Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lisa Lewandowski v. Columbia College Chicago

February 28, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. ManningUnited States Judge


In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff Lisa Lewandowski alleges that her former supervisor at Columbia College sexually harassed her in violation of Title VII (Count I) and that Columbia College retaliated against her in violation of Title VII and the FMLA (Counts II and III, respectively) and state law (Count V) and interfered with her exercise of FMLA rights (Count IV). Ms. Lewandowski seeks summary judgment with respect to her Title VII discrimination and FMLA retaliation claims, while Columbia College has filed a cross motion for summary judgment as to all claims. For the following reasons, Ms. Lewandowski's motion for summary judgment is denied and Columbia College's motion is denied as to Count I and granted as to Counts II, III, IV, and V.

I. Background

The following facts are drawn from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements and are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

A. Ms. Lewandowski's Position as Assistant to the Dean

In 1998, Ms. Lewandowski began working at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois. In May of 2005, she assumed the position of Assistant to Leonard Lehrer, who was the Dean of Columbia's School of Fine and Performing Arts and Ms. Lewandowski's direct supervisor.

The job description for the position of Assistant to the Dean of Columbia's School of Fine and Performing Arts included the following responsibilities: (1) supervising graduate students; (2) serving as a liaison to the college administration, department chairs and department assistants; (3) assisting chairs and department assistants with college policies and procedures; (4) serving as a liaison to the Office of Academic Initiatives and International Programs; (5) researching and gathering information for reports and projects; (6) facilitating budget preparation and maintenance; (7) facilitating faculty evaluations with department chairs; (8) facilitating school faculty retreats and special events for the Dean's office; (9) assisting in resolving student concerns; (10) processing check requests, travel reimbursements, stipends, and grade change forms; and (11) prioritizing the Dean's weekly, monthly, and semester schedules. In addition, the job description stated that the Assistant to the Dean served as the "point" person for the Dean's office and had major contact with members of the College's administration, the Dean, the Associate Dean, all chairs, the Office of Academic Initiatives and International Programs, individual faculty members, students, student organizations, major committees, and professional organizations.

B. Dean Lehrer's Advances

On October 10, 2006, Dean Lehrer acted on his feelings for Ms. Lewandowski. He later admitted to Patricia Olande, Columbia College's Director of Human Resources, that on October 10th, he told Ms. Lewandowski that: (1) he had strong feelings for her that he had to act on; (2) he was attracted to her and she was his type, tall and slender; (3) he wanted to have an affair with her and that nobody would need to know and nobody would get hurt; (4) he wanted her to have his children; and (5) he wanted to wake up in her bed. In addition, he stated that he gave Ms. Lewandowski a poem about waking up in her arms (which does not appear in the record) and attempted to hug and kiss Ms. Lewandowski.

C. Columbia's Sexual Harassment Policy and Actions

At the time of Ms. Lewandowski's employment, Columbia had a written policy prohibiting harassment based on sex or other characteristics protected by state, federal, or local law. Columbia also provided sexual harassment workshops for chairs, department heads, supervisors, and deans. The record does not indicate whether Dean Lehrer attended any of these sessions in 2006. However, it is undisputed that Columbia told its deans that they cannot retaliate against employees for asserting their rights under federal law and may suffer adverse consequences -- such as verbal or written reprimands or termination -- if they do so.

D. Ms. Lewandowski's Complaint

On October 11, 2006, Ms. Lewandowski reported Dean Lehrer's conduct to Ms. Olade. She then had what she described as a social meal with Dean Lehrer, shared a cab with him to her apartment, and permitted him to enter her apartment. Ms. Lewandowski contends that she did so at Ms. Olande's suggestion so she could discuss Dean Lehrer's "overly friendly" conduct with him and resolve the situation. Columbia, however, denies that Ms. Olande encouraged her to have any contact with Dean Lehrer and characterizes the evening as an invitation to inappropriate behavior.

On October 18, 2006, at the direction of Assistant Vice President Stephanie Griffin and Provost Steven Kapelke, Ms. Olande interviewed Dean Lehrer and, as detailed above, Dean Lehrer admitted he had feelings towards Ms. Lewandowski. He also that said that he believed that Ms. Lewandowski had welcomed his advances. During her deposition, Ms. Lewandowski admitted to initiating hugs and kissing Dean Lehrer on the cheek on more than one occasion but asserts that they were innocuous actions meant to convey sentiments such as "goodbye" or "feel better at the hospital."

Following the investigation, Columbia gave Ms. Lewandowski time off from work in October and November of 2006 so she would not need to be in the office on days when Dean Lehrer was there. Provost Kapelke also met with Dean Lehrer and issued him a letter of reprimand. Dissatisfied with this reaction, Ms. Lewandowski filed a claim of discrimination with the EEOC in December of 2006.

During discovery in this case, Provost Kapelke did not recall any details about Ms. Lewandowski's allegations of harassment, his own actions in deciding whether to discipline Dean Lehrer, or the materials he reviewed to investigate the allegations. The record shows that the College issued a written reprimand to Dean Lehrer.

E. Ms. Lewandowski's Temporary Position

In February of 2007, Provost Kapelke offered Ms. Lewandowski a transfer from the Dean's office to the position of Assistant to Associate Provost Anne Foley. Provost Kapelke testified at his deposition that he did not recall whether he knew about Ms. Lewandowski's EEOC charge before her transfer.

Ms. Lewandowski received a job description for the new position and decided to take it. The job description for the position of Assistant to the Associate Provost included the following responsibilities: (1) scheduling events, including meetings; (2) maintaining paper and electronic files; (3) arranging for printing, binding and distribution of documents; (4) managing finance, purchasing. and personnel procedures; (5) proofreading and editing documents; (6) preparing charts, graphs, covers, flyers and formatting text; (7) composing correspondence and short reports; (8) creating and maintaining local databases such as distribution lists; (9) gathering and organizing information; and (10) hiring, scheduling and supervising student workers.

The position of Associate Provost was a position of higher authority than Dean Leher's position. In her new position as Assistant to the Associate Provost, Ms. Lewandowski worked the same hours and had the same salary and benefits that she received while working as Assistant to Dean Lehrer. Ms. Lewandowski served as Assistant to the Associate Provost for seven months. During that time, she did not work with any student assistants. Andre Foisy, another Assistant to Associate Provost Foley, assigned tasks to Ms. Lewandowski. At her deposition, Ms. Lewandowski stated that she thought that the Provost's office was a fine working environment and that she had no problems working there. However, she believed that the new position was a step down that prevented her from doing interesting and meaningful work and was displeased with the lack of direct interaction with her supervisor and the fact that she received assignments from another assistant.

F. Ms. Lewandowski's Transfer Back to Her Former Position

In August of 2007, Ms. Lewandowski returned to the Dean's office, and resumed the position as Assistant to the new Dean, Eliza Nichols. She kept her salary and benefits. When Ms. Lewandowki began her new position, Dean Nichols met with Ms. Lewandowski to discuss her expectations and philosophy that an assistant should perform tasks as assigned but not make decisions on her behalf. In addition, Ms. Lewandowski told Dean Nichols about her desire to apply for a position as Assistant Dean. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.