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Berman v. YRC Freight

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

September 16, 2019

YRC FREIGHT, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Jonathan Berman brings this suit against YRC Freight, alleging sexual harassment, disability discrimination, and retaliation in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), and battery under Illinois common law. Currently before the Court is YRC Freight's motion for summary judgment [49] pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons explained below, YRC Freight's motion is granted


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. YRC Freight is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Kansas. Berman is an Illinois resident who began working as a janitor in YRC Freight's Chicago Heights, Illinois terminal in 2013.

         Disciplinary Conduct

         Berman was written up on July 18, 2014 based on a confrontation with a co-worker. Berman received a written warning for yelling profanities at a coworker as well as insubordination on September 15, 2014. He received another written warning on March 25, 2015, for violating a safety rule. Jennifer Wilson, YRC Freight's Shift Operations Manager, issued a written warning to Berman on July 16, 2015, for operating a jeep on the property without wearing a seatbelt in violation of YRC Freight's safety policy. Berman was written up on August 17, 2015 for being absent from work without any remaining sick days. Wilson also issued a write up to Berman on August 25, 2015 for taking an unscheduled break.

         Berman's Allegations

         During his employment with YRC Freight, Berman reported to Larry Postma. When Berman asked Postma for some equipment on one occasion in May 2015, Postma wrapped his hands around Berman's shoulder and stated: “Don't worry. We'll take care of you and make sure you don't get into any trouble.” Berman alleges that this exchange occurred in front of co-workers. He testified that he was offended by this incident (“May 2015 Incident”).

         Berman testified that while he was exiting a bathroom stall on July 23, 2015, Postma was standing outside the stall, looking at him with his arms folded. Berman testified that he said “hi” to Postma, immediately washed his hands, and left the bathroom. That same day, Berman reported this incident to YRC Freight's “EthicsPoint” hotline as well as Margie Leahy, the Human Resources Manager. The next day, Leahy met with Berman concerning this incident (“Bathroom Incident”). Berman also informed Leahy of another incident involving Postma in the lunchroom (“Lunchroom Incident”). Berman stated that while he was sitting in the lunchroom, Postma walked up behind him, began massaging Berman's shoulders, and asked “how are you doing?” Berman testified that he felt Postma's penis on his back during what he described as a “two-second exchange.” Leahy informed Berman that she would investigate the allegations.

         Leahy's investigation revealed that: Postma was responsible for checking the restrooms for graffiti; Postma had never been accused of similar sexual conduct in his 36 years with YRC Freight; and Berman could not identify any witnesses to the Lunchroom Incident or the May 2015 Incident. After Leahy informed Berman of his findings, he told her that he was feeling paranoid and having trouble in his personal life.

         Medical Treatment

         Berman began seeing nurse practitioner, Kathryn Cavitt (“Nurse Cavitt”), at Benchmark Psychiatric Services in March 2015. Over the course of her treatment, Nurse Cavitt diagnosed Berman with bipolar disorder and unspecified psychosis. Berman checked into Chicago Behavioral Hospital on August 10, 2015, where he reported that he had been drinking heavily the past two weeks and felt paranoid about people at work seeking to fire him. After being discharged from Chicago Behavioral Hospital, Berman checked himself into an emergency room at a local hospital and remained hospitalized until August 13, 2015. Berman did not report to work from August 10, 2015 through August 14, 2015.

         After Berman filled out a claim for disability on August 26, 2015, Nurse Kathryn Cavitt completed the medical portion of his Proof of Claim and indicated that Berman was unable to perform any work from August 26, through September 23, 2015. Berman did not return to work on September 23, 2015.

         Nurse Cavitt wrote a letter to YRC Freight on February 22, 2016, stating that Berman would not be able to perform any work with or without an accommodation. Nurse Cavitt further stated that Berman would not be able to return to work in the “foreseeable future” due to continued mental health difficulties and struggles to adjust medications. As Berman had been out since August 26, 2015, YRC Freight considered this letter as a letter of voluntary resignation from Berman. While ...

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