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Anderson v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation

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

September 29, 2014



VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.

Defendants Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation and Mary Ann Sedlacek move for summary judgment on the six claims asserted in Plaintiff Ellanor Anderson's Complaint. Anderson alleged race discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment (Count I), retaliation (Count II), and wrongful termination (Count III) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against her employer, Advocate. Anderson also alleged race discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environment (Count IV), retaliation (Count V), and wrongful termination (Count VI) in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against both Defendants. Because there are genuine issues of material fact related to Anderson's claims regarding race discrimination and retaliation, this Court denies the Defendants' motion for summary judgment regarding those claims. The Defendants' motion is granted with respect to Anderson's hostile work environment claims.


Anderson, a Black woman, worked for Advocate as a registered nurse from February 2007 to October 2008. Anderson worked in the Adult Heart Surgical Unit ("ASHU") until June 2007, when she was transferred to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit ("PACU") (Dkt. No. 46 at ¶¶ 2, 3, 5, 9.) Karen Bogdan supervised Anderson in the ASHU while Sedlacek, a White woman, supervised Anderson once she was transferred to the PACU. (Dkt. No. 46 at ¶ 5, 6, 10.)

The parties dispute whether Sedlacek treated Anderson differently than the other nurses. (Dkt. No. 46 at ¶ 10; Dkt. No. 59 at ¶ 7.) Anderson alleges that Sedlacek treated her differently than White nurses by refusing to allow her to leave the building at lunch, disregarding her medical restrictions regarding her foot, writing her up for missing a scheduled antibiotic dose, requiring her to come in even when she was not the "next on call, " accounting for her hours differently, and referring to her as "you people" when Anderson raised complaints. (Dkt. No. 59 at ¶¶ 7-12.) The Defendants universally deny Anderson's allegations. Anderson wrote complaint letters and met with employees from Advocate's Human Resources Department and Employee's Assistance Program ("EAP"); but the parties disagree as to whether Anderson specifically complained about racial harassment or discrimination. (Dkt. No. 46 at ¶38; Dkt. No. 59 at ¶¶ 24-25, 31.) In mid-September 2008, Anderson met separately with Sedlacek and Sedlacek's supervisor, Vickie Williams, to discuss discipline associated with a complaint made by a patient's family about Anderson. (Dkt. No. 46 at ¶¶ 42-43.) After Williams informed Anderson that the discipline was rescinded, Anderson testified that she told Sedlacek and Williams that she was going to file a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Dkt. No. 46 at ¶¶ 42-43; Dkt. No. 59 at ¶¶ 29-30.)

On September 29, 2008, Kim Pasquale complained to Sedlacek that on September 25, 2008, Anderson punched her in the back. (Dkt. No. 46 at ¶ 53.) Sedlacek called Anderson on the phone and told her that she was accused of hitting Pasquale and suspended pending Advocate's investigation. (Dkt. No. 59 at ¶32.) Sedlacek told Anderson not to return to work until she heard back from her. (Dkt. No. 59 at ¶ 35.) Anderson later met with Sedlacek and Williams to tell them her side of the story. (Dkt. No. 59 at ¶ 37.) Anderson denied hitting anyone, instead contending that Pasquale and another co-worker were racing their rolling chairs across the floor. (Dkt. No. 59 at ¶¶ 37, 39; Dkt. No. 46 at ¶ 57.) Anderson alleges that she again told Sedlacek and Williams that she was going to file a charge with the EEOC at the meeting. (Dkt. No. 59 at ¶ 40.) As a result of the incident, the Defendants terminated Anderson's employment on October 8, 2008 for violating Advocate's Workplace Violence Policy. (Dkt. No. at ¶¶ 68-70.) Anderson then filed an EEOC race discrimination charge on November 10, 2008 and received a notice of a right to sue on August 2, 2012. (Dkt. No. 46 at ¶ 44.) Anderson filed the present Complaint alleging racial discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, and wrongful termination on October 5, 2012. (Dkt. No. 1.)


"Summary judgment is appropriate when the record show[s] that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Sides v. City of Champaign, 496 F.3d 820, 826 (7th Cir. 2007). A genuine issue of material fact arises only if sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party. Brummett v. Sinclair Broad. Grp., Inc., 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2005). Courts do not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations when deciding motions for summary judgment. Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704-05 (7th Cir. 2011). Rather, courts view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-moving party's favor, and determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. See Atanus v. Perry, 520 F.3d 662, 671 (7th Cir. 2008). As the party opposing the motion for summary judgment, Anderson "gets the benefit of all facts that a reasonable jury might find." See Loudermilk v. Best Pallet Co., LLC, 636 F.3d 312, 314 (7th Cir. 2011).


I. Statute of Limitations

As a threshold matter, all of Anderson's 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims are subject to 28 U.S.C. § 1658's 4-year statute of limitations. See Dandy v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 388 F.3d 263, 269 (7th Cir. 2004). Because Anderson filed her Complaint on October 5, 2012 (Dkt. No. 1; Dkt. No. 38 at ¶ 4), this Court considers events which occurred as early as October 5, 2008 on all her claims. Additionally, "if a plaintiff alleges continuing violations, ' which constitute a pattern and practice of discrimination, " courts may look outside of the relevant time period. Id. at 270 (doctrine applies to Title VII as well as § 1981 claims) (internal citation omitted). The "continuing violations" doctrine precludes recovery for "discrete acts of discrimination or retaliation that occur outside the statutory time period" but permits consideration of behavior alleged outside the statutory time period "so long as an act contributing to the claim takes place within the statutory period." Id. (citing Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 105 (2002).

Here, the Defendants suspended Anderson on September 29, 2008 and terminated her on October 8, 2008 (Dkt. No. 38 at ¶ 70). The termination constitutes an adverse employment action, see Arizanovska v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 682 F.3d 698, 704 (7th Cir. 2012), that occurred within the statutory period. Because Anderson's termination took place within the statutory period and necessarily contributes to her claims of race discrimination and retaliation, this Court may consider actions outside the statutory period associated with Anderson's discrimination and retaliation claims under both § 1981 and Title VII.

However, the Court is unable to consider allegations related to Anderson's hostile work environment claim under § 1981 outside of the statutory period. Here, § 1658 allows for consideration of complained-of actions as early as October 5, 2008. Because Anderson was suspended on September 29, 2008 and never went back to work at Advocate, there are no acts contributing to her hostile work environment claim within the statutory period. See Dandy, 388 ...

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