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Malin v. Hospira, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 31, 2013




Plaintiff Deborah Malin filed this action against defendants Hospira, Inc., Deborah Rodriguez, Jay Anderson, and Michael Carlin, asserting claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) ("Title VII").[1] Presently before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion [#81] is granted.


Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To determine whether any genuine issue of fact exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) & advisory committee notes (1963 amend.). While the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986), where a claim or defense is factually unsupported, it should be disposed of on summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).


Malin was hired by Abbott Laboratories ("Abbott") in April 1996 as a business analyst in

Abbott's hospital products division. Over time, she advanced in responsibilities and pay in the division, receiving three promotions prior to 2003.

In July 2003, Malin complained to Robert Balogh, her immediate supervisor, that Satish Shah, a next-level supervisor above Balogh, had harassed her on several occasions beginning in 2001 by asking her to lunch, to a movie, and to co-sign a personal loan.[3] According to Malin, while she remained in Balogh's office, Balogh called Michael Carlin, a divisional vice president for IT in Abbott's hospital products division, to discuss the matter. Although Malin admits she could not hear what Carlin told Balogh, she testified that immediately after the call, Balogh told Malin that Carlin had instructed Balogh to do everything in his power to stop Malin from going to human resources with her complaints.[4] Malin nonetheless proceeded to report the matter to Ray White, who worked in Abbott's human resources department.

After an investigation, White concluded that Shah's conduct, although inappropriate, did not violate Abbott's workplace anti-harassment policies. Carlin, with White's input, provided Shah with a counseling memorandum, which stated, among other things:

[Y]ou are warned that you must avoid all situations which compromise your effectiveness as a leader in the IT organization. Further, to avoid any appearance of retaliation towards Debbie, her 2003 performance appraisal will be reviewed by me with input from Bob. If there are any further substantiated incidents of this kind, more serious disciplinary action may result up to and including termination. If any part of this warning is unclear, please see me immediately so I may clarify my position on this matter.

(Dkt. 100 at 409.) White also encouraged Malin to come forward with any future complaints of harassment or unfair treatment.

In May 2004, Abbott spun off its core hospital products division business to Hospira. Malin and Carlin, among others, were transferred from Abbott to Hospira. Carlin ultimately became Hospira's Chief Information Officer and remained in that position through late 2009. Since the spinoff, Malin has been a "grade 18" employee in Hospira's IT department. An employee's grade directly affects eligibility for bonuses, stock options, and other benefits. Malin claims that she was passed over for several promotions or grade level increases between 2003 (while still employed by Abbott) and 2005.

In early 2005, Malin began reporting to Jay Anderson. In January 2006, Malin met with Anderson to discuss her grade, pay, and career direction. Malin was informed that she would receive a salary increase but remain at grade 18 based on decisions made after a review of all positions in the IT department. Malin expressed her dissatisfaction with these results, informing Anderson that she believed she was being held back by Carlin "as a result of retaliation, ongoing retaliation that [she] had been experiencing as a result of reporting an incident to HR." (Malin Dep. at 197:6-14.) But Malin does not recall telling Anderson, and Anderson has denied knowledge of, the details of Malin's prior complaints regarding Shah during this meeting.[5]

Anderson thereafter informed Carlin and Angela Bochek, a Hospira human resources employee, of his conversation with Malin. Bochek investigated Malin's compensation concerns and her suggestion of retaliation. Bochek learned the details surrounding Malin's 2003 complaint of sexual harassment, but she did not share these details with Anderson, who remained unaware of the basis for Malin's retaliation comments until ...

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