Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Britz v. White

December 21, 2007

CHERYL BRITZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JESSE WHITE -- SECRETARY OF STATE VEHICLE SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Jesse White's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 18). Plaintiff Cheryl Britz's pro se Complaint (d/e 2) alleges that she suffered employment discrimination that is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) while she was an employee of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, specifically sexual harassment resulting in her constructive discharge. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. Defendant Jesse White is the Illinois Secretary of State.*fn1 Britz alleges claims against White in his official capacity. White moves for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is allowed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff began working at the Secretary of State's Office in early 2002. Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 19) (Defendant's Memorandum), Ex. 1, Deposition of Cheryl Britz (Britz Dep.), p. 23-24. She asserts that she was subjected to five specific instances of sexual harassment by Janet Russell. Russell, who was previously a defendant in this action, was Plaintiff's supervisor during the incidents at issue.

According to Plaintiff, the first incident occurred when she was returning to her work area from a break. Plaintiff states that, as she was entering the work area, Russell came up to her, hugged her, and said "I love you so much." Britz Dep., p. 30. Plaintiff asserts that, on another occasion, in approximately August 2005, she was standing at her cubicle, wearing a skirt. Plaintiff states that Russell walked up to her and "grabbed the bottom of her skirt with her hands, as if to tug on it to pull it down indicating that she thought it was too short." Id., p. 30-31.

Plaintiff asserts that, on December 16, 2005, she was standing at her desk, leaning over to write something on a piece of paper when Russell came up behind her and slapped her on her rear end, "pretty hard." Britz Dep., p. 31-32. Plaintiff states that she said, "hey, that was my butt," to which Russell responded, "oh, I know. It was just sticking out there, though." Id., p. 32. According to Plaintiff, on December 20, 2005, she was sitting at her desk typing when Russell came up behind her and tugged on her hair. Id. Plaintiff states that she sat at her desk for thirty minutes after this incident, growing more upset. Plaintiff asserts that she then went to Russell and asked for permission to go speak to her union representative. Id. According to Plaintiff, Russell said "no problem," and Plaintiff reached up to grab the appropriate paperwork off of a filing cabinet. Id. Plaintiff asserts that, as she reached up to grab the form, Russell poked her in her side. Id. According to Plaintiff, she then went to speak to the union representative.

While meeting with her union representative, Plaintiff filled out a Personnel Incident Reporting Form. Britz Dep., p. 29, 33; Defendant's Memorandum, Ex. 3. On the form, Plaintiff alleged that she had been subjected to sexual harassment on several occasions, but that she had failed to write down the dates of the incidents. Defendant's Memorandum, Ex. 3, p. 1. Plaintiff wrote that, at one time, she entered a room and Russell hugged her and told her that she loved her so much. According to Plaintiff, on another occasion, Plaintiff was wearing a jean skirt and standing at her desk when Russell came up to her and started pulling on her skirt and touching her leg. Plaintiff also recounted the incident on December 16, 2005, as follows. She was at her desk, writing, when "Janet came up to [her] and slapped [her] on [her] butt." Id., Ex. 3, p.1. Plaintiff states that she "yelled out, hey that is my butt," to which Russell responded, "yeah but it was just sticking out there." Id., Ex. 3, p. 1-2. Plaintiff also reported the two separate incidents on December 20, 2005. Plaintiff stated that she was sitting at her desk typing when Russell walked by and tugged on the bottom of her hair. Id., Ex. 3, p. 2. According to Plaintiff, she went into Russell's office approximately thirty minutes later to get permission to see her union representative. Plaintiff states that while she was reaching up to get the required paperwork, Russell jabbed her in her side. Id., Ex. 3, p. 2.

Approximately one week after Plaintiff made the written complaint, Plaintiff went to the assistant administrator and demanded a new supervisor. Britz Dep., p. 49. Plaintiff was transferred to a new supervisor, Katie Dumbacher. Id., p. 50. At some point, Russell was transferred to a different floor. Plaintiff left the Secretary of State's Office on March 31, 2006, to take a position with another state agency. Id., p. 23. Plaintiff agrees that from December 20, 2005 until the time she left the Secretary of State's Office, there were no further instances of sexual harassment by Russell. Id., p. 52.

The Secretary of State's Office has a sexual harassment policy, upon which all of its employees receive training. Id., p. 27; Defendant's Memorandum, Ex. 2. Britz received training on the sexual harassment policy in the summer of 2005. Britz Dep., p. 28. The policy requires an employee who is subjected to or witnesses sexual harassment to report it. Defendant's Memorandum, Ex. 2, p. 3. Plaintiff concedes that she did not complain to management about Russell's behavior at any time prior to December 20, 2005. Id., p. 35.

ANAYSIS

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to the interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that judgment as a matter of law is appropriate. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). When a properly supported motion for summary judgment has been made, the party opposing summary judgment may not merely rest on the pleadings but must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). "A party must present more than mere speculation or conjecture to defeat a summary judgment motion." Liu v. T & H Machine, Inc., 191 F.3d 790, 796 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, here Britz, and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer "to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment," based on the individual's gender. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The Supreme Court has expressly recognized that Title VII prohibits employers from "requiring people to work in a discriminatorily hostile or abusive environment." Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993).

Plaintiff does not claim that she was subjected to a tangible, materially-adverse employment action. Plaintiff concedes that she was never disciplined, fired, or had duties reassigned because of sexual harassment. Britz Dep., p. 53. Instead, Plaintiff claims that she was subjected to a hostile work environment that eventually led to her constructive discharge. In order to succeed under a hostile work environment theory, she must establish that "'(1) she was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; (2) the conduct was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment; (3) the conduct was directed at her because of her sex; and (4) there is a basis for employer liability.'" Whittaker v. Northern Ill. Univ., 424 F.3d 640, 645 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Rhodes v. Ill. Dep't of Transp., 359 F.3d 498, 505 (7th Cir.2004)).

Defendant asserts that he is entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff is unable to establish (1) that Russell's conduct was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment, (2) that the conduct at issue was directed at her because of her sex, or (3) any basis for ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.