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Rosario v. Aunt Martha's Youth Service Center

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

October 30, 2017



          John Robert Blakey, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Monsie Rosario sued Defendant Aunt Martha's Youth Service Center d/b/a Aunt Martha's Health Center under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated Title VII by creating a hostile work environment for her, based upon her race or national origin. [1]; [27] at 1 n.l. Defendant moved for summary judgment. [18]. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion is granted.

         I. Background

         The following facts come from Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 statement of material facts [20] and Plaintiffs Local Rule 56.1 statement of additional facts [28]. Throughout Defendant's response to Plaintiffs statement of facts, Defendant denied many facts by simply writing "Denied" or by providing explanations that lacked record citations. See, e.g., [36] ¶¶ 13, 18, 26. Under Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B), a party denying a fact must provide "specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon" for the denial. A denial that lacks supporting citations to the record is inadequate. See Yost v. Chi. Park Dist., 17 F.Supp.3d 803, 806 (N.D. IU. 2014). This Court thus deems admitted any facts that Defendant denied without support.

         Defendant runs a nonprofit community health center where Plaintiff works as a family case manager (FCM). [20] ¶¶ 2, 5. Plaintiff has worked for Defendant as an FCM since about November 2010. Id. ¶¶ 4, 6. As an FCM, Plaintiff works with clients and makes home visits to ensure that infants have current immunizations. Id. ¶ 9. Hope Keeper-Young, Plaintiffs FCM supervisor since 2011, has always rated Plaintiff as meeting or exceeding expectations in her performance reviews. [28] ¶¶ 7-8, 35.

         Plaintiff is a native Spanish speaker; she was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the continental United States in 1989 at age 18. Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff learned English starting in first grade, and used mainly English-language textbooks from first grade through high school. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff has worked primarily in the medical field since moving to the continental United States. Id. ¶ 5. In Plaintiffs professional life-with the exception of the conduct described below-people have not told her that they have trouble understanding her accent. Id. ¶ 4.

         A. July 2015 Incident

         On July 30, 2015, Plaintiff attended training on patient-tracking forms with Keeper-Young; Jazmine Mack, another FCM supervisor; Cassandra Jenkins, Plaintiffs division manager; and several of Plaintiffs fellow FCMs. [20] ¶ 10. During the training, Plaintiff asked a question, and Mack said she could not understand Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 11. Mack then described a phone call she had with Plaintiff two weeks earlier: "Oh my God, during that phone call I had with you I could not understand anything you were saying and I was like, 'I can't hear you, I can't hear you' and I just laughed and hung up the phone." [28] ¶ 10. Plaintiff understood that Mack was implying that she feigned being unable to hear Plaintiff during the call because she could not understand Plaintiffs accent, but Plaintiff denies that Mack said anything along those lines during their call. Id. ¶ 11.

         In response, Plaintiff said, "But you answered my question." Id. ¶ 12. Mack turned to Keeper-Young and said, "I'm sorry you deal with this all the time because I can't understand her at all." Id. Keeper-Young started to respond with, "Yes, I deal with this every day and . . ., " when she was cut off by laughter. Id. ¶ 13. Mack said, "It's hard to understand her. Her accent is very deep. I have a Hispanic who works in my office and they speak perfect English." Id. Keeper-Young and Mack commented on Plaintiffs accent and laughed together for about 10 minutes, even after Plaintiff asked if they could move forward with the training. Id. ¶¶ 14-16. Plaintiff noticed that Jenkins laughed too; she testified that the entire interaction "deeply embarrassed" her. Id. ¶ 14. Before this training session, Keeper-Young never told Plaintiff that she had any trouble understanding her, and never noted any communication problems in Plaintiffs performance reviews. Id. ¶¶ 34, 35.

         When the meeting broke for lunch, Plaintiff started sobbing and went to her office to calm down. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff told a coworker she was going home because the incident was "unacceptable, " and the coworker told Keeper-Young that Plaintiff was leaving. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. When Keeper-Young approached Plaintiff to ask why she was leaving, Plaintiff said, "You know what happened and you know the reason I am leaving." Id. ¶ 20.

         From her car, Plaintiff called Defendant's HR department in tears and spoke to Renee Wheeler. Id. ¶ 21; [20] ¶ 23. Wheeler told Plaintiff to go home and said she would email Plaintiff a complaint form. [20] ¶ 24. Plaintiff did not go to work the next day, a Friday, but she returned to work the following Monday. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Plaintiff submitted the complaint form to HR between August 5 and August 10, 2015. [28] ¶ 22. Wheeler then contacted Plaintiff to arrange a conference call with the head of Defendant's Health Division, but Wheeler failed to call Plaintiff at the scheduled time for both appointments they made. Id. ¶¶ 22-24. In October 2015, Wheeler tried to schedule a third conference call, but Plaintiff told Wheeler that she had missed the meeting too many times and should contact Plaintiffs lawyer instead. [20] ¶ 33.

         B. Other Incidents

         After the July 2015 incident, Plaintiff estimates that Keeper-Young made at least seven disparaging comments about her accent through December 2015. [28] ¶ 25. On one occasion, Keeper-Young taught a class for patients and Plaintiff translated the class into Spanish. Id. Keeper-Young asked a student if Plaintiff spoke correctly, saying, "She has a very deep accent, so I don't know if everybody understands her." Id. During a December 2015 group meeting, Keeper-Young put her hand to her ear whenever Plaintiff spoke, and said "What?" repeatedly as if she did not understand. Id. ¶ 26. When Keeper-Young asked someone to translate for Plaintiff, Plaintiffs coworker responded, "Please, Hope. She spoke clearly." Id.

         In 2016, Keeper-Young continued making disparaging comments about Plaintiffs accent. Plaintiff testified about four specific incidents, and estimated that Keeper-Young harassed her about her accent seven times total throughout the year. Id. ¶¶ 27-31. In January 2016, while speaking to a client in front of Plaintiff, Keeper-Young said, "She has a very thick accent, so just in case you don't understand, just talk to me." Id. ¶ 27. In October 2016, Plaintiff and another FCM were in Keeper-Young's office discussing patients when Keeper-Young told Plaintiff to "move away" because she did not understand Plaintiff. Id. ΒΆ 30. Keeper-Young also asked the other FCM to translate for Plaintiff, ...

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