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Adelman-Reyes v. Saint Xavier University

April 28, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan


This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion for summary judgment in its entirety.


Plaintiff Sharon Adelman-Reyes ("Adelman-Reyes") alleges that she is of the Jewish faith and that she began working for Defendant Saint Xavier University ("St. Xavier") in an administrative position and in a half-time teaching position during the 1998-1999 academic year. Adelman-Reyes claims that throughout her employment with St. Xavier, Defendant Beverly Gulley ("Gulley") was the Dean of the School of Education ("SOE") and was her immediate supervisor. It is undisputed by the parties that in 2001, Adelman-Reyes' position was converted to a tenure-track assistant professor position, that during the 2002-2003 academic year AdelmanReyes applied for a promotion to the rank of associate professor, and that she was promoted. According to Adelman-Reyes, Gulley and Christopher Chalokwu ("Chalokwu"), the Vice President for Academic Affairs at that time, were aware that Adelman-Reyes practiced the Jewish faith because Adelman-Reyes would occasionally miss school events that were in close proximity to religious holidays. Adelman-Reyes also contends that during her employment, she complained to Chalokwu about alleged harassment by Gulley.

It is undisputed by the parties that in the fall of 2003, Adelman-Reyes applied for tenure and that Gulley wrote a letter to the University Rank & Tenure Committee ("Tenure Committee") recommending that Adelman-Reyes be denied tenure. It is also undisputed that the SOE Rank & Tenure Committee ("SOE Committee") wrote a letter to the Tenure Committee recommending that Adelman-Reyes be given tenure. The parties also agree that on March 1, 2004, the Tenure Committee recommended to the Saint Xavier President Judith Dwyer ("Dwyer") that Reyes be denied tenure, that Chalokwu wrote a letter directly to Dwyer recommending that Adelman-Reyes be denied tenure, and that Dwyer ultimately decided that AdelmanReyes should not receive tenure. Adelman-Reyes contends that the cause of Dwyer's decision to deny the request for tenure was the negative comments made by Gulley in her letter of recommendation to the Tenure Committee, which AdelmanReyes claims were made due to animus against Adelman-Reyes' religion.

Adelman-Reyes claims that in April 2004, she filed a grievance regarding her denial of tenure and that the St. Xavier Faculty Grievance Committee reviewed Adelman-Reyes' grievance and concluded that Adelman-Reyes should be brought before a Formal Hearing Committee ("FHC"). According to Adelman-Reyes, her grievance went before a FHC, but the committee did not conduct an investigation into the evidence as was required under the Saint Xavier Faculty Handbook.

Adleman-Reyes brought the instant action and includes in her complaint a claim alleging discrimination against her because of her religion, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I), a Title VII retaliation claim (Count II), a breach of contract claim (Count III), and a tortious interference with prospective economic advantage claim (Count IV). Gulley previously moved to dismiss the tortious interference claim (Count IV) and we denied that motion to dismiss. On March 2, 2006, the parties filed a stipulation to dismiss the Title VII retaliation claim (Count II) and on March 7, 2006, we granted Adelman-Reyes' request to dismiss the Title VII retaliation claim (Count II). Defendants now move for summary judgment on Counts I, III, and IV.


Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment, the moving party must identify "those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).


I. Title VII Discrimination Claim (Count I)

Defendants move for summary judgment on Reyes' Title VII discrimination claim (Count I). If an employer in a Title VII discrimination case brings a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff can proceed under the direct or indirect method of proof in order to defeat the motion. Pafford v. Herman, 148 F.3d 658, 665 (7th Cir. 1998). Under the direct method of proof, the plaintiff can show through direct or circumstantial evidence that the alleged harmful action of the employer was "motivated by an impermissible purpose, such as [his] race or national origin." Id. Direct evidence in such a context would be evidence that "can be interpreted as an acknowledgment of discriminatory intent by the defendant or its agents." Rudin v. Lincoln Land Community College, 420 F.3d 712, 719-21 (7th Cir. 2005); see also Jordan v. City of Gary, 396 F.3d 825, 832 (7th Cir. 2005)(stating that "[t]o prove discrimination via direct evidence 'essentially requires an admission by the decision-maker that his actions were based on the prohibited animus [and that][i]t should not be surprising that in today's politically correct workplace environment such admissions are rarely, if ever, made or encountered'"); Rozskowiak v. Village of Arlington Heights, 415 F.3d 608, 612 (7th Cir. 2005)(stating that "[d]irect evidence 'essentially requires an admission by the decision-maker that his actions were based upon the prohibited animus'")(quoting Rogers v. City of Chicago, 320 F.3d 748, 753 (7th Cir. 2003)); Robin v. Espo Engineering Corp., 200 F.3d 1081, 1088 (7th Cir. 2000)(stating that under the direct method of proof a plaintiff generally must point to overt "smoking gun remarks indicating intentional discrimination"). A plaintiff can present circumstantial evidence under the direct method of proof, but such evidence must be sufficient to create "a triable issue of whether the adverse employment action of which [the plaintiff] complains had a discriminatory motivation." Rudin, 420 F.3d at 721. The Seventh Circuit has indicated that circumstantial evidence can create a triable issue only if there is a "'convincing mosaic' of circumstantial evidence that allows a jury to infer intentional discrimination by the decisionmaker." Rhodes v. Illinois Dept. of Transp., 359 F.3d 498, 504 (7th Cir. 2004).

Under the indirect method of proof, a plaintiff must establish a prima facie case that will allow an inference of discrimination. Pafford, 148 F.3d at 665. To establish a prima facie case of race discrimination, a plaintiff must show: "(1) that she was a member of a protected class; (2) that she was performing her job satisfactorily; (3) that she experienced an adverse employment action; and (4) that similarly situated individuals were treated more favorably." Traylor v. Brown, 295 F.3d 783, 788 (7th Cir. 2002). If a prima facie case is established, there is a rebuttable presumption of discrimination and the employer is required to offer a "legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action." Cianci v. Pettibone ...

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