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Corbett v. Cytyc Corp.

November 7, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge


Lori Corbett has sued Cytyc Corporation and Cytyc L.P. (collectively, Cytyc), asserting a claim for gender discrimination and a claim for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. Cytyc has moved for summary judgment on all of Corbett's claims. For the following reasons, the Court denies Cytyc's motion.


Because Cytyc has moved for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to Corbett and draws reasonable inferences in her favor. See, e.g., Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).

Corbett began working for Cytyc in June 2005 as a Professional Medical Representative (PMR). Cytyc sells medical devices and diagnostic equipment. As a PMR, Corbett was essentially a sales representative for Cytyc. She worked in tandem with a Territory Manager (TM) to sell Cytyc products to doctor's offices and hospitals in the Chicago area. Corbett was charged with selling Cytyc's NovaSure device and procedure, an endometrial ablation system used to treat women with heavy menstrual bleeding. The device has both sterile and nonsterile components. Though TMs are authorized to train doctors on the NovaSure procedure, known as "covering a case," PMRs are not.

During her employment, Corbett worked under three different District Sales Managers: Jamie Goetz, followed by Whitney Parachek and Michael Rodriguez. Corbett had a good relationship with Parachek and often received praise from her and others for her work. Corbett's relationship with Michael Buhle, the TM with whom she worked, was not as positive. Buhle also had trouble making sales quotas. Cytyc management placed Buhle on a performance improvement plan in 2004, and Parachek issued a Letter of Concern in June 2006 for poor performance.

In August 2006, Rodriguez replaced Parachek as DSM for Chicago. Shortly afterwards, Buhle told Rodriguez about issues he had with Corbett. Buhle reported that he did not get along well with Corbett and that he thought she was difficult to work with. He also told Rodriguez about a recent incident. In late 2005 or early 2006, Buhle said, he told Corbett that a doctor had complained that she had missed appointments and asked that she not return to the doctor's office. Some time later, Corbett returned to the doctor's office, and a staff member called Buhle to complain that Corbett argued with the doctor's staff in front of patients. The customer also said that Corbett spoke negatively about Buhle in front of staff and patients.

On August 23, 2006, Corbett called Rodriguez to discuss issues relating to the territory. She told him that Buhle had missed several cases and that doctors were upset with him. Corbett contends that Rodriguez told her she was being too emotional. Rodriguez asserts that Corbett was overly confrontational, bordering on insubordinate, but he cannot recall telling her she was being emotional. After Rodriguez ended the phone call so that he could board an airplane, Corbett called him again. Though Rodriguez claims he counseled her on learning boundaries and self-awareness, Corbett denies that he did so. Following this conversation, Rodriguez took three weeks off to get married and go on his honeymoon. Shortly after Rodriguez returned to work, Buhle resigned.

In the third week of September 2006, Corbett contacted Chris Gormley, a Surgical Sales Specialist (SSS), to cover a NovaSure case. After he did so, the office manager asked Gormley to notify Cytyc management that Corbett was overly pushy and that the office did not want to work with her anymore. Gormley reported the complaint to Rodriguez.

Around the same time, Rodriguez began investigating potential replacements for Buhle. Corbett submitted a letter of interest to Rodriguez along with two recommendation letters from doctors with whom she had worked. Jay Malayny, a male SSS who had been working for Cytyc for nine months, also expressed interest in the position. Cytyc materials describe the qualifications for the TM position as including a minimum of five years of sales experience.

Rodriguez discussed the candidates with Brooks Edlund, his superior. Edlund was generally aware of some complaints about Corbett's behavior, and Rodriguez told him of Buhle's and Gormley's complaints. Rodriguez also told Edlund about the telephone conversation he had with Corbett in August 2006. After this discussion, Rodriguez decided that he would not interview Corbett for the TM position. Rodriguez did not inform Corbett about this decision and failed to return Corbett's calls and e-mails regarding the possible promotion.

In early October 2006, Rodriguez interviewed Malayny for the TM position at a sales meeting in Arizona. Malayny had a positive NovaSure sales record, even though he had worked for Cytyc for only nine months. There were no reports of issues with Malayny's behavior or with his ability to get along with co-workers.

On October 10, 2006, Rodriguez set up a lunch meeting with Corbett for the next day. In an e-mail, Rodriguez informed Corbett that he wanted to discuss goals for the next quarter, the transition of the new TM, and Corbett's carreer development path. Rodriguez contends that he sought advice on how to deal with Corbett. He testified that he left a voice message for Anne-Marie Hodkinson at Cytyc's human resources department (HR) that same day. Hodkinson could not, however, confirm that Rodriguez called her or left her a message that day.

Before the lunch meeting the following day, Corbett called Melissa Climaco, another TM, for help with a situation at a doctor's office. Climaco thought that Corbett was "covering a case," see supra at 2, in violation of company policy. Although Corbett attempted to explain that she was not covering a case, Climaco ...

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