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Miller-Crisler v. State

June 22, 2006


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


This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment on the claims of plaintiff Kaye Miller-Crisler (Doc. 52). Plaintiff has filed a response and defendant a reply to the motion. Plaintiff is one of twelve plaintiffs who have filed suit against the State of Illinois Department of Corrections for alleged discrimination on the basis of sex in the terms, conditions and privileges of employment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e.*fn1

The defendant seeks summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff's claims of sexual harassment are time barred. In addition, the defendant asserts that plaintiff cannot demonstrate that she was subject to a hostile work environment and cannot establish a retaliation claim.


Plaintiff Miller-Crisler*fn2 was employed at Menard Correctional Center and asserts that she was subjected to sexual harassment from Captain Pickering beginning in 1999. In Count XII of the complaint (filed in cause no. 04-153), Miller-Crisler claims that Pickering would make crude, sexual comments to her; asked her for dates; and asked her to show him her breasts. Miller-Crisler asserts that although she attempted to avoid contact with Pickering, she was given assignments on a regular basis that required her to report directly to Pickering. She also alleges that he followed her while she was off-duty on several occasions.

She further claims that she was queried by Internal Investigations in May of 2001 as to whether she was possibly involved with or in support of other correctional officers who were filing charges with the EEOC; that she was asked if she continued to experience problems with Pickering; that it was stated to her that she should "do the right thing," which implied to her that she should drop her complaint or there would be consequences; that on May 24, 2001, she was threatened by other male officers that if she needed help while on the "gallery" that she would not receive help; that she was diagnosed on May 30, 2001, with suffering with severe situational stress and was advised to take two weeks off of work, but when she presented this medical verification to Captain Lloyd Korando, she was told to go to her work assignment and her request to be allowed to use alternate time after her sick leave was exhausted was denied; that she was retaliated against by Major Anthony Ramos who docked her paycheck and that of her husband, requiring them to engage in extended procedures to recover pay owed to them; that she and her husband were docked for time off when their daughter was in the Emergency Room in September of an unspecified year, despite the filing of absence slips by them; and that she has and continues to be ostracized by her co-workers as a result of filing the sexual harassment claims.


1. Summary Judgment Standards

A district court will grant summary judgment "if 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(c): see also Celotex Corp. V. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322--23 (1986); Popovits v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 185 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 1999). The moving party initially bears the burden to demonstrate an absence of genuine issues of material fact, indicating that judgment should be granted as a matter of law. See Lindemann v. Mobil Oil Corp., 141 F.3d 290, 294 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). Once a motion for summary judgment has been made and properly supported, however, the non-movant has the burden of setting forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial. See id. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court construes all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable and justifiable inferences in that party's favor.See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court will not resolve factual disputes, weigh conflicting evidence, or make credibility determinations. See Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001); Miranda v. Wisconsin Power & Light Co., 91 F.3d 1011, 1014 (7th Cir. 1996).

2. Filing of the EEOC Complaint

The defendant asserts that plaintiff did not file her EEOC complaint in a timely manner and therefore cannot maintain this action. Initially, the defendant asserts that plaintiff did not file her complaint within 300 days of the complained-of action. Specifically, the defendant asserts that the claims of sexual harassment are unspecified in time, and that plaintiff only alleges that they occurred in 1990 and 2000. Her complaint was filed on June 4, 2001. In her Illinois Dept. of Human Rights complaint, Miller-Crisler states that two to three months before she filed the complaint, Pickering came to her on the gate and said, "We need to fuck," and that when they are in the same general vicinity (without any dates identified) that he stares at her chest.

In her response, plaintiff asserts that she is not complaining of single discrete acts that amount to sexual harassment in and of themselves, but is instead complaining of a series of acts and events that, taken in sum, constitute an continuing violation. Therefore, plaintiff argues, as long as any one incident which comprises the hostile environment falls within the applicable limitation period, she is entitled to relief for all the incidence she endured as an employee of the IDOC.

Title VII requires that a plaintiff in a deferral state, such as Illinois, file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or an equivalent state agency within 300 days of an "alleged unlawful employment practice." 42 U.S.C. § 200e-5(e)(1); Sharp v. United Airlines, Inc., 236 F.3d 368, 372 (7th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff filed her EEOC charge on June 4, 2001. (Ex. 49). Therefore, any claims regarding activities that occurred prior to July 31, 2000, would be time barred under the general rule. Like most general rules, however, there is an exception. Activity occurring beyond the 300 day limitations period that is part of a pattern of discrimination can extend the limitations period. Chambers v. American Trans Air, Inc., 17 F.3d 998, 1003 (7th Cir. 1994). This pattern of activity is referred to as a "continuing violation." Id.

The Seventh Circuit recognizes three theories under which a plaintiff may establish a continuing violation. Stewart v. CPC Int'l, Inc., 679 F.2d 117, 120-21 (7th Cir. 1982); Tinner v. United Insurance Co. of America, 308 F.3d 697, 707 (7th Cir. 2002). The first two theories do not apply to this action.*fn3

Therefore, to survive summary judgment as to her allegations of harassment prior to August 4, 2000, Hilliard must be able to prove a continuing violation under the third theory, where individual acts are part of an ongoing pattern and at least one of the acts occurred within the applicable limitations period. Young v. Will County Dept. Of Pub. Aid, 882 F.2d 290, 292 (7th Cir. 1989). Hostile environment claims often involve repeated conduct. And, therefore, the "unlawful employment practice" does not occur, necessarily, on any particular day. "It occurs over a series of days or perhaps years and, in direct contrast to discrete acts, a single act of harassment may not be actionable on its own." National R.R. Passenger Corp. V. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 115 (2002).

A hostile work environment claim is composed of a series of separate acts that collectively constitute one 'unlawful employment practice.' 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-5(e)(1). The timely filing provision only requires that a Title VII plaintiff file a charge within a certain number of days after the unlawful practice happened. It does not matter, for purposes of the statute, that some of the component acts of the hostile work environment fall outside the statutory time period. Provided that an act contributing to the claim occurs within ...

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