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Sanchez v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago

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

November 15, 2017

LYNN SANCHEZ, an Individual, Plaintiff,
v.
CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CHICAGO, and ARCHDIOCESE OF CHICAGO, Defendants.

          CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CHICAGO and ARCHDIOCESE OF CHICAGO, Elizabeth M. Pall One of Their Attorneys

          Hon. Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, Judge

          DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

          Michael T. Mason, Magistrate Judge

         Defendants, the Catholic Bishop of Chicago and the Archdiocese of Chicago ("Defendants"), by and through their attorneys, hereby move, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) for judgment as a matter of law. In support of their motion, Defendants state as follows.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a), a trial judge "must direct a verdict if, under the governing law, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the verdict." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). Importantly, a trial judge is not "required to submit a question to a jury merely because some evidence has been introduced by the party having the burden of proof, unless the evidence be of such a character that it would warrant the jury in finding a verdict in favor of that party." Id. at 251, citing Schuylkill & Dauphin Imp. Co. v. Munson, 81 U.S. 442, 448 (1871). Thus, the question is "not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed." Id. (emphasis in original).

         ARGUMENT

         In order to succeed on her retaliation claim, Plaintiff must prove that she (1) engaged in a statutorily protected activity; (2) suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) that a causal connect exists between the two. Tomanovich v. City of Indianapolis, 457 F.3d 656, 663 (7th Cir. 2006).[1] For the causation factor, Plaintiff is required to demonstrate that "the desire to retaliate was the but-for cause of the challenged employment action." University of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 133 S.Ct. 2517, 2528 (2013). "This requires proof that the unlawful retaliation would not have occurred in the absence of the alleged wrongful action or actions of the employer." Id. at 2533.

         Plaintiff failed to provide any evidence that she engaged in statutorily engaged activity or that there was a causal connection between any alleged protected activity and her separation from employment.

         I. PLAINTIFF DID NOT ENGAGE IN PROTECTED ACTIVITY

         Earlier this year, this Court held that "a plaintiff claiming retaliation must not only have a subjective (sincere, good faith) belief that she opposed an unlawful practice; her belief must also be objectively reasonable, which means that the complaint must involve discrimination that is prohibited by Title VII." Isbell v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., --F.Supp.3d --, No. 15 C 7333, 2017 WL 1196890, * 11 (N.D. Ill. March 31, 2017) (Pallmeyer, J.). In order to be prohibited by Title VII, the underlying discrimination or harassment must: (1) have occurred because of Plaintiff's protected status; and (2) have been directed toward the Plaintiff. Id. at *11-12.

         A. Plaintiff Failed to Allege That the IT Vendor Was Viewing Pornography in the Parish Office Because of Her Sex

         "Although filing an official complaint with an employer may constitute statutorily protected activity under Title VII, the complaint must indicate the discrimination occurred because of sex, race, national origin, or some other protected class." Tomanovich, 457 F.3d at 663; see also Tank v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 758 F.3d 800, 809 (7th Cir. 2014) (complaining about the actions of a co-worker "is not statutorily protected expression when the complained of conduct does not relate to [a protected status]"); Orton-Bell v. Indiana, 759 F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir. 2014) ("merely complaining in general terms of discrimination or harassment, without indicating a connection to a protected class or providing facts sufficient to create that inference, is insufficient.")

         In Orton-Bell, the plaintiff alleged that she was retaliated against after making a complaint that night shift workers were having sex on her desk after hours. 759 F.3d at 769. The Court found that plaintiff had not engaged in protected activity because "Orton-Bell's complaint…that the night-shift staff was using her desk for sex [was] undoubtedly a valid complaint, [b]ut Orton-Bell has not provided any ...


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