92 F.3d 473 (7th Cir. 1996), 95-2365, McKenzie v. Illinois Dept. of Transp.

Docket Nº:95-2365.
Citation:92 F.3d 473
Party Name:Susan McKENZIE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:August 05, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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92 F.3d 473 (7th Cir. 1996)

Susan McKENZIE, Plaintiff-Appellant,



No. 95-2365.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 5, 1996

        Argued Feb. 23, 1996.

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        Patricia L. Hayes (argued), Hayes Law Office, Springfield, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

        Susan Frederick Rhodes, Rita M. Novak, Office of the Attorney General, Chicago, IL, Karen J. Dimond (argued), Office of the Attorney General, Civil Appeals Division, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellee.

        Before RIPPLE, MANION and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

        RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.

        Susan McKenzie works for the Illinois Department of Transportation ("IDOT") in a supplies warehouse. She brought this claim under Title VII alleging that she was subjected to sexual harassment and to a hostile working environment. She also alleges that she was subjected to retaliation for filing complaints with the EEOC and with the Illinois Human Rights Commission. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants and dismissed Ms. McKenzie's supplemental state law claim. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.



  1. Facts

            Ms. McKenzie works for IDOT in a supplies warehouse in Springfield, Illinois. She is responsible for managing the supplies used in repairing IDOT equipment. In 1990, Ms. McKenzie periodically was required to leave work for physical therapy sessions. During her absences, Donald "Buck" Croft, an IDOT mechanic, was assigned to fill in temporarily for Ms. McKenzie. Ms. McKenzie was given the task of training Croft on the computerized inventory system used to manage the supplies. She characterized her previous working relationship with Croft as "friendly," although they did not speak very often. R. 23, Ex. B, Deposition of Susan McKenzie, at 45.

            Ms. McKenzie worked alone in the office of the supplies warehouse. She was supervised by James Ketchum, but was trusted to work independently without daily monitoring. During the summer of 1990, the garbage in the warehouse was allowed to accumulate for

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    a long period of time. The smell of the garbage, aggravated by the summer's heat, made Ms. McKenzie ill on July 25, 1990, and she vomited. Ms. McKenzie claims that Croft, who was training with her that afternoon, remarked that James Ketchum had "screwed around with [her] so much that [she was] probably pregnant." R. 1, Complaint, at para. 13. Croft allegedly repeated this comment to two other co-workers in James Ketchum's presence. Although Ms. McKenzie was not present at the time the remark was repeated, Croft later told her that he had done so. Ms. McKenzie did not report the July incident to Ketchum because she assumed Ketchum was already aware of the matter and that he would take some action against Croft.

            Ketchum did nothing as a result of the remark, and no other incidents of untoward conduct occurred until early October 1990. At that time, Croft called Ms. McKenzie at her office. He said that he had heard that drinking coffee induces sexual arousal and, because he was coming over to her office, wanted to know if she was drinking coffee. When he arrived, the two of them were alone in Ms. McKenzie's office for a few minutes; according to her deposition, Ms. McKenzie was "petrified" to be with him. R. 23, Ex. B, at 74.

            In mid-October, Ms. McKenzie learned, through a coworker, of another sexual comment made by Croft about her. According to the co-worker, a group of employees, including Jim Ketchum, were in the break room, placing bets in a baseball pool. Ketchum remarked that he would go get a dollar from Ms. McKenzie so that she could participate in the wager, and Croft remarked that Ketchum should instead "take it out in trade." R. 23, Ex. B, at 64.

            On October 19, 1990, Ms. McKenzie complained to Ketchum about the coffee comment and about the baseball pool incident. According to Ms. McKenzie's deposition, Ketchum asked her three times how she learned of the baseball pool incident; Ms. McKenzie did not tell him who repeated the comment to her. She also claims that Ketchum told her to ignore Croft because he was simply a barroom bully. In response to her complaint, Ketchum sent Croft to see Ms. McKenzie in the hope that the two of them could work out their differences. Croft went to Ms. McKenzie's office on October 24, but she did not wish to speak to him; she stated that she was "scared to death" to be alone with Croft. R. 23, Ex. B, at 76.

            On October 29, in response to Ms. McKenzie's complaint to Ketchum, IDOT management held a meeting with Ms. McKenzie, Ketchum, Bill Favri (Ketchum's supervisor), and a union representative. At that meeting, it was agreed that Ms. McKenzie would suffer no retaliation for bringing her complaint, that IDOT management would ensure that Croft stayed away from Ms. McKenzie, and that a memo would be issued to all employees regarding IDOT's sexual harassment policy. The memo was issued several weeks following the meeting, and no further incidents occurred between Croft and Ms. McKenzie. In fact, she stated that she saw Croft at work only one other time after October 1990, when he was sent to the warehouse to unload a truck.

            In addition to her sexual harassment claim based upon the three sexually oriented comments made by Croft, Ms. McKenzie also alleges that she was subjected to retaliation for complaining of Croft's behavior. She points to two incidents that followed the October 29 meeting. First, on October 30, Ms. McKenzie learned from a co-worker that the mechanics were told that they could no longer go to Ms. McKenzie's building to pick up their supplies. Instead, other employees (apparently assistants to the mechanics) were to be responsible for picking up the supplies. Second, in November 1990, Ms. McKenzie overheard Dick Goodrum, a mechanics supervisor, say, while speaking on the telephone, "I'm going to discipline her some way after this sexual harassment is over." R. 23, Ex. B, at 91. Ms. McKenzie believed that she was the only employee who had brought a sexual harassment complaint, and thus she understood the comment to concern her.

            After these two incidents, on November 15, 1990, Ms. McKenzie filed a complaint against IDOT with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, alleging sexual harassment based upon the comments made by Croft.

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    On February 21, 1991, Ms. McKenzie amended her original complaint against IDOT to charge additional incidents of discriminatory treatment. 1 Both the original and the amended complaints against IDOT were cross-filed with the EEOC. On the same day she amended her original charge against IDOT, she also filed a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against Croft individually, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation.

            Ms. McKenzie alleges that, after she filed her original charge and the February amendment to that charge, she was subjected to several other incidents of retaliation. On February 26, 1991, an employee in the accounting office, Bill Warren, was told by his supervisor that he was not permitted to deliver invoices to plaintiff's office; rather, Ms. McKenzie was required to walk over to the accounting department in order to sign the invoices, which previously had been delivered to her. In March 1991, a coworker of Ms. McKenzie overheard a conversation between Dick Goodrum and Croft in which Croft was told that he would have to "change his input" for an upcoming hearing on Ms. McKenzie's claims. R. 23, Ex. B, at 98. In April 1991, a co-worker needed to retrieve a supply from Ms. McKenzie's warehouse, but he refused to enter Ms. McKenzie's office. He instead waited outside while another employee picked up the supply for him. When Ms. McKenzie stepped outside and asked why he could not get his own supplies, he stated that he had been instructed not to enter Ms. McKenzie's office. In October 1991, Ketchum told Ms. McKenzie that she could not leave the premises on her breaks, whereas other employees were allowed to leave during their break times. In June 1992, Ketchum testified in a hearing that he had been aware of Croft's comments to Ms. McKenzie, despite his earlier denials of such knowledge. In January 1993, Ketchum told Ms. McKenzie that she had to call him whenever an item was delivered to her department; Ms. McKenzie stated that this additional requirement doubled her workload and caused her to suffer a nervous breakdown. In August 1994, a vendor refused to enter Ms. McKenzie's building, stating that Ketchum had forbidden him from doing so. Finally, in the fall or winter of 1994, Ms. McKenzie learned that Bill Favri told other IDOT employees that they were not to give affidavits to Ms. McKenzie to assist her in her litigation against IDOT.

  2. District Court Proceedings

            The district court initially ruled on Ms. McKenzie's sexual harassment claim and granted summary judgment for IDOT. The court reasoned that, although Ms. McKenzie subjectively perceived her work environment to be hostile and abusive, the three comments by Croft, occurring over a two and a half month period, were not sufficiently severe that a reasonable person would feel subjected to a hostile working environment. Examining all of the comments together, rather than in isolation, the court concluded that they did not create an objectively hostile environment under the standard articulated in Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 20-22, 114 S.Ct. 367, 370, 126 L.Ed.2d 295 (1993) (objectively hostile environment exists when harassment is "sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's...

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