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Sandra Stangle v. Ala Carte Entertainment

December 13, 2010

SANDRA STANGLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALA CARTE ENTERTAINMENT, INC., 1893 WALDEN OFFICE SQUARE, INC. D/B/A MORETTI'S, AND JAMES EARLY, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Sandra Stangle sued Ala Carte Entertainment ("ACE"), 1893 Walden Office Square, and James Earley*fn1 for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Illinois law. Stangle has moved for partial summary judgment on counts 1 and 4 of her complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Stangle's motion on count 1 and grants it in part on count 4.

Background

The following facts are drawn largely from Stangle's statement of material facts (Pl.'s Stmt.). Because defendants failed to provide a statement of facts that complies fully with Local Rule 56.1, the Court deems admitted, for purposes of this motion, all facts in Stangle's statement that were not controverted in defendants' statement. N.D.

Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(c); see also Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009).

ACE is a corporation that owns a number of businesses, including Moretti's Restaurant and Pizzeria. Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 2. ACE employed Stangle as a server and bartender beginning in 2004. Id. ¶ 3. ACE also employs defendant Earley as its "corporate general manager." Id. ¶ 5. While Stangle worked at Moretti's, Earley would come to the restaurant approximately twice per week for drinks. Id. ¶ 13. Stangle alleges that Earley sexually harassed her on numerous occasions during his visits to Moretti's.

Earley admits he engaged in some of the conduct that forms the basis for Stangle's claims. Specifically, Stangle alleges that on March 20, 2008, Earley put his hands on both sides of Stangle's face and kissed her on the lips. Id. ¶ 18. During a deposition, Earley admitted to having done this. Id. He also testified that he apologized to Stangle for the kiss and admitted his actions were improper. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Additionally, Stangle alleges that at various points Earley told Stangle to "do [him]," that she looked good in white, and that he wanted to "bite [her] chops." Id. ¶¶ 31-33. Earley admits making these comments but contends that he did so in a benign context. Defs.' Mem. 2, 7-8.

Stangle's complaint includes other allegations that Earley denies. In particular, Stangle contends that Earley frequently tried to stick his finger in her ear and rub her shoulders. Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 49. She also alleges that after Earley kissed her on March 20, 2008, he told her "I would f--- you." Id. ¶ 50. Finally, Stangle asserts that on or about May 29, 2008, Earley grabbed her hair and tried to force her head into his crotch. Id. ¶

51. Earley contends that none of these incidents occurred. Defs.' Mem. 4. Discussion

On a motion for summary judgment, the Court draws "all reasonable inferences from undisputed facts in favor of the nonmoving party and [views] the disputed evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2009). A party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure 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)(2). Summary judgment is appropriate "where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

After Stangle submitted her motion for partial summary judgment, defendants filed a motion pursuant to Rule 36(b) to withdraw admissions they had made by failing to respond to Stangle's requests to admit. The Court granted this motion in part on August 10, 2010 and revisits that ruling here before turning to the merits of Stangle's motion.

1. The Rule 36(b) motion

Stangle served her first set of requests to admit on both Earley and ACE on May 4, 2009. Defendants did not respond in timely fashion and did not seek or obtain an extension of time. Instead, they served late responses to the requests, on August 11, 2009. Because defendants' responses were served over three months after Stangle's requests were served, the facts contained in her requests were admitted by operation of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(3) ("A matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after being served, the party to whom the request is directed serves on the requesting party a written answer or objection addressed to the matter and signed by the party or its attorney").

On June 21, 2010, Stangle moved for partial summary judgment, relying in part on defendants' admissions. Defendants then moved on July 26, 2010 to withdraw the admissions. They argued that withdrawal of the admissions was appropriate because "[t]he actual evidence presented in this case . . . ...


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