alia, touch her breasts at the office and remark to plaintiff that "her ass looks nice in that skirt," "oh, you got nice tits," "oh, you know you want me," "Oh, I miss you," and "I want to be with you." (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 49-50.)

  In May 2001, plaintiff once again received a satisfactory evaluation from Tritt. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 51.) In fact, plaintiff was never formally disciplined while employed by defendant. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 52, 68.) In the summer of 2001, plaintiff "started having abnormal ways about [herself]" and visited the hospital on four occasions. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 62.) She was not admitted during any of her four visits. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 63.) Plaintiff began having seizures in June 2001.*fn8 (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 64; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 14; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff explained that she is unable to walk during her seizures and that she "moves slower" immediately after her seizures because of the physical pain she experiences. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 78-79.). However, plaintiff also stated that even though she occasionally cancels plans and is absent from work, she does not have any limitations as a result of her seizures other than those that are self-imposed. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 77-78.) After being diagnosed with pseudoseizures, plaintiff was granted a leave of absence in July 2001 pursuant to defendant's Family Medical Leave policy.*fn9 (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 5, 57, 66, 70; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 12, 15-17; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 12, 17.) Plaintiff remained on paid, short-term disability leave for approximately eight to ten weeks. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 67.) However, plaintiff's physicians were unable to identify the cause of her seizures. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 68.) On September 17, 2001, plaintiff's psychologist extended plaintiff's leave of absence, indicating that plaintiff had been diagnosed with anxiety and bipolar disorders and would not be able to return to work until December 15, 2001. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 69; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 17-18; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 17.) Plaintiff stated that she informed White that she did not want him to telephone or visit her while she was away from work on leave. (Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 30; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 30.) Nevertheless, plaintiff telephoned Kolar while on leave to report that White had visited her at her home without having been invited on two occasions. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 51; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 31; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 31.) Plaintiff asked Kolar to document that (1) both incidents occurred during business hours, (2) White had not been invited on either occasion, and (3) White had made inappropriate remarks to plaintiff. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 52; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 31; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 31.) Plaintiff believes that White visited her for the purpose of rekindling "a day of sex." (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 53; Pl's Resp. to Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 53; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 38; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 38.) In support, plaintiff stated that White attempted to touch, hug, kiss, and fondle plaintiff while at her home. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 54; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶¶ 39, 67; Def's Resp. to Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 39.)

  After receiving plaintiff's complaint, Kolar met with White to question him about the complained-of conduct. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 55; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 66.) White denied plaintiff's allegations. (Def's L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmnt. of Mat. Facts, at ¶ 55; Pl's Stmnt. of Add'l Mat. Facts, at ¶ 66.) At ...


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