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Casas v. Gonzales

September 28, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzmán


Cheyanne M. Casas has sued the U.S. Attorney General pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e ("Title VII") for gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. The case is before the Court on defendant's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56 motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


In June 2002, plaintiff was hired by the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") as a staff physician in the health services department at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago ("MCC"). (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff's immediate supervisor was the Clinical Director, Dr. Abdula Kareem. (Id. ¶ 11.) Kareem reported to Associate Warden Darlene Alexander, who, along with Clarence Cranford, Health Services Administrator ("HSA"), administered the health services department during the relevant portion of plaintiff's tenure at the MCC. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 9, 16.) Alexander had ultimate responsibility for the department, but the HSA authorized expenditures and scheduled the non-physician medical staff. (Id.) Cranford and Alexander both reported to MCC Warden Jerry Graber. (Id. ¶ 17.)

When fully staffed, the health services department had two physicians, six physician assistants ("PAs"), one nurse, one dentist, one pharmacist, and one medical records technician. (Id. ¶ 2.) However, the department was rarely, if ever, fully staffed. (Id. ¶ 20.) During the time that plaintiff worked there, two of the PAs retired and were not replaced, the nurse was on maternity leave, and the pharmacist frequently failed to show up for work. (Id. ¶ 21.) As a result, plaintiff often worked without a medical records technician, nurse or PA. (Id. ¶ 22.)

Lack of staff was not the only personnel problem at the department. There was also a power struggle between the doctors and PAs, who were BOP employees, and the HSA, nurse, dentist, pharmacist and medical records technician, who were employees of Public Health Services ("PHS"). (Id. ¶¶ 4, 27.) According to plaintiff, the PHS employees lied, eavesdropped and generally behaved so unprofessionally that it made the atmosphere in the health department "venomous" and "like a war-zone." (Id. ¶¶ 28-29.)

Collectively, the staff of the health services department was responsible for providing medical care to MCC inmates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. (Id. ¶ 3.) As Clinical Director, Kareem was responsible for all of the medical care the department provided. (Id. ¶ 12.) In addition to seeing patients, however, Kareem had a variety of other duties including: supervising plaintiff and the PAs, preparing evaluations for the medical personnel, supervising outside consulting medical specialists, attending department head meetings, testifying in court about inmates' medical conditions, providing medical training outside the office, and requesting medical equipment. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Though the parties dispute whether his absences were legitimate, there is no dispute that Kareem was often absent from the clinic floor. (Def.'s Reply Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 22-25, 27, 30.) Because of Kareem's absences, plaintiff says, she was responsible for providing most of the medical care to the inmates. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 63-64.)

In late 2002 and early 2003, plaintiff complained to Cranford and Alexander about Kareem's absences and her heavy workload. (Def.'s Reply Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 38, 46-47.) Both pledged to speak to Kareem about plaintiff's concerns, but plaintiff saw no improvement in the situation. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 48.)

Although plaintiff resented his absences, she had no problems interacting with Kareem from the time they started working together in the fall of 2002 until February 27, 2003. (Def.'s Ex. 2, Casas Dep. at 129-30.) On that day, however, things changed. Kareem ordered plaintiff to get an inmate's medical file, a purely clerical task, and then admonished her about the care she had provided to him. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 43.) Kareem yelled at Casas, criticized her work and called her insubordinate, causing her to cry. (Id. ¶¶ 43, 45, 47.)

The next day, Warden Graber had a meeting with plaintiff, Kareem, Cranford and Alexander. (Id. ¶ 49.) During the meeting, Kareem refused to apologize to plaintiff and yelled at her again. (Id. ¶ 50.) When the Warden directed Kareem to apologize, Kareem approached plaintiff, lifted her out of her chair, hugged her, rubbed her back, and said something to the effect of, "She just wants to be treated like a baby. There, there, baby, it's ok." (Id. ¶ 52.) Plaintiff, who says she had difficulty breaking away from Kareem, became upset and began crying. (Id. ¶¶ 53-54.)

Immediately thereafter, Warden Graber reprimanded Kareem and told him never to touch plaintiff again. (Id. ¶ 55.) Alexander also reprimanded Kareem both verbally and in writing, counseled him several times regarding his behavior, and ordered him to take sensitivity training. (Id. ¶¶ 57-59.) Further, Alexander removed Kareem's supervisory authority over plaintiff for administrative matters like leave requests. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 313, 315.) In addition, plaintiff was moved to a new office so she would no longer have to share office space with Kareem. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 81.)

Warden Graber took no further disciplinary action against Kareem because he believed the verbal reprimands and counseling were sufficient to prevent him from repeating the behavior. (Id. ¶ 67.) Moreover, based on input from MCC Human Resources Manager, Cassandra Loggins-Mitchell, and Alexander, Graber concluded that the incident did not constitute sexual harassment. (Id. ¶¶ 60, 65.) Consequently, the Warden did not to refer the incident to BOP's Office of Internal Affairs ("OIA"). (Id. ¶ 65.)

After the incident on February 28, plaintiff became physically ill, was unable to stop crying and could not return to work. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 172-73, 178-80.) Alexander referred plaintiff to John Pindelski, a psychologist employed by the BOP, for counseling. (Id. ¶¶ 185-86.) Pindelski concluded that plaintiff had post-traumatic stress disorder. (Id. ¶¶ 187-95.)

At Cranford's invitation, plaintiff took a few days of leave. (Id. ¶ 337.) But, while she was off, Cranford pressured her to return. (Id. ¶ 338.) When plaintiff returned to work, she discovered that her absences had been recorded as compensatory, rather than sick, time. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 110.) After Casas complained to Alexander and Cranford, the mistake was corrected. (Id. ¶¶ 112-13.)

When plaintiff returned to work after the February 28 incident, her workload problems intensified. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 270.) Kareem pushed more work on plaintiff and monopolized the PAs' time. (Id. ¶¶ 271-72, 281.) Plaintiff complained to Cranford and Alexander about the situation, but they did nothing to change it. (Id. ¶¶ 276-92.)

Though they no longer shared an office, plaintiff and Kareem continued to work the same shift. (Id. ¶ 314.) Moreover, because he was the only one qualified to do so, Kareem continued to supervise plaintiff's clinical work and evaluate her recommendations that inmates be referred for outside medical care. (Id. ¶¶ 311, 313; Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 87.) Though Kareem had rarely overruled plaintiff's referral recommendations before the February 28 incident, after it, she says, he did so repeatedly. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶¶ 328-35.)

At the end of March 2003, plaintiff decided to quit her job. (Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ΒΆ 128.) Her last day at ...

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