The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. GILBERT, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment. (Doc. 29). After Defendants' Motion was filed,
this Court granted Plaintiff Heather Sample ("Sample") leave to
file an amended complaint. Sample filed her amended complaint on
June 17, 2005 (Doc. 31) and Defendants responded by filing their
Supplemental Brief in Support of their Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Doc. 33). This brief included arguments in support of
summary judgment on the new claims raised in Sample's amended
complaint. Plaintiff responded to Defendants' Motion (Doc. 38)
and Defendants, in turn, replied. (Doc. 52). For the reasons
discussed below, Defendants' Motion will be GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part.
I. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate where "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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56©;
see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath
v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir.
2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of
that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
255 (1986); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396. This standard is applied
with special scrutiny in cases, such as employment discrimination
cases, that often turn on issues of intent and credibility.
Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692
(7th Cir. 2000). Where the moving party fails to meet its strict
burden of proof, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the
moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant
evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane,
969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).
In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party
may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the
pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine
issue of material fact exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex,
477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922,
931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not
demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual
dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by
"some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
(1986); Michas, 209 F.3d at 692. Rather, a genuine issue of
material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a
verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692.
Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Sample,
and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor, the
admissible evidence establishes the following facts.
Sample's employment with Rend Lake College ("the College")
began on December 16, 1998, and ended with her termination on August 22, 2003 (Pl.
Dep.15). Sample was pregnant at the time of her termination, and
whether this pregnancy and the possibility of her taking
maternity leave motivated her termination is the subject of this
dispute. Sample began her employment as a Child Care Resource and
Referral Financial Assistant until sometime in late January or
early February of 2001, she received a promotion and became the
co-manager of the College's retail store (Pl. Dep. 16). A series
of 1-year contracts governed Sample's employment; the last
contract covered from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003 (Pl. Dep.
17). No written contract governed her employment in August of
2003 (Pl. Dep. 17). In addition, Sample received no assurances,
written or verbal, that she would continue to be employed after
the effective date of her contract, and her final contract
contained language indicating that it did not imply continued
employment after the effective its effective contract (Pl. Dep.
21, Pl. Dep. Ex. 3).
The parties do not dispute that Sample had a satisfactory
employment history before August, 2003. The problems arose,
however, from the passage of a new dress code for employees of
the College. On August 12, 2003, Sample attended a meeting of the
President's Council, conducted by the President of Rend Lake
College, Mark Kern ("Kern"), where the College's proposed dress
code policy was discussed. (Pl. Dep. 39). Among other things, the
new policy specifically prohibited employees from wearing shorts
(Pl. Dep. 40). Those in attendance at the meeting received copies
of the proposed dress code and were invited to ask questions
about the policy (Pl. Dep. 40). At this meeting Kern did not
specifically instruct the attendees to comply with the proposed
policy immediately, he simply assumed that as the attendees were
either supervisors or employees having budgetary
responsibilities, they would conform to the administration's wishes "whether it was a policy
or not." (Kern Dep. 13). Though Sample was aware that the
proposed policy was to be voted on that evening by the Board of
Trustees of Rend Lake College ("the Board"), she did not attend
the meeting of the Board that evening, where the Board approved
the policy (Pl. Dep. 41).
On August 13, 2003, Sample came to work wearing maternity
shorts (Pl. Dep. 50). At approximately 8:00 a.m. that morning,
the manager of the textbook store, Dorothy Feira ("Feira"),
observed Sample wearing shorts, informed her she was not in
compliance with dress policy and offered to watch her side of the
store while she (Sample) went home to change (Feira Dep. 25-26).
According to Feira, Sample became upset at this point and stated,
"If they don't like it, they can send me home and I'll use my
sick days until this kid is born." (Feira Dep. 26). Sample denies
making this statement, but admits she did discuss the issue of
sick leave with Feira. In any event, Sample did not go home to
change. Later that morning Kern learned that Sample was wearing
shorts to work in violation of the new policy, and sent Robert
Carlock, Vice President of Finance and Administration
("Carlock"), and Mary Roe, Vice President of Student Services
("Roe), to meet with Sample and investigate the situation (Kern
Dep. 25). At this meeting, which took place at approximately
12:30 p.m., Carlock informed Sample that she was violating the
College's policy by wearing shorts and told her to go home and
change (Carlock Dep. 30). At this time, Sample requested an
exemption from the dress code policy from Carlock because of her
pregnancy and he immediately denied her request. Sample
understood that Carlock wanted her to leave as soon as possible,
but she felt she could not leave until her co-manager, Bobbi
Shadowens ("Shadowens"), returned from lunch (Pl. Dep. 120-21).
In any event, Sample did not leave the store until approximately
2:00 or 2:30 p.m, when Carlock saw her leaving the school still wearing shorts and brought her
to his office (Pl. Dep. 62-63, Carlock Dep. 32). Carlock
suspended Sample for two days for her dress code violation and
told her to come back to work the following Monday wearing
appropriate attire (Pl. Dep. 63, Carlock Dep. 34-35). After
Carlock suspended Sample, Carlock spoke with Feira and she
relayed her version of her conversation with Sample regarding
Sample's intention to use her sick days if the dress code policy
were to be applied to her (Feira dep. 28). Sometime later that
day or the next, Carlock met with Kern and discussed the subject
of Sample's suspension (Kern Dep. 34). Carlock informed Kern of
Sample's suspension, his conversation with her, and Feira's
version of her conversation with Sample regarding Sample's
supposed intention not to comply with the dress code by using her
sick days (Kern Dep. 34-35). Kern, particularly interested in
Sample's statements to Feira, requested that Carlock get those
statements from Feira in writing, which Carlock produced in the
form of a memo written by her (Kern Dep. 36).
On August 18, 2003, Sample returned to work dressed in
compliance with the dress code (Kern Dep. 42-43). That afternoon,
Sample met with Kern, Carlock and Roe in Kern's office to discuss
Sample's actions on August 13th. The conversation focused
specifically on her violation of the dress code and her
conversation with Feira regarding sick days (Pl. Dep. 68-69).
Kern told Sample that this was "the grossest form of
insubordination that he had seen in his thirty-four years at the
College." (Pl. Dep. 70). At the close of this meeting Kern
suspended Sample and informed her that he planned to recommend
her termination to the Board, which would decide whether to
approve this recommendation at a special Board meeting later in
the week (Pl. Dep. 70, 75-76). Kern recommended Sample's
termination because she failed to comply with the new dress code,
failed to change when Feira offered to let her go home, her sick
leave remarks to Feira and her refusal to leave and change after Carlock told her
to do so. At the Board meeting, held on August 22, 2003, the
Board met (all members were present via telephone) and considered
Kern's recommendation that she be terminated (Kern Dep. 52-53).
Sample read a written statement to the Board and Kern presented
his recommendation for termination; the Board declined to direct
any questions toward Sample (Pl. Dep. 77, Kern Dep. 52-53).
Before the meeting Kern advised the Board not to engage in a
dialog with Sample because of a fear of future litigation. After
meeting in closed session, the Board voted to approve Kern's
recommendation that Sample be terminated (Pl. Dep. 78). After the
Board meeting Sample grieved her termination in accordance with
the College's grievance policy (Pl. Dep. 92).
Shadowens took over Sample's responsibilities after her
termination and continued to manage the retail store until she
took FMLA leave for her pregnancy in mid-October (Pl. Dep. 100).
While Shadowens was on maternity leave, a non-pregnant female
employee, Kathy Craig ("Craig") managed the store. Shadowens
resumed her position as co-manager after she returned from
maternity leave until she voluntarily took a higher paying
position within the College. After her transfer, Craig took over
Shadowens' responsibilities (Shadowens Decl. ¶ 3, 5, 6).
Plaintiff alleges Defendants are liable for (1) pregnancy
discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, (2) interference with her
rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"),
29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., (3) retaliation for exercise of her rights under
the FMLA, (4) breach of contract and (5) violations of ...