274 F.3d 470 (7th Cir. 2001), 01-1486, Anderson v. United StatesF. Logistics (IMC) Inc.

Docket Nº:01-1486
Citation:274 F.3d 470
Party Name:ELIZABETH ANDERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, v. U.S.F. LOGISTICS (IMC), INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.
Case Date:December 14, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 470

274 F.3d 470 (7th Cir. 2001)

ELIZABETH ANDERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

U.S.F. LOGISTICS (IMC), INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.

No. 01-1486

IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF Appeals, FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

December 14, 2001

Argued September 11, 2001

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. IP 00-1364 C T/G--John D. Tinder, Judge.

Page 471

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 472

Kevin W. Betz (argued), Sutherlin & Betz, Indianapolis, IN, for Appellant.

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Nina G. Stillman (argued), Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz, Chicago, IL, Donald S. Smith, Riley, Bennet & Egloff, Indianapolis, IN, for Appellee.

Before Cudahy, Easterbrook and Williams, Circuit Judges.

Cudahy, Circuit Judge.

In this appeal from a denial of a preliminary injunction, Elizabeth Anderson argues that the district court erred in concluding that she was not likely to succeed on her claim that her employer, U.S.F. Logistics ("U.S.F."), engaged in religious discrimination. We affirm.

I.

Elizabeth Anderson is a believer in and follower of the Christian Methodist Episcopal faith. As an expression of her faith, Anderson tells people to "Have a Blessed Day," especially in signing off on written correspondence or as a way to end telephone conversations. However, she does not use the "Blessed Day" phrase all of the time. For example, sometimes she does not use the phrase when she is busy.

U.S.F. is a company that does shipping for other companies. Anderson has worked for U.S.F. since December 1995. In March 1999, Anderson was promoted to office coordinator. As an office coordinator, Anderson was responsible for being the liaison between U.S.F. and its customers and vendors. Microsoft is U.S.F.'s largest customer. After becoming an office coordinator, Anderson had regular contact with Microsoft employees.

Throughout her tenure with U.S.F., Anderson often used the phrase, "Have a Blessed Day," with her co-employees and with U.S.F.'s customers. Anderson continued to use the "Blessed Day" phrase after she became an office coordinator. Neither Anderson nor U.S.F. received any complaints about her use of "Blessed Day" until June 9, 1999. On that date, Mark LaRussa, a Microsoft liaison with U.S.F., complained to Anderson that her use of the phrase was "unacceptable" and must stop. In response to LaRussa's complaint, U.S.F. instructed Anderson to remove the closing "Have a Blessed Day" from documents sent to Microsoft. The following Monday, however, Anderson sent an e-mail to Microsoft containing the "Blessed Day" phrase.

After receiving the e-mail, LaRussa called Jeffery Starnes, Anderson's immediate supervisor to complain. Thereafter, Starnes instructed Anderson to refrain from using the "Blessed Day" phrase in her daily business interactions with Microsoft. In response, Anderson notified Starnes that the "Blessed Day" phrase was part of her religious practice. She told him that if he would identify the person or persons that the phrase offended, she would not use the phrase with them. Starnes did not respond to Anderson's proposed accommodation.

On June 21, 1999, the Monday after her discussion with Starnes, Anderson again sent an e-mail to Microsoft containing the "Blessed Day" phrase. Shortly thereafter, Chuck Tolley, another of Anderson's supervisor, asked her why she continued to use the phrase in communications with Microsoft. In response, Anderson scheduled a meeting with Tolley and Starnes.

At the meeting, Anderson notified Tolley that she had personally contacted several people at Microsoft who did not object to her use of the phrase. She reiterated that it was her religious expression, and once again stated that, if U.S.F. would identify those who were offended, she would not use the phrase with them. Tolley did not identify any particular person or persons.

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The following day, Tolley gave Anderson a written reprimand for her use of the "Blessed Day" phrase with Microsoft. The reprimand also notified Anderson that continued use of the phrase could result in termination. U.S.F. also issued a company policy statement to all of its Indianapolis employees that they should refrain from using "additional religious, personal or political statements" in their closing remarks in verbal or written communications with any customer or with fellow employees. Despite the language in the policy statement, U.S.F. permitted Anderson to continue to use the "Blessed Day" phrase with her co-workers.

Next, Anderson went public with the dispute. On October 10, 1999, a local Indianapolis newspaper published an article about the controversy. In the article, a spokesperson from Microsoft was quoted as saying that Microsoft did not have a problem with Anderson's use of the "Blessed Day" phrase. Based on her reading of the article, Anderson decided that she could resume using the "Blessed Day" phrase. The next day, Anderson sent a new piece of business correspondence to Microsoft containing the...

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