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Odisho v. U.S. Bancorp, Inc.

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

July 24, 2019

Juliet Odisho Plaintiff,
U.S. Bancorp, Inc., Defendant.


          Elaine E. Bucklo, United States District Judge.

         Juliet Odisho alleges that U.S. Bankcorp, Inc., (“US Bank”) subjected her to both discrimination and harassment because of her race, national origin, religion, and age.[1] U.S. Bank denies these allegations and has moved for summary judgment. U.S. Bank's motion is denied in part and granted in part for the reasons stated below.


         The following facts are presented in the light most favorable to Odisho, the non-moving party, as permitted by the record and Local Rule 56.1.[2] See Hanners v. Trent, 674 F.3d 683, 691 (7th Cir. 2012). These facts are undisputed except where noted.

         Odisho is female and is presently age 54. Def.'s Statement of Material Facts (“DSOF”) at ¶ 1. She was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and moved to the United States in 1980 to flee persecution she suffered as a Christian. Id.; Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts (“PSOF”) at ¶ 13. She considers her race to be Iraqi, which is Asian. DSOF at ¶ 51. U.S. Bank records list her race as white. Id. at ¶ 52. From 1994 until 2011, Odisho worked as an analyst at Bank of America where she performed cash management work. DSOF at ¶ 10; Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 3. She has previously worked under “mean” bosses who yelled at employees, but that behavior caused her no issues. PSOF at ¶ 12. In 2011, U.S. Bank acquired the group Odisho worked in, which then became responsible for handling structured finance deals. DSOF at ¶ 10. Odisho's official title at U.S. Bank was Structured Finance Analyst on the Chicago Global Finance Operations team. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 9. As part of their transition to structured finance work, Odisho and other analysts in her group were required to become proficient in certain software U.S. Bank used for structured finance deals. Id. at ¶ 11.

         Odisho's supervisor at Bank of America, Raymond Tenorio, continued to supervise her and the structured finance team following U.S. Bank's acquisition. Tenorio Aff. at ¶¶ 3-4, 6. Tenorio testified that during the time he supervised Odisho her performance met or exceeded expectations and was as good as or better than that of her colleagues, her 2011-2014 performance reviews were good, and he never felt she merited discipline. PSOF at ¶ 6. Tenorio never observed or received reports of Odisho having issues communicating with others. Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 39.

         According to Tenorio, the transition period following U.S. Bank's acquisition was difficult for the entire structured finance team due to a lack of training and “push-back” from U.S. Bank administrators whose deals were transferred to the team. PSOF at ¶ 2. But, Tenorio and Odisho both testified that the administrator's complaints were not frequent, and that Ms. Odisho was not the subject of more complaints than her peers. Id. at ¶ 3. As part of his new management responsibilities, Tenorio created daily reports explaining the circumstances of each overdraft and error attributable to each analyst on the structured finance team. Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 23. Under Tenorio's supervision, Odisho consistently had fewer overdrafts and errors than her coworkers. PSOF at ¶ 7. In early 2014, Odisho received her 2013 performance review from Tenorio. DSOF at ¶ 13. She received an overall rating of “highly effective” but only a rating of “solid performance” in “technical know-how” and “financial.” Id. Tenorio recommended that Odisho take additional software proficiency classes. Id. at ¶ 14.

         In August 2013, Keith Maurmeier, a Vice President at U.S. Bank, hired David Medina as the site manager for U.S. Bank's Chicago Global Finance Operations team. Id. at ¶ 12. Tenorio then began reporting directly to Medina. Id. at ¶¶ 12, 16. Soon after his hire, Medina asked Tenorio if he would have a problem working under Medina because Medina is younger than him. Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 15. Tenorio responded he would not. Id.

         Tenorio testified that, between 2013 and January 2015, Medina made derogatory comments and questions to him about Odisho's religion, nationality, and race.[3] Id. at ¶ 35. For example, Odisho periodically attended church with Tenorio during lunch hours. DSOF at ¶ 57. Tenorio reported, in late 2013, Medina told him, “I don't know why Juliet goes with you to church. She's from the Middle East and she's Muslim.” Tenorio responded, “Not everyone from the Middle East is Muslim, she's Christian, ” and asked Medina “Do you realize they're persecuting Christians there?” Medina responded, “She's Christian?”. PSOF at ¶ 30; Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 34. U.S. Bank disputes Tenorio's characterization of the conversation, claiming that Medina expressed a concern to Tenorio that going to church with subordinates could give a perception of favoritism, but did not instruct Tenorio against attending church with Odisho. PSOF at ¶ 58-59. Odisho also testified she always kept a cross displayed on her desk, and she once gave Medina a rosary she brought back from vacation. Id. at ¶¶ 55-56.

         According to Tenorio, in Spring 2014, Medina began targeting Odisho with derogatory comments and questions, micro-management, and misplaced criticism of her work performance and mistakes, and also treated Odisho more harshly than her coworkers. Tenorio Aff. at ¶¶ 28-29. For example, Medina took accounts away from Odisho and would not give her new or complicated deals. Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 45. Also, in early 2014, Medina told Odisho that she needed to improve her understanding of the structured finance software used by her group. DSOF at ¶ 15.

         Odisho likewise testified that Medina singled her out by making comments to her and her coworkers about her religion and Middle Eastern background. DSOF at ¶ 65. For example, before a team lunch, Medina suggested ordering from a Middle Eastern restaurant, commenting that Odisho would “know how that would be, ” which alerted her coworkers to the fact she is from the Middle East. PSOF at ¶ 31; Odisho's Dep. 314:1-13. Medina also made comments to Odisho about English being Odisho's second language on at least five occasions. DSOF at ¶¶ 61-62. Medina testified that he spoke with Odisho abut English being her second language because he wanted to assist in resolving “a communication concern.” Id. at ¶ 64. He further testified he was empathetic to Odisho and he mentioned his background-that he speaks Spanish and his parents were immigrants from Mexico-to see if she empathized with it as well. Id.

         Jacqueline Porter, a trust officer who worked with Odisho at U.S. Bank, testified that, on at least two occasions, Medina asked her if Odisho had trouble understanding because English was her second language. PSOF at ¶¶ 8, 34. Porter never had any problems understanding Odisho and was not aware that anyone besides Medina had such issues. Id.

         In April 2014, Odisho met with Medina to request vacation and Medina asked if she was Christian or Muslim. DSOF at ¶ 53. Medina also asked if she was from Lebanon; she replied that she was from Baghdad. Id. at ¶ 53.

         US Bank contends that Odisho began to suffer performance issues by the middle of 2014: she had caused some fourteen preventable overdrafts, totaling $11 million, and one unpreventable overdraft. DSOF at ¶ 17. Tenorio explained that 10 of the preventable overdrafts were part of one transaction while Odisho was covering another analyst's accounts. Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 21. Tenorio also contends that the total amount of the overdrafts attributable to Odisho is “not relevant, ” and, rather, the issue for the bank is whether more than $50 in interest was lost due to the timing of fund transfers.[4] PSOF at ¶ 17; Tenorio Aff. at ¶¶ 20-22.

         In late 2014, Medina began attending and leading Tenorio's one-on-one meetings with Odisho. PSOF at ¶ 33. At several of these meetings, they discussed a confrontation between Plaintiff and an account administrator, Maryann Turbak. Id. Medina asked Odisho if this issue was caused by her “English as a second language” and commented “I feel you don't understand at times.” Id. Odisho responded that English is her primary language, and Assyrian and Iraqi are her second and third languages, respectively. Id. Following these meetings, Medina would often ask Tenorio if he thought Odisho understood English. Id. Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 60.

         By the end of 2014, Odisho had committed twenty preventable overdrafts totaling over $13 million and sixteen unpreventable overdrafts totaling $3, 500. DSOF at ¶ 19. But Tenorio's comments in Odisho's draft 2014 year-end performance review indicate that ten of the unpreventable overdrafts were due to one transaction earlier in the year and the sixteen unpreventable overdrafts were due the actions of U.S. Bank administrators rather than Odisho. PSOF at ¶ 19; Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 48.

         On January 30, 2015, Odisho met with Tenorio to discuss her 2014 performance review. DSOF at ¶ 20. Odisho received an overall rating of “solid performance” but received a “needs improvement” rating in the categories of “technical know-how” and “engage & develop.” DSOF at ¶ 21. Tenorio testified that, after he prepared a draft 2014 performance review for Odisho, Medina instructed him to lower some of Odisho's ratings from “meets expectations” to “needs improvement” and to comment about her understanding of English, a communication-related incident with a Bank administrator, and his criticism that Odisho frequently asks questions. PSOF at ¶ 20; Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 47. At this meeting, Tenorio told Odisho that he didn't agree with the ratings, Medina had forced him to change the ratings, and that he believed Medina did so because Medina believes Odisho is Muslim not Christian. PSOF at ¶ 21.[5] Tenorio also stated on Odisho's 2014 performance review that she needed a better understanding of structured finance software and investment processing and needed to improve her skills with that software. DSOF at ¶ 22. He wrote this because upper management at U.S. Bank told him that every performance review must contain at least 2 goals for improvement. PSOF at ¶ 20; Tenorio Aff. at ¶ 45.

         Tenorio disagreed with Medina's management style and requested to step down from his management position-he ended his supervisory duties in March 2015. PSOF at ¶ 8. Odisho reported directly to Medina from March 2015 until June 2015 when Brian Kozack was hired to replace Tenorio. DSOF at ¶¶ 23, 24. In an August 2015 meeting with Kozack and Porter, Medina told Odisho that administrators did not understand her and attributed that issue to English being Odisho's second language. DSOF ¶ 63; Odisho Dep. 193:23-195:4. Also, Odisho was the only employee in her department who was not provided with an upgraded computer in 2015, her computer was slower than her coworkers' computers, and it would often freeze up. DSOF at ¶ 70: PSOF at ¶ 27. Kozack and Medina testified they were not involved with issuing computers. DSOF at ¶ 70.

         Like Tenorio before him, Kozak had regular one-on-one meetings with his direct reports, including Odisho. Id. at ¶ 25. At one of these meetings, Odisho told Kozack that she was looking for other opportunities, but Kozack testified that he would not recommend her for an internal position because her performance was substandard. Id. at ¶ 30. During such meetings in September and October 2015, Kozak addressed issues with Odisho's performance, including excessive errors and overdrafts in structured finance deals.[6]Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. During a December 2015 meeting, Kozack told Odisho that her performance did not meet U.S. Bank standards. Id. at ¶ 29. Odisho admitted that account administrators frequently complained about her errors and mistakes. Id. at ¶ 31. Also, in December 2015, Kozack told Plaintiff that he and Medina “feel like you don't understand the ...

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