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Brown v. Health Care Service Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 6, 2014

MICHELLE Y. BROWN, pro se, Plaintiff,
HEALTH CARE SERVICE CORPORATION and RAYMOND E. BISANZ, individually, Vice-President Enterprise Resource Management — Health Care Service Corporation, Defendants.


MILTON I. SHADUR, District Judge.

Michelle Brown ("Brown"), an African-American woman still employed in a responsible executive position with Health Care Service Corporation ("Health Care") after a successful 28-year career marked by four substantial promotions fostered by Raymond Bisanz ("Bisanz, " a higher-ranking Health Care executive who supervised Brown during the 16-year period ending in 2008), [1] has filed a pro se action against both Health Care and Bisanz under the auspices of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") on charges of alleged race discrimination and retaliation. To be blunt, an objective review of Brown's 15-page memorandum and her bulky supporting materials in an attempted response to defendants' current motion for summary judgment reveals her submission to be a classic example of revisionist history, for it draws unreasonable inferences from the objective facts and consequent analysis that torpedo her claims entirely.

In its more than three decades on the bench this Court has never before adopted a litigant's submission lock, stock and barrel. This time however it would be act of supererogation to be compelled to recast defendants' powerful statement of facts and legal argument in this Court's own words, for Brown's "responsive" submission is so nonresponsive in substantive terms that it would be a major waste of a scarce commodity - judicial time - to parse her effort to make the worse appear the better cause.

Indeed, when Brown's memorandum and the bulky 3-inch-thick paper submission that accompany it are viewed in the cold light of reality rather than from Brown's biased viewpoint, they bring to mind one common catchphrase and two aphorisms of classical origin. Those bear mention before this opinion turns to some specifics drawn from defendants' memorandum in support of their summary judgment motion - a memorandum that is attached to this opinion for convenient consideration.

First, the common saying that "no good deed goes unpunished"[2] is an apt description of Brown's having targeted Bisanz as a claimed racist even though it was he who initiated Brown's successive steps up the corporate ladder and even though the Director of Financial Initiatives issue about which Brown complains is really a red herring (see Defendants' Mem. 3 n.1) and actually antedated Brown's 2007 promotion to Senior Director that was launched by Bisanz. Even apart from the fact that the Director of Financial Initiatives subject is barred by limitations (a matter that Brown does not even mention in her responsive memorandum, apparently hoping that it would disappear if unspoken of), Brown seems to view Bisanz as a newly-minted racist in spite of his sponsorship of her advancement.[3]

That calls to mind the first of the two classical allusions referred to earlier, this time the plaint by Shakespeare's King Lear:

That aptly describes Brown's effort to place Bisanz in the crosshairs of her employment discrimination claim. Any claim of asserted race discrimination as to the Director of Financial Initiatives position and as to the selection of an outside applicant (Brian Sullivan) to fill that position is outlawed by limitations (Defendants' Mem. 3 n.1 and 9), while Brown's more focused claim of race discrimination - which targets the hiring of James Walsh ("Walsh") as the Vice-President of Financial Analysis in September 2007 - was the decision of Bujak and not Bisanz (id. at 3-5).[4]

Accordingly there is no genuine issue of material fact that stands in the way of a judgment as a matter of law in Bisanz' favor. Hence his motion for summary judgment is granted, and this opinion goes on to discuss the situation as to Health Care itself.

On that score the well-known quotation from Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism, Part II is extraordinarily applicable to Brown and her claims:

That mindset on Brown's part, which leads her to charge Health Care with a plot to create a "whites-only" Vice President position for Walsh and thereby deprive Brown of the opportunity for still another promotion, exists only in Brown's "jaundic'd eye" - just look at Walsh's impressive credentials discussed at Defendants' Mem. 3 and 11-12 and at the steep hill that someone in Brown's position must therefore climb as described in Millbrook v. IBP, Inc., 280 F.3d 1169, 1180 (7th Cir. 2002, cited and quoted at Defendants' Mem. 8).[5]

So Brown's claim of a race-discriminatory failure to promote her comes up empty. And as for her claim of retaliation, Defendants' Mem. 14-15 knocks it down point by point to demonstrate its lack of substantive merit. Although Brown's reports of her resort to professional counseling in early 2009 and of the fact that she went on medical leave due to emotional distress and depression after filing her charge with EEOC (Plaintiff's Mem. at 4) are truly regrettable, Health Care cannot be held responsible for those consequences of what has obviously become an obsession on Brown's part - an obsession manifested by her turgid submissions and her contentiousness at every step of this litigation. So Brown's last attempted opposition to an adverse summary judgment determination fails as well.


There is no genuine issue of material fact through which Brown can stave off an unfavorable summary judgment. Accordingly defendants are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law, and this action is dismissed with prejudice.



Pro se Plaintiff Michelle Brown ("Plaintiff") does not claim that she was terminated from Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company ("HCSC"); she cannot make that claim. She also does not claim that she was disciplined or demoted; neither of those events have taken place. Rather, she remains a highly-compensated, senior director-level employee that has alleged two limited claims of race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981: one based on promotion(s) to which she claims to have been entitled; and the other based on retaliation.

As demonstrated in detail below, this case is an unusual situation where an employee has obtained a great deal of advancement in her 28-year career (both income-wise and position-wise) within a large and complex organization, but is convinced in her own mind that whatever professional advancements accorded and compensation paid to her by HCSC, they have not been enough. And, without any evidence that would so indicate, Plaintiff falsely and inaccurately claims that she has been the victim of intentional race discrimination.

As further demonstrated below, individually-named Defendant Raymond Bisanz ("Bisanz") did not discriminate against Plaintiff, or even make the employment decisions at issue in her lawsuit. In fact, as noted below, Bisanz was responsible for promoting Plaintiff several times in the course of his supervision of her work. Although he and Plaintiff obviously share a long professional history and she is trying hard to make this case about him, he was not involved in any of the decisions within the statute of limitations on which Plaintiff bases her claims.

The parties have completed discovery regarding these claims. Based on the record evidence, it is clear that Plaintiff has failed to create a genuine issue of material fact in support of her claims. Simply put, Plaintiff's claims are entirely lacking in merit. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants respectfully requests that this Court grant their Motion for Summary Judgment, dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety and with prejudice, and grant Defendants any further relief deemed necessary and appropriate by the Court.


A. Defendants in General

Headquartered in Chicago, HCSC is the largest customer-owned health insurer in the United States and fourth largest overall. (SOF at ¶ 6). Bisanz (White), a long-time HCSC employee, has worked with the Company since 1978, over 34 years. (SOF ¶ 7). His current title is Vice President of Enterprise Resource Management. (Id.). He does not currently ...

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