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Teresa Kougias v. Illinois Department of Human Services

March 16, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joan B. Gottschall


Plaintiff Teresa Kougias filed this employment discrimination suit against the Illinois Department of Human Services ("IDHS"), Dr. Michael Cwynar, and Mary Zukowski, alleging that the defendants subjected her to a hostile work environment due to her sex, religion, and disability. The defendants have each moved for summary judgment, although the motions are directed to only some, and not all, of the claims. In addition, Zukowski has moved to strike Kougias' responses to Zukowski's statements of uncontested facts and additional facts for noncompliance with the local rules.


The Chicago Read Mental Health Center is an Illinois state psychiatric hospital located in Chicago, Illinois. Kougias has worked for IDHS as a registered nurse since 1988, and worked as a Registered Nurse II on the "B South" unit of the Chicago Read Mental Health Center from September 1, 2001 until April 26, 2007. Zukowski was Kougias' Clinical Nurse Manager from September 1, 2001 until September 2006, when Zukowski was transferred to the "C North" unit of the hospital. After September 2006, Kougias worked with Zukowski only occasionally on weekends. Kougias worked with Cwynar, a psychiatrist, from September 1, 2001 until January 11, 2007, when Cwynar was administratively reassigned away from the "B South" unit.

Kougias alleges that Cwynar made hostile remarks to her on a daily basis and that Zukowski responded by laughing. Kougias alleges that Zukowski laughed when Cwynar told her, "You are messed up because of your beliefs, your fundamentalist Christian beliefs, you are screwed up because of your beliefs." Kougias has only one eye. According to Kougias, Zukowski laughed when Cwynar said to Kougias: "one-eyed people [are] undesirable, the government wanted to get rid of defective people, you have one eye, and you're fat." Kougias further alleges that Cwynar shocked and frightened her when he called her a bitch and a lesbian. Kougias also alleges that Cwynar told her, "Well maybe he (the patient) just needs a 'titty' to suck on." According to Kougias, Cwynar also yelled at her.

Kougias alleges that, on January 9, 2007, Cwynar said, in front of the psychiatric team to which she was assigned, that Kougias was unfit to be a psychiatric nurse. Later that day, Kougias met with Elaine Novak, then head of the hospital, Dr. Richard Malis, then medical director of the hospital, Rob Petkovski, Director of Nursing, and Valerie Smith, a clinical nurse manager, about Cwynar's behavior. Before the day was out, Kougias gave Novak a letter complaining that Cwynar said -- in response to Kougias' request that Mickey Bowlan, a therapist, speak with his patient about the patient's inappropriate behavior -- "Why did you do that? You shouldn't have to ask Mickey to talk to him! That is your job! If you have problems with that you should call your supervisor so she can tell you, you shouldn't be in psychiatry." Kougias also met with her union steward, Janet Piansay, that day about her allegations of mistreatment.

According to Kougias, a few days after she complained in writing to Novak, Zukowski ordered Kougias to her office, then stood over Kougias in an intimidating manner and demanded to know what was going on respecting Kougias' complaint about Cwynar and "the B south situation." Kougias also alleges that, on January 14, 2007, Zukowski denied her overtime. Kougias alleges, and Zukowski disputes, that Zukowski was removed from "B South" as a result of a petition collectively signed by AFSCME union members.


Rule 56 allows a movant to seek summary judgment when the opposing party's case consists of factually unsupported claims. Heft v. Moore, 351 F.3d 278, 283 (7th Cir. 2003). "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Simply put, "summary judgment is the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events." Springer v. Durflinger, 518 F.3d 479, 484 (7th Cir. 2008) (quotations omitted).

In order to survive a Rule 56 motion, the nonmoving party must either: (a) show that the movant cannot produce admissible evidence that a fact is not disputed, (b) show that the materials cited by the movant do not establish the absence or presence of a genuinely disputed material fact, or (c) direct the court's attention to specific admissible evidence in "the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials" that show that there is some genuinely disputed material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); see United States v. 5443 Suffield Terrace, Skokie, Ill., 607 F.3d 504, 510-11 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[S]ummary judgment may only be defeated by pointing to admissible evidence in the summary judgment record that creates a genuine issue of material fact." Also, it is "not the district court's job to sift through the record and make [a party's] case for him") (citing United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991)). "The nonmoving party must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Siegel v. Shell Oil Co., 612 F.3d 932, 937 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986)). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position will be insufficient to survive a summary judgment motion; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find in favor of the nonmoving party." Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986)).

In addition, "[D]istrict courts presiding over summary judgment proceedings may not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations, both of which are the province of the jury." Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and citations omitted); See Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) ("As we have said many times, summary judgment cannot be used to resolve swearing contests between litigants.") Furthermore, at the summary judgment stage, "the court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." McCann v. Iroquois Mem'l Hosp., 622 F.3d 745, 752 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, and Antonetti v. Abbott Labs., 563 F.3d 587, 591 (7th Cir. 2009)).



In her Counts II and III,*fn1 Kougias alleges that IDHS subjected her to a hostile work environmental based on her disability and gender in violation of the ADA and the Title VII. "Although [the Seventh Circuit] ha[s] not yet decided whether a claim for hostile work environment is cognizable under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act, [the Seventh Circuit] ha[s] assumed the existence of such claims where resolution of the issue has not been necessary." Mannie v. Potter, 934 F.3d 977, 982 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Conley v. Vill. of Bedford Park, 215 F.3d 703, 712-13 (7th Cir.2000)); see Conley, 215 F.3d at 713 ("We have followed this course because the actions alleged in the cases before us have not been 'significant enough to rise to the level of a hostile environment were that type of claim available.'" (quoting Vollmert v. Wis. Dep't of Transp., 197 F.3d 293, 297 (7th Cir. 1999)). "We have further assumed that the standards for proving such a claim would mirror those we have established for claims of hostile work environment under Title VII." Id. (citing Silk v. City of Chi., 194 F.3d 788, 804 (7th Cir. 1999), and Jeseritz v. Potter, 282 F.3d 542, 547 (8th Cir. 2002)). "To demonstrate a hostile work environment under Title VII, [a plaintiff] must show that she was subjected to harassment because of her sex, that the harassment was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment, and that there is a basis for employer liability." Sutherland v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., --- F.3d ----, No. 10-2214, 2011 ...

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