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Haas v. Zurich North America

September 29, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel United States District Judge

Judge James B. Zagel


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Annette Haas asserts various claims against her former employer, Zurich North American Insurance Co. ("Zurich"). I previously granted a partial dismissal of Plaintiff's claims. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's remaining claims: discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII; violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; retaliation in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"); and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is granted.

II. Factual Background

Plaintiff began working for Zurich in February, 2000. In April of the following year, she laterally transferred to a Business Analyst Position. In May, 2003, Paul Ruskusky became Plaintiff's direct supervisor. In addition to Plaintiff, two other individuals reported to Ruskusky:

Danielle Butkus and Donna Roberts.*fn1 Ruskusky, in turn, reported to Charles Slusher, Vice President, Claims Finance.

On Friday, June 26, 2003, Plaintiff facilitated a meeting with several other co-workers*fn2 that ended contentiously. Later that day, Plaintiff called Ruskusky to discuss the situation, but that call was marked by conflict as well.

The following Monday, Ruskusky gave Plaintiff a "conflict assessment" memorandum that was critical of Plaintiff's performance at the meeting and in their follow-up conversation. While Ms. Haas was not given an opportunity to provide input into the "conflict assessment" memorandum, it was outside of the regular performance evaluation regime, and Ruskusky eventually agreed that the memorandum would not become part of Plaintiff's personnel file.

In September, 2003, Mr. Ruskusky, Ms. Haas and others were on a business trip together in California. During one of their free evenings, the group had dinner together. After dinner, Ms. Haas and some of the other women in the group proposed stopping in a clothing store near the restaurant. The group was sharing rental cars, and Mr. Ruskusky apparently felt inconvenienced by this. He reacted by allegedly saying something to the effect that "we need less hormones and more testosterone on the team."

In late October, 2003, a position opened up on Plaintiff's team for a Level II Business Analyst. While Ms. Haas did not formally apply for the job, she did inform her superiors that she was interested in advancing. On October 27, 2003, Zurich hired Doug Meyers, a male, for the Level II Business Analyst position. Mr. Meyers, unlike Plaintiff, has a college degree. In addition, Mr. Meyers had previously worked with Paul Ruskusky at another company.

Ms. Haas was frustrated that Mr. Meyers was hired, and she complained to Charles Slusher about it. In early to mid November, 2003, though, Ms. Haas was promoted to Level II Business Analyst, albeit without an immediate pay increase.*fn3

After Mr. Meyers' tenure began, there were other events that caused Ms. Haas' ongoing consternation. For example, Mr. Ruskusky re-assigned some of Ms. Haas' work to Mr. Meyers and did not permit her to attend a business trip to Ohio. In addition, Ms. Haas suffered from endometriosis and at times sought to work from home. However, there were occasions when Mr. Ruskusky would not permit her to do so. Ms. Haas was also frustrated by the fact that Mr. Ruskusky required her to use her paid time off ("PTO") in half-day increments, even if she was out of the office for less than half of a day. However, Zurich's written policy requires full-time employees to utilize PTO in half-day increments.

Ms. Haas' frustrations notwithstanding, some positive things did happen during the year in which she reported to Mr. Ruskusky. As noted, the company promoted her to a Level II Business Analyst. In addition, Mr. Ruskusky rated her in the second highest category for her 2003 performance review, recommended a raise for her, and sent her multiple complimentary e-mails.

In late April, 2004, Ms. Haas became unable to work, and applied for FMLA leave and short-term disability benefits. It is Zurich's policy, consistent with the FMLA, to provide employees 12 weeks of protected leave. After that 12-week period expires, it is the company's practice to fill the position if business needs require. If the job remains unfilled upon the employee's return to work, it is the company's practice to reinstate the employee. Further, if the position is filled, then the employee is given an opportunity to apply for other positions that might then be available.

On July 21, a Human Resources representative from Zurich informed Ms. Haas that she had exhausted her 12-week protected leave period. The Zurich representative further informed Ms. Haas that her health care provider had informed the company that Ms. Haas would not be able to return to work until at least August 19, 2004. Accordingly, the representative notified her that the company was going to attempt to fill her job. On August 13, 2004, Zurich hired Joshua Logan to fill Ms. Haas' Level II Business Analyst position. Ms. Haas was not released to return to work until October 30, 2004. After some confusion regarding the extent to which Zurich's third-party disability vendor would provide disability benefits, Zurich ultimately terminated Ms. Haas' employment effective October 31.

III. Discussion

A. Summary Judgment ...

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