United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Thomas M. Durkin United States District Judge.
Milligan-Grimstad alleges that her former employer Morgan
Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“MSSB”) fired her on
account of her gender and subjected her to unlawful
harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964. Plaintiff has also sued MSSB's parent company
Morgan Stanley. Defendants have moved for summary judgment.
R. 47. For the following reasons, that motion is granted.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The Court
considers the entire evidentiary record and must view all of
the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from that
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Ball v. Kotter, 723 F.3d 813, 821 (7th Cir. 2013).
To defeat summary judgment, a nonmovant must produce more
than “a mere scintilla of evidence” and come
forward with “specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Harris N.A. v.
Hershey, 711 F.3d 794, 798 (7th Cir. 2013). Ultimately,
summary judgment is warranted only if a reasonable jury could
not return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
worked at the Chicago branch of MSSB for 11
years. During that entire time, the office was
predominantly staffed and managed by men.
began as a sales assistant in 2001. She completed financial
advisor training, and became a financial advisor in 2003.
Beginning in 2005, she began working in partnership with a
more senior financial advisor, John Mitchell, on a number of
accounts. The partnership agreement between Mitchell and
Plaintiff was renewed annually and subject to termination at
any time by either.
2003 to 2009, Plaintiff was subjected to a number of
discriminatory and harassing comments, undue criticism of her
job performance, and unwanted sexual advances by a number of
male employees, including a financial advisor named David
Brendza. She never reported any of these incidents to Human
Resources as MSSB's harassment policy required because
she felt that reporting in a male-dominated culture would
cause her career to suffer. She does not claim, and the
record does not reflect, that Mitchell engaged in any
inappropriate conduct toward or around her during this time
in 2011, Mitchell “talk[ed] regularly in the office
about the revealing outfits worn by a CNBC news anchor”
and occasionally commented to male co-workers “about
women they saw coming up the escalator in their short
skirts.” Plaintiff also testified that around the time
she got married in April 2012, Mitchell, who at that time
spent two-thirds of the year in Arizona and one-third in
Chicago, repeatedly asked her to plan her pregnancies around
his snowbird schedule.
Mitchell approached retirement, a topic he frequently raised,
Plaintiff testified that management encouraged her and
Mitchell to consider partnering with Brendza and his brother
Richard to manage Mitchell and Plaintiff's book of
business. Mitchell remembers it differently, and testified at
his deposition that the idea of bringing the Brendzas into
the partnership was his and Plaintiff's jointly, and that
they'd all but agreed, together, that they would recruit
the Brendzas to facilitate Mitchell's retirement. David
Brendza's recollection is similar. He testified that he
and his brother were approached by Mitchell and Plaintiff,
who asked if they would be interested in working on some of
Mitchell and Plaintiff's accounts as a team.
testified that management was not initially involved in the
discussions about a potential partnership with the Brendzas,
but acknowledged that he did speak about the partnership with
management after Plaintiff was fired. Brendza likewise
testified that he never discussed the possibility of a
partnership with management before Plaintiff's
termination. Their recollections are consistent with those of
Branch Manager Troy Mooyoung and Complex Manager Mark Evans,
who both testified that they were not aware of any potential
partnership until after Plaintiff left MSSB.
September 19, 2012, the Brendzas joined Plaintiff and
Mitchell in a meeting with a significant client. According to
Mitchell, he and Plaintiff jointly agreed to work with the
Brendzas on the account. Plaintiff testified that during the
meeting, David Brendza commented on her recent marriage and
alluded to her plans to start a family, suggesting that she
might not be available to the client going forward or
fully-committed to his account. Plaintiff submitted evidence
through third party affidavits that David Brendza made
similar comments to other clients of hers, though he flatly
denies having done so. According to Plaintiff, she told
Mitchell after the meeting that she would never partner with
the Brendzas. Mitchell has no recollection of any such
comment, but, as with every other contested statement made by
Plaintiff, for the purposes of this ruling, the Court
considers her version of the events to be true.
months before that meeting, on July 16, 2012, Plaintiff
processed a $36, 900 wire transfer request to a person and an
account and a bank she was not familiar with. The request for
transfer was made by an imposter pretending to be the husband
of one of Plaintiff's clients. The client's real
husband was not an authorized signatory on the account; only
the client was. MSSB requires financial advisors to confirm
all transfer requests with the client by telephone-not by
email or fax or any other method-prior to processing the
request. Plaintiff admitted that she believed the imposter
she spoke with was the husband of her client, and not the
client herself. She also admitted that her client's
husband was not authorized in accordance with firm policy to
issue directives on the account. Still, she processed the
transfer, thinking that an email purportedly in the name of
the client and her husband allowed her to do so.
and MSSB became aware that the transfer request was
fraudulent on Friday, August 10, 2012. Evans immediately
began to investigate the circumstances of the transfer. Over
the course of the next several weeks, he met with Plaintiff,
who he says admitted she knew in retrospect it was improper
to take the transfer instruction from her client's
husband rather than her client. He also spoke with Mooyoung,
MSSB fraud prevention and compliance officers, and in-house
counsel. Evans also reviewed documents, e-mails and notes
related to the fraudulent transfer and made internal
inquiries about Plaintiff's disciplinary history, which
included a one week suspension in 2008 for signing an elderly
client's name to a letter of authorization (which she
self-reported), and a letter of education in 2009 for adding
information to a blank form previously signed by the client.
These policy violations took place prior to Evans becoming
complex manager. Evans conferred with the supervisor who
issued Plaintiff the 2009 letter ...