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Antonetti v. Abbott Laboratories

February 22, 2008

SCOTT ANTONETTI, JERALD FUHRER AND CINDY NADIGER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ABBOTT LABORATORIES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar United States District Judge

JUDGE DAVID H. COAR

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Scott Antonetti ("Antonetti"), Jerald Fuhrer ("Fuhrer") and Cindy Nadiger ("Nadiger") (collectively "Plaintiffs") are suing their former employer, Abbott Laboratories ("Defendant"), for reverse race and national origin discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. and racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Nadiger brings an additional claim of retaliation against Defendant pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3. Before this court now is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as to each count of Plaintiffs' Complaint.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

I. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate 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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must set forth specific facts (a "scintilla of evidence" is insufficient) demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Schuster v. Lucent Tech., Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2003). This standard of review is applied to employment discrimination cases with "added rigor." Sarsha v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 3 F.3d 1035, 1038 (7th Cir. 1993).

II. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Undisputed Facts Common to all Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs Antonetti, Fuhrer and Nadiger are all Caucasian Americans originating from within the United States. All three were Instrument Technicians employed by Defendant. Marvin Gloria and Juan Luna were also Instrument Technicians employed by Defendant, but Gloria is Asian and originates from the Philippines and Luna is Hispanic, originating from an unidentified predominately Hispanic country of origin, possibly Mexico. On June 10, 2006, a Saturday, Plaintiffs, Gloria and Luna worked an overtime shift for Defendant that began early that morning. At some point, the group left the Defendant's campus and visited a nearby restaurant where they had a sit-down breakfast. Antonetti concedes the group was gone for at least thirty (30) minutes. On a typical eight- hour day, employees such as the Plaintiffs are given two ten minute paid breaks and one thirty minute unpaid meal break. Defendant's policy is to pay its technicians for breaks that do not exceed twenty minutes in the aggregate such that a paid break should not last more than twenty minutes. The June 10, 2006 shift lasted only about five hours, not the normal eight hours, due to a technical problem that prevented the technicians from accomplishing their tasks.

The following Monday, June 12, 2006, all of the technicians went to work except Luna, who routinely took Mondays off. Brian Gravander, the technicians' group leader, reviewed the technicians' time cards from Saturday and inquired whether the technicians had taken a lunch break (i.e- a meal break) during the shift. In his deposition testimony, Antonetti stated that the technicians discussed whether to report that there had been no lunch, not in an effort to deceive, but rather because in Antonetti's view, the excursion to the restaurant was simply a break, not lunch. Fuhrer admits that he initially told Gravander that he had not taken a lunch break. However, Antonetti and Nadiger cannot recall whether they responded to Gravander that they had not taken any such break but they do not offer any evidence to rebut Gravander's account or to rebut Gravander's testimony regarding the notations of "NL" (no lunch) on their time cards. According to Gravander, when he asked Plaintiffs and Gloria (as a group) whether Luna took a lunch break, one of them responded that he did not. Gravander did not mark "NL" on Luna's timecard. Luna was nonetheless paid as if he had not taken a lunch break (as were the other technicians) because Gravander manually entered into the Defendant's computerized timekeeping system that none of the technicians took a lunch break on June 10.*fn2

According to Luna, one of Defendant's senior supervisors, Larry Adams, approached him at a different Abbott facility and asked him about the alleged practice of going to breakfast on morning shifts and the over billing of clients. Luna acknowledged to Adams that he had been participating in such incidents by nodding his head affirmatively and he proceeded to tell Adams about the June 10 breakfast excursion. Adams then informed upper management about the incident. Raymond Hess, a human resources manager employed by Defendant, called Luna while he was in Mexico on assignment for Defendant.*fn3 Hess asked Luna about the events of June 10, 2006. Luna explained to him that they had indeed left the Defendant's premises and had a sit-down breakfast meal, but he could not remember the name of the restaurant. Once Luna returned to work, he met with Mike Patterson, Defendant's manager of corporate metrology, instrumentation and calibration services, the unit in which the technicians work.

In August, all three Plaintiffs were approached by Patterson about the off-site meal break of June 10, 2006, all three initially could not remember the details. Specifically, Antonetti stated he could not remember where they had gone and that sometimes workers went to McDonald's. Fuhrer stated he did not remember going off-site for breakfast on the date in question. Nadiger stated she did not remember whether they took a break on the date in question. Defendant asserts that it interpreted the Plaintiffs' inability to remember the details of the break along with their alleged representations to Gravander that they had not taken a meal break as an indication of deceitfulness. Thereafter, Plaintiffs and Gloria were suspended and later terminated. Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs and Gloria were terminated for falsifying time cards and not being forthright when questioned about it.

Facts Relevant to the Retaliation Claim*fn4

Nadiger began to suspect she was a victim of gender discrimination in February 2006 when she did not receive a promotion while male employees who she believed to be less qualified, did. Over the course of several months she made inquiries to several supervisors as to why she was passed over. These supervisors include in order of rank: Group Leader Brian Gravander, Supervisor Greg Cichok, Section Manager John Salisbury, Manager of the Global Instrumentation and Calibration Services ("GICS") Dave Taylor and Director Mike Shalosky. Mike Patterson replaced Taylor as the manager of GICS in July 2006 and was not involved with the promotion decision in February. Nadiger states she did not file a formal complaint of gender discrimination because managers Taylor and Shalosky forestalled her from doing so by encouraging her to let them handle it and investigate why she did not receive a promotion. However, at the suggestion of Shalosky, Nadiger spoke to Nancy Libow, Defendant's Director of Global Environmental Health and Safety Services about career advancement. Nadiger told Libow that she thought she could never advance in her group because of her gender and Libow responded that Nadiger should go to human resources with her concerns. She gave Nadiger a name and a business card of someone in human resources to whom Nadiger could approach. Also at Shalosky's suggestion, Nadiger talked to another senior management member, Shelly Shea, Director of the Office of Business Excellence. In July of 2006, Mike Patterson was replacing Dave Taylor as the manager of Nadiger's department. Nadiger states that she spoke to Patterson in July 2006 and he communicated to her that he was aware of the "ongoing investigation" regarding her complaints. Patterson made the decision to terminate Nadiger and the other Plaintiffs in August 2006, and Director Mike Shalosky typically reviewed Patterson's decisions. Nadiger states that Patterson knew of "an ongoing investigation concerning her promotion" and that Shalosky was aware of an impending formal complaint of gender discrimination.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Race and National Origin ...


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