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Lori Quist v. Spiegel & Utrera

July 1, 2011

LORI QUIST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SPIEGEL & UTRERA, P.A., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Lori Quist has sued her former employer, Spiegel & Utrera, P.A. ("S&U"). She asserts claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") for disability discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. S&U has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants S&U's motion in part and denies it in part.

Background

Quist is a forty-seven year old attorney and a former employee of S&U, a Florida legal services corporation. S&U is based in Miami and maintains satellite offices in other cities, including Chicago. It hired Quist to serve as the managing attorney of its Chicago office on March 21, 2006. Quist's responsibilities as managing attorney included counseling clients on setting up business entities and preparing the documents necessary to do so. S&U's president, Lawrence Spiegel, terminated Quist on June 18, 2007.

On or about February 12, 2007, Quist was diagnosed with cervical cancer and/or dysplasia. On two occasions following her diagnosis, she received medical treatment known as a "loop electrosurgical excision procedure" ("LEEP"). LEEP is used to treat persistent low-grade dysplasia and high-grade cervical dysplasia and results in the removal of cervical tissue. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women who undergo LEEP may have difficulty becoming pregnant or maintaining a pregnancy. See Def.'s Mem., Ex. 8 at 2.

Quist contends that her supervisors at S&U began discriminating against her and treating her differently in various ways following her diagnosis. Specifically, Quist testified that prior to her diagnosis, Spiegel allowed her to make personal calls so long as she completed her work. During Quist's trip to S&U's Miami office in March 2007, however, Spiegel yelled at Quist for making personal phone calls and berated her on several other occasions. Quist's trip occurred less than one month after her diagnosis and less than one week after her first LEEP treatment. Additionally, Quist testified that her supervisors consistently praised her work performance prior to her diagnosis but began reprimanding her thereafter. S&U counters that its employees expressed concerns about Quist's performance on many occasions prior to her diagnosis.

Quist also asserts that she was subjected to harassment by S&U employees. Most of her allegations concern the behavior of Spiegel, who visited the Chicago office on four or five occasions during Quist's employment and encountered Quist during her visits to the Miami office in March 2006 and March 2007. Quist contends that Spiegel often talked about sex in conversations with her; told Quist that she sounded like a 'bimbo' and needed blonde hair; leered at Quist and hugged her inappropriately; made comments about other female employees' appearances around Ms. Quist; walked around his office partially nude in front of other employees; and urinated in his office bathroom with the door open. Quist also testified that another S&U employee, Kevin Hess, sent Quist e-mails telling her that she was a "complete mess" and berated her for her job performance. Pl.'s Rule 56.1(b)(3) Resp. ¶ 23.

Finally, Quist contends that S&U retaliated against her for complaining that she had been targeted for discrimination and harassment by S&U employees. Specifically, she alleges that she told Spiegel on February 15, 2007 that she was being treated differently because of her medical condition. According to Quist, Spiegel responded that he thought highly of her and that no one at S&U was discriminating against her. Quist also asserts that she sent an e-mail to Spiegel on March 27, 2007 complaining that Hess was harassing her. Quist asserts that S&U took no actions to prevent or remedy this alleged misconduct at any point before Spiegel terminated her employment on June 18, 2007.

Discussion

On a motion for summary judgment, the Court "view[s] the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Trinity Homes LLC v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 629 F.3d 653, 656 (7th Cir. 2010). Summary judgment is appropriate "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). In other words, a court may grant summary judgment "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).

1. Disability discrimination claim

In count one, Quist seeks to recover for S&U's discrimination against her based upon a disabling medical condition. She contends that this condition, cervical cancer and/or dysplasia, substantially limited her ability to reproduce.S&U responds that it is entitled to summary judgment on count one because Quist cannot show that (1) she was disabled within the meaning of the ADA or (2) S&U discriminated against her based upon her alleged disability.

a. "Disability"

In assessing whether Quist's medical condition is a "disability," the Court applies the ADA as it existed prior to the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADAAA"), which took effect on January 1, 2009 and does not apply retroactively. See Fredricksen v. United Parcel Serv., Co., 581 F.3d 516, 521 n.1 (7th Cir. 2009). The prior version of the ADA defined "disability" as "(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as ...


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