United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
May 16, 2005.
ANITA MORRIS, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL REESE HOSPITAL, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pro se Plaintiff Anita Morris brings this action against
Defendant Michael Reese Hospital ("Michael Reese" or "Hospital").
Construing her pro se Complaint liberally, see Calhoun v.
DeTella, 319 F.3d 936, 943 (7th Cir. 2003), Morris alleges
race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and age discrimination
in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Before the Court is Michael
Reese's Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 56(c). For the following reasons, the Court
grants Michael Reese's motion.
Because Morris is a pro se litigant, Michael Reese served her
with a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary
Judgment" as required by Northern District of Illinois, Local
Rule 56.2. The notice explains the consequences of failing to
properly respond to a motion for summary judgment and statement
of material facts under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) and
Local Rule 56.1. Nevertheless, Morris failed to respond to the
Hospital's Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts, and thus the Hospital's facts
are deemed admitted. See Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683
(7th Cir. 2003).
Morris was employed by Michael Reese Hospital from
approximately July 1974 until November 16, 2001. (R. 29-1,
Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement, ¶¶ 2, 7.) Morris is
African-American and over the age of forty. (Id. ¶ 2.) During
Morris' tenure, Michael Reese promoted her from staff nurse to
charge nurse in the Emergency Department. (Id. ¶ 9.) As charge
nurse, Morris was responsible for the day-to-day operations of
the Emergency Department, including scheduling, data collection,
as well as, patient care and assignments. (Id.) Prior to her
termination, Morris had held the title of Assistant Manager for
more than five years. (Id. ¶ 12.) During this time, she
reported to Diane Haynes, an African-American over 40 years of
age, who was the Emergency Department manager. (Id.)
Dr. Seth Guterman, who had previously provided medical services
to Michael Reese, returned to the Hospital in 1999 as part of a
new practice, Emergency Care Physician Services ("ECPS"). (Id.
¶¶ 19, 20.) ECPS provided medical care for the Hospital's
Emergency Department. (Id. ¶ 20.) In or about January 1999,
Guterman sent a letter to former colleagues in which he sought to
recruit them to work for Michael Reese. (Id. ¶ 22.) Morris
believed that some, but not all of these individuals were
Caucasian. (Id.) She does not know their ages. (Id.)
Guterman did not have a good working relationship with the
nursing staff in the Emergency Department. (Id. ¶ 24.) Guterman
contended that the nursing staff did not follow his orders and
reported him when they thought his orders were wrong. (Id. ¶
25.) On June 17, and 22, and on July 7 and 19, 1999, Guterman
wrote up incident reports in which he criticized Morris' conduct
in the emergency room. (Id. ¶ 28.) For instance, Guterman
criticized Morris for telling nurses not to order tests after a doctor had told them to
do so. (Id. ¶ 29.)
In 2000, the Hospital temporarily suspended Guterman for
unethical medical practice. (Id. ¶ 31.) Shortly before his
return, Guterman told Hospital management that he would not
return to Michael Reese unless the Hospital fired certain
emergency room personnel. (Id. ¶ 32.) Guterman made a "hit
list" of employees he wanted eliminated from the Emergency
Department including Morris, Sonia Winandy, the emergency medical
services coordinator (Caucasian), Peggy O'Donnell, (Caucasian),
and another African-American nurse. (Id. ¶ 33.)
The Hospital terminated Winandy's employment in October 2001,
as a result of her poor working relationship with Guterman.
(Id. ¶ 36.) Michael Reese terminated Morris' employment on
November 16, 2001, because the Hospital decided to eliminate the
position of Assistant Manager in the Emergency Department. (Id.
¶ 15.) Karen Cortese, who is Caucasian, assumed some of Morris'
job duties, but her title never changed from staff nurse to
Assistant Manager. (Id. ¶ 18.)
It is undisputed that Guterman never said anything racial or
age-related to Morris or any other Michael Reese employee, nor
did he engage in any derogatory conduct directed at any Michael
Reese employee on the basis of race or age. (Id. ¶ 41.) During
her employment at Michael Reese, Morris never complained to Human
Resources that she was the subject of unlawful discrimination.
(Id. ¶ 43.)
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is proper 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
Even where all of the material facts are undisputed, as in this
case, the Court must still determine whether judgment is proper
as a matter of law. See Johnson v. Gudmundsson, 35 F.3d 1104,
1112 (7th Cir. 1994).
I. Race and Age Discrimination Disparate Treatment Claim
Morris alleges that she was discharged from her employment at
Michael Reese based on her race and age.*fn1 Specifically,
she alleges that Guterman's non-meritorious incident reports
concerning her job performance were an attempt to have her
disciplined and removed from her position as Assistant Manager of
the emergency room. Morris also alleges that Guterman attempted
to recruit non-African-American nurses to replace the
African-American nurses in the emergency room.
Morris may establish her Title VII and ADEA discrimination
claims two separate ways the direct method or the indirect
burden-shifting method under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). See Jordan
v. City of Gary, 396 F.3d 825, 833 (7th Cir. 2005). Because
Morris has not presented any direct evidence of race or age
discrimination, the Court turns to the indirect method of proof.
To establish a prima facie case, a plaintiff must show that (1)
she is a member of a protected class, (2) she reasonably
performed to her employer's legitimate expectations, (3) she was
subject to an adverse employment action, and (4) she was treated differently from
similarly situated employees outside of her protected class.
McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802.
If Morris makes this showing, the burden of production shifts
to Michael Reese to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for its actions. Id. If Michael Reese meets this burden,
Morris must show that the proffered explanation is pretextual.
Texas Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256,
101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). Morris, however, does not
advance to these later stages of the analysis because she fails
to establish a prima facie case of race or age discrimination in
the first instance. See Herron v. Daimler Chrysler,
388 F.3d 293, 299-300 (7th Cir. 2004); see also Mannie v. Potter,
394 F.3d 977, 984 (7th Cir. 2005) (court need not analyze
employer's reason for adverse action if employee fails to
establish prima facie case).
Because it is dispositive, the Court turns to the fourth
element of a prima facie case of age and race discrimination,
namely, whether the Hospital treated similarly situated employees
who were not African-American or under the age of 40 more
favorably than Morris. To establish that another employee is
similarly situated, Morris must show that there is someone who is
directly comparable to her in all material respects. See
Jordan, 396 F.3d at 835. In general, when determining whether
two employees are directly comparable, courts turn to such
relevant factors as whether the employees (1) had the same job
description, (2) were subject to the same standards, (3) reported
to the same supervisor, and (4) had comparable experience,
education, and other qualifications. Ajayi v. Aramark Bus.
Servs., 336 F.3d 520, 532 (7th Cir. 2003).
There is simply no evidence in the record that Michael Reese
treated similarly situated employees who were not African-American and/or under 40 years of
age more favorably than they treated Morris. Instead, the record
indicates that the emergency room personnel who were on
Guterman's "hit list" included both African-American and
Caucasian nurses. It is unclear if any of these employees were
under the age of 40. In any event, the evidence concerning
another African-American nurse is not material to this analysis
because that individual is a member of the same protected class
as Morris. See Jordan, 396 F.3d at 833.
As to the Caucasian nurses, immediately prior to Morris'
termination, the Hospital fired Winandy, a Caucasian employee who
was the emergency medical services coordinator. The Hospital
terminated Winandy's employment because of her poor working
relationship with Guterman. Although Winandy was outside of
Morris' protected class, she also suffered the adverse employment
action of being terminated. Thus, evidence concerning Winandy
does not establish that a similarly situated non African-American
was treated more favorably that Morris. See Peters v.
Renaissance Hotel Operating Co., 307 F.3d 535, 546 (7th Cir.
Also on Guterman's hit list was Peggy O'Donnell, who is
Caucasian. Morris has failed to establish that O'Donnell is
directly comparable to her in all material respects. See
Jordan, 396 F.3d at 835. In fact, the only time Morris mentions
O'Donnell in her Complaint is in reference to Guterman's lawsuit
against Morris and Winandy that he filed after their
Although a Caucasian employee assumed some of Morris' job
duties, the evidence in the record reflects that the Hospital
eliminated the position of Assistant Manager. Again, there is
nothing in the record that the woman who assumed some of Morris'
job duties was directly comparable to Morris in all material
respects, i.e., that she had the same job description, supervisor, and experience as Morris did. See Ajayi,
336 F.3d at 532.
Finally, Morris' conclusory assertion that Guterman was trying
to get rid of African-American nurses is not supported in the
record. See Ezell v. Potter, 400 F.3d 1041, 1051 (7th Cir.
2005) ("plan to get rid of older workers and replace them with
younger, faster workers is direct evidence of discriminatory
intent"). Specifically, there is no evidence in the record that
Guterman only sent letters to Caucasian individuals when he was
attempting to recruit his former co-workers.
Without more, Morris has not established that there is a
genuine issue of material fact whether Michael Reese treated
similarly situated emergency department employees more favorably
than they treated her. "Identifying similarly situated employees
is an essential piece of the prima facie case." Kriescher v. Fox
Hills Golf Resort & Conference Ctr., 384 F.3d 912, 916 (7th
Cir. 2004). Without such evidence, Morris' age and race disparate
treatment claim must fail. See id. Therefore, the Court grants
Michael Reese Hospital's Motion for Summary Judgment as to this
II. Race and Age Discrimination Hostile Work Environment
Next, Morris contends that Guterman created a hostile work
environment during her employment as Assistant Manager of the
emergency room. To establish a hostile work environment, Morris
must demonstrate that Guterman harassed her because of her race
and age and that the harassment was so severe or pervasive that
it created a hostile work environment. Hrbowski v. Worthington
Steel Co., 358 F.3d 473, 476 (7th Cir. 2004). To qualify as
hostile, a work environment must be objectively and subjectively
offensive, that is, it must be a work environment that a
reasonable person would find hostile or abusive, and one that the
plaintiff in fact perceived to be hostile or abusive. Ezell,
400 F.3d at 1047-48. Courts determine whether a work environment is hostile
or abusive by looking at the totality of the circumstances,
including "the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its
severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or
a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably
interferes with an employee's work performance." Harris v.
Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23, 114 S.Ct. 367,
126 L.Ed.2d 295 (1993).
Morris has failed to establish the first step of a hostile work
environment claim, namely, that Guterman harassed her because of
her race and age. See Hrbowski, 358 F.3d at 476. To bring a
harassment claim, the conduct must have a discriminatory
character or purpose. See Hardin v. S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.,
167 F.3d 340, 345-46 (7th Cir. 1999). Here, there is no
evidence in the record that Guterman's conduct was based on race
or age discrimination. See Herron v. DaimlerChrysler,
388 F.3d 293, 302-03 (7th Cir. 2004). More importantly, it is
undisputed that Guterman never said anything racial or
age-related to Morris or any other Michael Reese employee.
Therefore, the Court grants Michael Reese's Motion for Summary
Judgment as to Morris' harassment claim.
For these reasons, the Court grants Michael Reese Hospital's
Motion for Summary Judgment.