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Panizzi v. City of Chicago Board of Education

November 19, 2007

MELISSA A. PANIZZI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant City of Chicago Board of Education's ("Board") motion for summary judgment and Plaintiff Melissa A. Panizzi's ("Panizzi") motion to strike. For the reasons stated below, we grant the Board's motion for summary judgment and we deny Panizzi's motion to strike.

BACKGROUND

Panizzi alleges that she was employed by the Board as a "probationary" teacher, beginning in August 2001. Panizzi acknowledges that, as a probationary teacher, her contract was subject to renewal by the Board at the end of each school year. Panizzi alleges that throughout the entire time she worked for the Board she received numerous favorable acknowledgments and never received marks below "Superior" on her performance reviews. Panizzi alleges that her contract was renewed every year through 2005.

In February 2006, Panizzi allegedly was absent or tardy several days due to the fact that her father underwent open heart surgery and she was personally undergoing fertility treatments. Panizzi alleges that for each of the dates she was tardy or absent, she notified her principal, Dr. Charles Kyle ("Dr. Kyle"), in advance. Panizzi alleges that she found out she was pregnant on March 1, 2006 and notified Dr. Kyle of her pregnancy on April 25, 2006. On April 27, 2006, Panizzi was allegedly informed that she was not going to be re-hired for the 2006-2007 school year ("non-renewal decision"). The reasons that the Board allegedly gave for her non-renewal were: "Deficiencies with Professional and Personal Responsibilities (Attendance; Tardiness; Professional Judgment); and Deficiencies with Communication (Parent Conference Skills; Relations with Staff)." (Compl. Par. 20).

Panizzi brought the instant action alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). The Board brings the instant motion for summary judgment.

LEGAL STANDARD

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).

DISCUSSION

I. Title VII Claim

Title VII, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA"), prohibits an employer from "discriminat[ing] against any individual with respect to . . . compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, . . . because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. . . ." 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). In order to defeat a motion for summary judgment on a Title VII discrimination or retaliation claim, a plaintiff can proceed under the direct method of proof or the indirect method of proof. Hottenroth v. Village of Slinger, 388 F.3d 1015, 1028 (7th Cir. 2004); Clay v. Holy Cross Hospital, 253 F.3d 1000, 1005 (7th Cir. 2001); Pafford v. Herman, 148 F.3d 658, 665 (7th Cir. 1998).

In this case, Panizzi's argument relating to discrimination is twofold. First, Panizzi argues that the Board discriminated against her due to the fact that she was infertile and undergoing fertility treatments, which she alleges is discrimination on the basis of a "pregnancy related condition." Second, Panizzi argues that she was discriminated against because of the pregnancy itself.

A. Direct Method of Proof

Despite its name, the direct method of proof applied in Title VII cases does not require a plaintiff to produce direct evidence. Perdomo v. Browner, 67 F.3d 140, 144, n.1 (7th Cir. 1995). Under the direct method of proof, a plaintiff may rely on either a direct admission by a decision-maker that shows "his actions were based upon the prohibited animus" or circumstantial evidence that "allows a jury to infer intentional discrimination by the decision-maker." Buie v. Quad/Graphics, 366 F.3d 496, 503 (7th Cir. 2004)(quoting Rogers v. City of Chicago, 320 F.3d 748, 753 (7th Cir. 2003))(internal quotations omitted). To satisfy the direct method of proof, the Seventh Circuit requires plaintiffs to put forth a "'convincing mosaic'" of direct or circumstantial evidence to show that ...


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