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Wiley v. Elisabeth Ludeman Center

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

July 12, 2017

KATHY D. WILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ELISABETH LUDEMAN CENTER & DHS Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN J. THARP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Kathy Wiley sued her former employer, the Elisabeth Ludeman Center and the Illinois Department of Human Services (which runs the Ludeman Center), for sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII. The Department moved for summary judgment as to all claims. Wiley voluntarily waived her claims for sexual harassment, [1] so all that remains are her retaliation claims. As discussed below, Wiley has failed to demonstrate an adverse employment action, so the motion for summary judgment is granted.

         BACKGROUND [2]

         At all times relevant to this action, Kathy Wiley was an employee of the Illinois Department of Human Services (“the Department”). See Def.'s Statement of Facts (“DSOF) ¶ 2, ECF No. 37. Wiley was a Mental Health Technician at the Department's Elisabeth Ludeman Center, which is “a live-in facility that provides services for people with mental and physical disabilities.” Id. at ¶ 3. Technicians are typically assigned to a specific house and shift, although they are reassigned to different houses with some frequency (Wiley, for instance, was moved at least eleven times between 2002 and 2008). Id. at ¶ 4. Technicians are “responsible for the well-being of the individuals” in their house, typically working in teams of two to three technicians for each ten or eleven patients. Id. at ¶ 5-6. Technicians can also be assigned to the Health Center on any given day as a part of their ordinary job duties. Id. at ¶ 7. The Health Center is where house residents go when they are ill, and a technician's job remains the same when their patient is in the Health Center. Id. at ¶ 8. A technician typically begins each workday by confirming whether they will be going to their assigned house or “pulled” to a different house or the Health Center depending on the organization's needs that day. Id. at ¶ 9. A technician is sometimes assigned to the Health Center because one of her house's patients has been temporarily moved to the Health Center. Id. at ¶ 16. Supervisors typically try to assign Health Center patients to technicians who are already familiar with them. Pl.'s Statement of Additional Facts (“PSOF”) ¶ 11, ECF No. 52.

         Wiley's claims arise from an incident that occurred in her assigned house on February 3, 2013, when she alleges a fellow technician sexually harassed her. DSOF ¶ 12-13. This technician, Alex Caulker, was assigned to the same house as Wiley. Id. at ¶ 12. Wiley first attempted to report the harassment to a supervisor on February 8, 2013, but she was “never able to get it out” explicitly. Id. at ¶ 20-22. The next day she was at work, February 11, 2013, she went to Cynthia Dear, a Unit Director at the Ludeman Center, and reported the harassment. Id. at ¶ 24-27. Dear asked Wiley what she would like her to do, and Wiley responded she did not want to work with Caulker any longer. Id. at ¶ 27. Dear agreed, and told Wiley she would be reassigned and would not have to work in that house or work with Caulker. Id. at ¶ 28. Dear instructed Caulker not to speak with Wiley, and began the process of moving Caulker to a different shift so that he would not work during Wiley's shifts. Id. at ¶ 31-35. Wiley and Caulker never worked together again and did not have any further contact. Id. at ¶ 36. The Ludeman Center conducted two separate investigations of the incident, while the Illinois State Police conducted another. See Id. at ¶ 55, 65-76.

         Wiley was immediately assigned to the Health Center for two weeks. DSOF ¶ 37. Dear told Wiley it would take a week or so to get Wiley assigned to a new house. Id. at ¶ 38. During that time, Wiley was assigned to work at the Health Center with a patient from her previously assigned house. Id. at ¶ 40. On February 18, 2013, a week after she reported the harassment, Wiley received an assignment to work at a new house starting in two weeks (March 3, 2013). Id. at ¶ 39. At no time did Wiley's title, pay, or hours change. Id. at ¶ 42. However, Wiley stopped working at the Ludeman Center on February 22, [3] before her reassignment to her new house could take effect. Id. at ¶ 49. On March 28, 2013, she filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sex discrimination and retaliation. Id. at ¶ 77-78. Wiley filed this lawsuit on November 12, 2014 after her right to sue letter was issued on September 12, 2014. See EEOC Letter, ECF No. 37, Ex. 1 at 16.

         Wiley found the Health Center to be “unfavorable” because she was unable to do enjoyable activities with her patients, such as off site trips and time in the gym. Id. at ¶ 47-48. She was unable to do these activities because she was assigned to assist only the particular ill patient in the Health Center during those days. She does not allege that other Health Center employees caring for similarly ill patients were allowed to participate in such activities.[4]

         Wiley further alleges that some of her coworkers mistreated her. DSOF ¶ 50. One technician stopped speaking to her, while another told Wiley it was her fault the colleague had been “moved around, ” and a third said she didn't “know who to believe” or didn't believe Wiley. Id. at ¶ 50-53. Wiley further alleges that other technicians pointed their fingers, laughed, and whispered around her, although Wiley did not know their names. Id. at ¶ 54.

         DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment may be granted to the Department only “if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law” when all facts are construed in favor of the non-movant. Lapka v. Chertoff, 517 F.3d 974, 981 (7th Cir. 2008). Title VII prohibits retaliation against any person because she “has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this title, or because [she] has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this title.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3. The parties agree informing her supervisor about the sexual harassment was a charge under Title VII.

         A retaliation claim under Title VII can be proved directly or indirectly. For a direct showing, Wiley must demonstrate “(1) [she] engaged in statutorily protected expression; (2) [she] suffered an adverse action at the hands of [the defendant]; and (3) there was a causal link between the two.” Jajeh v. County of Cook, 678 F.3d 560, 569 (7th Cir. 2012). “Under the indirect method, the first two elements remain the same, but instead of proving a direct causal link, the plaintiff must show that [she] was performing [her] job satisfactorily and that [she] was treated less favorably than a similarly situated employee who did not complain of discrimination.” Stephens v. Erickson, 569 F.3d 779, 786-87 (7th Cir. 2009). Both methods require an adverse employment action, and the Department contends Wiley has not suffered such an action as a result of either her reassignment to the Health Center or as a result of her coworkers' comments.

         Title VII “does not set forth a general civility code for the American workplace” and “does not protect an employee from trivial harms, petty slights, nor minor annoyances.” Id. at 790. An action taken by an employer only qualified as an “adverse action” if it would have “dissuaded a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.” Id. Actions are considered objectively, although the context and circumstances of the particular facts inform that determination. See id. With this standard in mind, the Court addresses each of Wiley's alleged adverse actions.

         A. Wiley's Reassignment to the Health Center

         Wiley's first alleged adverse employment action was being assigned to the Health Center “for at least two weeks straight” and, as a result, not being able to engage in movie nights and off-site trips with other patients. See Pl.'s Mem. at 3-4, ECF No. 50. Wiley “enjoyed” these activities with other patients and objects to the “duration” of her “isolated” time in the Health Center. Id. at 4. Wiley does not allege that her presence at the ...


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