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Nancy R. Schilli v. Hospira

October 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman


Nancy Schilli has sued Hospira, Inc. for sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII (Counts I & II) and violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (Count III). Hospira has filed a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56 for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.


Schilli started working for defendant's predecessor, Abbott Laboratories, in 1995. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 2.) In May 2004, Abbott's hospital products division became a separate company, defendant Hospira, and Schilli started her employment with it. (Id. ¶ 12.)

From 2005-2009, Schilli held a management position in Hospira's IT Department, supervising a group of Hospira employees and contractors. (Id. ¶ 14.) In September 2005, a contractor whom Schilli supervised, Michelle Ledain, complained to Hospira's Office of Ethics and Compliance ("OEC") that Schilli had treated her unprofessionally and used profanity towards her. (Id. ¶ 22.) Schilli's supervisor Cathy Skala, Hospira Human Resources ("HR") representative Angela Bochek and OEC representative Frank Taber investigated the complaint. (Id. ¶ 23.) They recommended that Schilli be given a written reprimand for her "recurring use of profanity and abusive tone" and attend a management class. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a) Stmt., Ex. 5, Bochek Dep. Ex. 4, 10/13/05 Mem. from Taber, Ibarra-Martinez & Bochek to File at H322.)

On October 17, 2005, Skala gave Schilli a reprimand that said:

You have been previously coached during your 2004 Performance Assessment, to refrain from conduct or language that would be reasonably viewed by others as a non-productive work environment. While the frequency of demonstrated behavior has lessened, there have been reported recent occurrences of inappropriate language and/or an abusive tone used during some communications.

This memo is to advise you that further, continued behavior of this nature may require immediate and appropriate corrective action designed to stop the improper conduct and correct its effects. Responsive action may include, but is not limited to: training, referral to counseling and/or disciplinary actions such as warning, reprimand, withholding of promotion or pay increase, reassignment/demotion or termination of employment. Nancy, you are a valued member of my team, and I want you to be successful in correcting this behavior. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a), Ex. 2, Schilli Dep. Ex. 11, 10/17/05 Letter from Skala to Schilli at H307.)

In April 2008, Kris Rao became plaintiff's supervisor. (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 35.) Shortly thereafter, Rao hired Sharon Epps, a subordinate of Schilli's who was going to be removed from her team for unsatisfactory performance, as his administrative assistant. (Pl.'s App., Ex. 5, Andrews Dep. at 29-30.) Schilli says Rao refused to talk to her about Epps' transition and when she brought the issue up in a staff meeting, Rao "chid[ed] her" and "demeaned her in front of her peers." (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 10.)

Starting in May 2008, Diane Melnick, Teaza Cobb, Sue Madrigano and Rod Brushwood, contractors who currently or previously reported to Schilli, complained to Rao about her. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a) Stmt., Ex. 11, Rao Decl. ¶¶ 12-15.) Brushwood said, among other things, that Schilli had "conducted herself in a loud, demeaning, and belligerent manner" during one meeting, and he had "heard [Schilli] yelling and, at rare instances, almost screaming while in meetings in her office, . . . . frequently us[ing] expletives." (Id., Ex. 11, Rao Decl., Ex. 1, 8/6/08 Email from Brushwood to Rao at H77.) Cobb said Schilli had "treated [Cobb] without respect on occasion, yelled at [her] when [she made errors], belittled, [and] humiliated [her] before staff." (Id., Ex. 11, Rao Decl., Ex. 2, Letter from Cobb to Rao at H80.) Melnick said Schilli "scream[ed] at [Melnick] and others, use[d] the "F" word in meetings . . . , [and] pound[ed] her fists on her desk in her office." (Id., Ex. 12, Melnick Decl. ¶ 6.)

In June 2008, Schilli complained to OEC that Rao "cut her off, treated her inappropriately when she would try to discuss the [Sharon] Epps transition with him" and said she did not understand "why [he] was able to follow a different set of rules," and "got to treat women like this." (Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 13) (quotation omitted). Schilli "also witnessed Rao being abrupt or curt to other female managers during staff meetings." (Id. ¶ 12.)

On August 29, 2009, Rao gave Schilli a "Final Warning" that states: You have been previously coached during your 2004 Performance Assessment discussion and again in October 2005, as a result of an OEC compliant [sic], to refrain from conduct and use of language that could reasonably be viewed by others as inappropriate and/or abusive in tone thereby creating a non-productive work environment.

I have observed occasions when you have demonstrated unacceptable, unprofessional behavior during meetings as well as using an abusive tone when communicating with others. You have used argumentative, raised tones and slammed out of staff meetings. Additionally, I have been provided similar feedback from several others in the organization regarding your disrespectful communications including raised, abusive tone and the use of profanity.

Your continued pattern of unprofessional communications in the workplace is unacceptable and must be ...

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