Laura L. Rozumalski, Plaintiff-Appellant,
W.F. Baird & Associates, Ltd., Defendant-Appellee.
April 15, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Wisconsin. No. 17-cv-523-jdp - James D. Peterson,
Wood, Chief Judge, and Bauer and St. Eve, Circuit Judges.
Rozumalski was sexually harassed by her direct supervisor,
Mark Riedel. That much is undisputed. Also undisputed is that
when Rozumalski reported the harassment to her employer, W.F.
Baird & Associates, Ltd. ("Baird"), the company
responded by swiftly investigating the incident and firing
Riedel. But that is not the end of the story. This case is
about the aftermath of those events and how they culminated
in Rozumalski's loss of her own job.
claims that Baird dismissed her in retaliation for her role
in Riedel's firing, in retaliation for complaining about
her supervisor's continued friendship with Riedel, or as
a result of sex discrimination. The district court concluded
that no trier of fact could find in her favor. We agree with
that disposition: while it may be possible for workplace
harassment to haunt a victim's ability to succeed long
after the incident, the facts that Rozumalski has presented
do not support a finding of retaliation. She has similarly
failed to create a jury issue on discrimination. We therefore
affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to
started out as a water resources engineer at Baird's
Madison, Wisconsin, office in 2010. Riedel was her
supervisor. For several years she was generally successful in
the position. Then, at an out-of-state work conference in
July 2012, Riedel tried to kiss and put his arm around
Rozumalski in front of clients. He tried more of the same the
next day at the airport. Rozumalski reported the behavior to
Baird, and Baird immediately assigned two members of its
management team to investigate: Lars Barber and Jeffrey
Bellile. Following this inquiry, Baird fired Riedel on August
2, 2012, and then promoted Rozumalski to his former position.
Her new supervisor, Alex Brunton, worked out of the
company's office in Oakville, Ontario (a suburb of
Toronto), and so Barber stepped in as a local manager
responsible for her non-substantive supervision.
thrived in her new position. She received positive
evaluations, and Baird gave her a significantly larger
end-of-year bonus for 2012 than it had expected to award. In
the spring of 2013, Rozumalski was promoted again, this time
to the position of Leader of Rivers and Watersheds, a more
complex job with greater responsibility. She remained under
Brunton's supervision for substantive matters and
Barber's for local issues.
background facts are undisputed. What happened next is not.
Rozumalski insists that she received only positive feedback
about her work as Leader of Rivers and Watersheds. Baird
tells a different story. According to Brunton's
testimony, Rozumalski struggled with her business development
responsibilities and submitted a report that fell grossly
below company standards and required significant reworking.
According to Barber, Rozumalski was consistently tardy, often
arriving at work an hour after most of her colleagues without
expected smooth sailing for her December 2013 evaluation
since, she recalled, Brunton told her in advance to expect
"all good things." That is not what happened. The
written documents identified several areas where Rozumalski
needed improvement, including communication, work quality,
business development, and maintaining regular office hours.
The parties dispute the overall tone of her in-person review.
Rozumalski says the in-person review was far more critical
and dismissive than the written documents reflect. Baird says
the conversation matched the mixed and (what it characterizes
as) the constructive tone of the written documents.
was baffled by what she perceived as a sudden 180-degree
shift in Brunton's assessment of her performance. Her
confusion cleared away a few weeks later, however, when she
learned that when Brunton was in town for her performance
review, he had breakfast with none other than Mark Riedel.
Rozumalski was convinced that her negative evaluation from
Brunton was the result of his breakfast conversation with
Riedel. She promptly brought up this suspicion verbally with
months after the December evaluation, Rozumalski received
another negative performance review. Brunton and Barber wrote
her a letter dated February 18, 2014, in which they charged
that her work continued to suffer in the areas of
communication, deliverables, and work quality. They provided
specific examples to support these concerns.
continued to complain to Barber about Brunton. Eventually
Barber suggested that she put her complaints in writing. She
did so, in a letter to him dated March 20, 2014, where she
explained her suspicion that the relationship between Brunton
and Riedel-and perhaps something said at the December
breakfast-had poisoned Baird's opinion of her and led to
the sea-change in its evaluation of her work. The letter
further stated that given the way Riedel "violated"
and "disrespected" her, Rozumalski was
uncomfortable with any continued connections to Baird. She
responded to the criticisms of her performance by suggesting
that they were inaccurate or the result of personal animus on
Brunton's part. According to Rozumalski, Brunton ...