United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
JESSIE M. EDRALIN, Plaintiff,
ADVENTIST GLENOAKS HOSPITAL, an Illinois Corporation, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Tharp, Jr United States District Judge
Jesse Edralin sued his former employer Adventist GlenOaks
Hospital (“Hospital”) after he was terminated
from his job there as a Materials Service Representative/Tech
on May 23, 2013. In his amended complaint, Edralin alleges
that another employee sexually harassed him, and then lodged
a false sexual harassment complaint against him with a
supervisor and human resources employee at the Hospital.
Edralin alleges that he then made his own complaint about the
sexual harassment he says he experienced, and that the
Hospital terminated him two days later. The Hospital moved
for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the
Hospital's motion for summary judgment is granted as to
the sexual harassment claim in Count I and denied as to the
retaliation claim in Count II.
worked as a Materials Service Representative/Tech in the
Hospital's materials management department in Glendale
Heights, Illinois, from about May 2003 until his termination
on May 23, 2013. Def. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts
(hereinafter Def. SOF) ¶ 1, 3; Pl. Resp. to
Def. SOF (hereinafter Pl. Resp. SOF) ¶ 1, 3. In
that role, Edralin's job duties included visiting the
Hospital's various units to inventory and restock
hospital supplies, which are stored on shelves inside the
materials management department for that purpose. Def. SOF
¶ 13; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 13. In or around May 2013,
Naseem Jahangir was a lead materials service representative,
a role generally held by the person who has the most
knowledge about products in the department. Def. SOF ¶
15; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 15. The lead materials service
representative communicates with outside members of the
Hospital's staff and is the go-to person for other
employees in the department who have questions about stock.
Def. SOF ¶ 15; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 15. At this same
time, Kevin Willis was the manager of the materials
management department and the direct supervisor of Jahangir
and Edralin. Def. SOF ¶ 12, 16; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 12,
16. Sylvia Seals-Brown was the Director of Human Resources/HR
Business Partner at the Hospital, and in that role oversaw
employee benefits and termination, among other job duties.
Def. SOF ¶ 19; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 19.
Monday, May 20, 2013, Jahangir came to visit Seals-Brown at
the Hospital and made a complaint that Edralin had sexually
harassed her. Def. SOF ¶ 20; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 20.
Bryan Sitkawitz, who was a materials service representative
at the Hospital, accompanied her to the human resources
office when she made this complaint. Def. SOF ¶ 14, 20;
Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 14, 20. The Hospital asserts that
Jahangir told Seals-Brown that Edralin had been making her
uncomfortable and touching her inappropriately, that he had
been hugging her, rubbing her leg, and touching her hair, and
that Sikawitz had witnessed some of this. Def. SOF ¶
Seals-Brown and Willis interviewed Jahangir together about
her sexual harassment complaint later that same day. Def. SOF
¶ 22. The Hospital asserts that in that interview,
Jahangir repeated her allegation that Edralin had touched her
inappropriately-saying that he would stroke her hair, hug her
from behind, stroke her arm, and rubbed his hand against her
thigh-and said that she did not feel comfortable working with
him, was afraid of him, and wanted his conduct to stop. Def.
SOF ¶ 24. Jahangir also said, according to the Hospital,
that she had told Edralin, “Get your fucking hands off
of me, ” and that Edralin had called her personal phone
and left messages saying, “I miss you and I love
you.” Def. SOF ¶¶ 24-25. Seals-Brown
testified in her deposition that she asked Jahangir if she
had any messages to show her, and that Jahangir said she did
not. Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 25; Seals-Brown Dep. at 33:7-8, ECF
No. 32-1, Ex. F. After Jahangir's interview, she was
allowed to go home for the rest of the day with pay. Def. SOF
that day, Seals-Brown and Willis met with Edralin in
Seals-Brown's office and told him that Jahangir had
lodged a sexual harassment complaint against him asserting
that he made her feel uncomfortable and that he had touched
her hair and her arms and had hugged her from behind. Def.
SOF ¶ 27; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 27-28. Edralin
initially denied Jahangir's allegations, but later in the
May 20 interview said that he had hugged Jahangir during the
holidays, had touched her hair to say that she had split
ends, and may have touched her arm when she said she had a
rash. Def. SOF ¶¶ 30-31; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 30.
Edralin told them that none of those instances of physical
conduct were inappropriate in nature. Def. Reply to Pl.
Statement of Additional Facts ¶ 11, ECF No. 43. After
that interview, the Hospital suspended Edralin with pay
pending the investigation. Def. SOF ¶ 32; Pl. Resp. SOF
either May 20, or 21, 2013, Seals-Brown met with Sitkawitz,
who told her that he had witnessed Edralin rub Jahangir's
back, touch her hair, and hug her on occasion, and that
Jahangir would eventually say no and then Edralin would huff
and walk away. Def. SOF ¶¶ 33-34. Edralin denies
the accuracy of Sitkawitz's alleged statements. Pl. Resp.
SOF ¶ 34. On or about May 20 or 21, Seals-Brown also met
with DeAndre Moore, a transporter at the Hospital who said
that Jahangir had told him that Edralin had been touching her
inappropriately. Def. SOF ¶¶ 36-37. According to
the Hospital, both Sitkawitz and Moore said that Jahangir had
asked them if they thought she should tell Edralin's
wife, who worked at the Hospital, and that Sitkawitz and
Moore both told her that she should tell the Hospital's
human resources staff. Def. SOF ¶¶ 35, 37.
called the Hospital on May 21, 2013, leaving voicemails for
Seals-Brown and Willis and asking each of them to call him
back. Def. SOF ¶ 38; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 38.
Seals-Brown and Willis called him back that same day, and
Edralin said on that call that Jahangir had come to the
Hospital on her day off on Saturday, May 18, 2013. Def. SOF
¶ 39; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 39. Edralin also reiterated
that he had not touched Jahangir in any unwanted or
inappropriate way, and that he believed Jahangir's
actions in coming to work to talk to him on her day off
suggested she was not afraid of him. Pl. Additional SOF
¶ 12, ECF No. 41; Def. Reply to Pl. Statement of
Additional Facts ¶ 12. Edralin testified at his
deposition that he also told Willis and Seals-Brown that they
should check the security camera for his department. Edralin
Dep. 27:12-13. Seals-Brown asked Edralin to come in to meet
with her and Willis later that day. Def. SOF ¶ 39; Pl.
Resp. SOF ¶ 39.
afternoon, Edralin met with Seals-Brown and Willis. Def. SOF
¶ 47; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 47. Seals-Brown and Willis
recall Edralin telling them at that meeting that three days
earlier, on May 18, Jahangir came to work and asked him to
come into the closet with her and to bring a stool, and that
they then went into the closet where he sat on the stool,
Jahangir straddled him or sat on his lap, and she lifted her
shirt or dress. Def. SOF ¶ 48; Seals-Brown Dep.
51:10-52:1-5; Willis Dep. 57:18-59:1. Seals-Brown and Willis
also testified that Edralin told them that he had said no to
Jahangir, and according to Seals-Brown, Edralin said that he
did not touch her. Def. SOF ¶ 48; Seals-Brown Dep.
52:8-14; Willis Dep. 59:5. At his deposition in this case,
Edralin testified that Jahangir had asked him to sit on the
stool, that she started to disrobe and said “let's
have sex, ” and that he said no and did not have any
physical contact with Jahangir. Def. SOF ¶ 50; Pl. Resp.
SOF ¶ 50.
obtained a copy of the ID badge swipe log from the
Hospital's security which showed that Jahangir had swiped
into the materials management department on May 18, 2013, and
also obtained a copy of a surveillance video which further
confirmed her entrance on that date. Def. SOF ¶ 40-41;
Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 40-41. On May 21, 2013, Seals-Brown and
Willis watched the video from May 18, which showed Jahangir
walking into the materials management department and also
depicted Edralin carrying a stool and walking to a small
closet that is the back of a sterile processing machine. Def.
SOF ¶ 43; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 43. The video showed
Edralin entering the closet, and Jahangir entering the closet
after him. Def. SOF ¶ 43; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 43.
Edralin testified at his deposition that Jahangir then closed
the door. Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 43; Edralin Dep. at 60:12-13,
ECF No. 32-1, Ex. C. The video showed Edralin and Jahangir
leaving the closet about eight or nine minutes later. Def.
SOF ¶ 43.
Edralin and Jahangir were in the closet, he did not at any
point walk toward the closet door or attempt to leave. Def.
SOF ¶ 44; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 44. Edralin asserts that
this was because he did not want to leave by force and risk
hurting Jahangir. Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 44; Willis Dep. at
60:21-61:4, ECF No. 32-1, Ex. D. The closet contains the back
of sterile processing machines that are used to sterilize
surgical equipment, and the parties dispute whether Edralin
would have a reason to enter the closet related to his job
duties. Def. SOF ¶¶ 45-46; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶
45-46. Edralin asserts that he went into the closet thinking
that Jahangir either needed help reaching something on a
closet shelf, or wanted to discuss a disagreement they had a
few days earlier. Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 42; Edralin Dep. at
48:3-23. It is undisputed that Edralin and Jahangir did get
into a minor, work-related disagreement on May 15, 2013. Def.
Reply to Pl. Statement of Additional Facts ¶ 4, ECF No.
hearing from Edralin and viewing the video, Seals-Brown and
Willis also met again with Jahangir on May 21, 2013. Def. SOF
¶¶ 51-52; Willis Dep. 35:21-36:3, 46:23-49:4.
Jahangir initially denied that she had even come into work on
May 18, and further denied that she had gone into the closet
with Edralin. Def. SOF ¶¶ 51-52. When Seals-Brown
and Willis informed Jahangir that they had badge and video
surveillance information which showed she had, in fact, come
to the Hospital on May 18, Jahangir admitted to doing so and
to going into the closet with Edralin. Id. ¶
53; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 53. The parties agree that Jahangir
also said something to the effect that she intended to let
Edralin “have his way with” her, Def. SOF ¶
53; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 53, and Seals-Brown specifically
testified that Jahangir said, “I just thought if I let
him have his way with me it would be over.” Def. SOF
¶ 53; Seals-Brown Dep. at 67:20-22. After that meeting,
Seals-Brown and Willis sent Jahangir home pending completion
of the investigation. Def. SOF ¶ 54; Pl. Resp. SOF
Hospital terminated both Edralin and Jahangir on May 23,
2013, at separate meetings. Def. SOF ¶ 62, 65; Pl. Resp.
SOF ¶ 62, 65. Seals-Brown and Willis's proffered
reasons for their decision to terminate Edralin were that he
lied during the investigation by denying that he had touched
Jahangir in an inappropriate way, and by first denying, then
later admitting, that he had touched her at all; and that he
violated the Hospital's conduct policy by admitting to
the inappropriate touching of a female co-worker, conducting
personal business during work time, and having inappropriate
interactions with a co-worker at work by going into the
closet with Jahangir for no work-related reason. Def. SOF
¶ 55. Edralin disputes the accuracy of those reasons,
and denies the Hospital's assertion that those are the
reasons he was terminated. Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 55.
Seals-Brown and Willis both stated in their declarations in
this case that at the time they made this decision, they
honestly believed in the truth of those reasons. Def. SOF
¶¶ 56-57; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 56-57. The
proffered reasons behind their decision to terminate Jahangir
were that she lied during the investigation, violated
Hospital policy by coming to work when not permitted and
interfering with another employee's work, and had
inappropriate interactions with a co-worker. Def. SOF ¶
64; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶ 64.
of additional background, the Hospital does maintain an
employee handbook, and Edralin has acknowledged that he
received a copy of that handbook in 2008. Def. SOF
¶¶ 4-5; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 4-5. The
handbook's policy on “Attitude and Conduct”
states that “[b]ehaviors involving harassment,
offensive speech or inappropriate conduct are prohibited,
” and its “Employee Opportunity” policy
states that “[t]his facility also prohibits any form of
workplace harassment, intimidation or retaliation.”
Def. SOF ¶¶ 7-8; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 7-8.
Additional policies in the handbook indicate that dishonesty,
failure to comply with the Hospital's written policies,
and harassment on account of sex all constitute violations of
the Hospital's rules of conduct; that employees
“are prohibited from engaging in unwelcome sexual
advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal, visual
or physical conduct” based on sex; and that violation
of the facility's policies will result in disciplinary
action “up to and including termination.” Def.
SOF ¶¶ 9-11; Pl. Resp. SOF ¶¶ 9-11. The
handbook states that employees who believe they have been
harassed “should immediately ...