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Swinney v. Illinois State Police

June 9, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Illinois State Police ("ISP") (Doc. 28). Plaintiff Rhonda Swinney ("Swinney") has responded to the motion (Doc. 33) and the ISP has replied to that response (Doc. 36). In this case, Swinney alleges that ISP retaliated against her for complaining about sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Count I), discriminated against her because of a disability in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (Count II) and retaliated against her for taking a medical leave in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (Count III). Swinney concedes in her response that the ISP is entitled to summary judgment on Counts II and III. Accordingly, the Court will grant the ISP summary judgment on those counts and will only address Count I in this order.

I. Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosed materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Chelios v. Heavener, No. 06-4125, 2008 WL 746842, at *4 (7th Cir. Mar. 21, 2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396. This standard is applied with special scrutiny in cases, such as employment discrimination cases, that often turn on issues of intent and credibility. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden of proof, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas, 209 F.3d at 692. Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692.

II. Facts

Taken in the light most favorable to Swinney, the evidence establishes the following relevant facts.

Swinney, a woman, worked as an office coordinator in the ISP's Metro-East Forensic Science Laboratory ("Lab") beginning in February 2000. In late 2002, Swinney began learning how to perform "fiscal duties" from Mary Laurent, the ISP employee charged with that responsibility. Fiscal duties included, for example, preparing vouchers for the payment of bills and invoices, preparing travel vouchers, working with the Lab's budget and transferring funds. Swinney took over the fiscal duties in January 2003 when Laurent left the office and continued to perform some other clerical functions, although most of her clerical duties were assumed by co-workers.

In January 2003, Steve Avedisian ("Avedisian") became the Lab's director, and shortly thereafter noticed deficiencies in Swinney's performance of her fiscal duties. Originally he attributed them to her being new to those responsibilities. However, she continued to perform the fiscal duties poorly six months later, even after further training from the ISP's central office in Springfield. She was also untimely in completing some of her other clerical duties and at one point failed to process lease payments for the Lab's facility.

In August 2003, Sandra Robinson (f/k/a Sandra Carpenter; "Robinson") was transferred to the Lab and became Swinney's supervisor. She controlled Swinney's work assignments. Robinson was trained to perform the fiscal duties, and recognized Swinney's errors in the performance of those duties. Swinney and Robinson started as good friends, but their relationship soured as they worked together.

During October 2003, Robinson used her work computer to distribute several e-mails containing four jokes and four pictures containing sexual references. Avedisian received at least one of the e-mails, which prompted him to tell Robinson sending such materials was not proper at work on work equipment and to ask her to stop. Robinson did not send any more inappropriate e-mails.

Beginning in November 2003, Avedisian and Robinson began telling Swinney repeatedly that there would be consequences if she did not get her work done on time and that they had the power to fire her. They also gave her large, unreasonable amounts of work.*fn1

In early 2004, Swinney requested approval to work a four-day work week during the summer months. Avedisian denied the request because the employee performing the fiscal duties needed to be at work every day, five days a week.

Shortly after Avedisian denied her scheduling request, on February 23, 2004, Swinney reported to Forensic Services Bureau Chief Arlene Hall, Avedisian's supervisor, that since the denial of her request to change her ...

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