99 F.3d 238 (7th Cir. 1996), 96-1324, Geier v. Medtronic, Inc.

Docket Nº:96-1324.
Citation:99 F.3d 238
Party Name:Holly-Anne GEIER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MEDTRONIC, INC. and David H. Roberts, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:October 29, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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99 F.3d 238 (7th Cir. 1996)

Holly-Anne GEIER, Plaintiff-Appellant,


MEDTRONIC, INC. and David H. Roberts, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 96-1324.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 29, 1996

Argued Sept. 12, 1996.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Julian E. Cannell, James W. Springer, and Charles G. Roth (argued), Kavanagh, Scully, Sudow, White & Frederick, Peoria, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Roy G. Davis, Janet L. Jannusch, Keck, Mahin & Cate, Peoria, IL, Jeffrey J. Keyes (argued), Minneapolis, MN, and Jonathan L. Eisenberg, Medtronic, Incorporated, Minneapolis, MN, for Defendants-Apppellees.

Before BAUER, FLAUM, and MANION, Circuit Judges.

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

Holly-Anne Geier, once a sales representative at Medtronic, Inc., was dismissed from work weeks after informing her supervisor David Roberts of her second pregnancy while at Medtronic. She filed a complaint against Medtronic and Roberts which alleged, among other counts, violations of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and breach of her employment contract. Finding no contract between Roberts and Geier and finding that Roberts is not an employer under Title VII and therefore immune from suit, the district court dismissed the claims against Roberts. At a later date, finding no remaining issues of material fact, the district court dismissed the Title VII claim and contract claim against Medtronic. Geier appeals from these summary judgment orders. We affirm.


We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Perdomo v. Browner, 67 F.3d 140, 144 (7th Cir.1995). We view the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party--in this instance, Geier--and we accord her the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Tel. Co., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir.1995). Where the record presents no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, we affirm a grant of summary judgment. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). We apply the summary judgment standard with especial scrutiny to employment discrimination cases, like the instant case, which often turn on the issues of intent or credibility. Perdomo, 67 F.3d at 144; Sample v. Aldi Inc., 61 F.3d 544, 547 (7th Cir.1995).

We accept the following facts as determined by the district court from the depositions. Holly-Anne Geier worked as a sales representative for Medtronic from September 1988 until she was fired on January 29, 1992. Geier sold neuro-stimulation products. Her basic responsibilities included maintaining sales reports, expense reports, inventory reports and making service calls. She was assigned a monthly referral quota and a monthly revenue quota. Her direct supervisor was David Roberts.

Geier was something less than a model employee. She was late to work and to meetings. Her reports were tardy or missing. She did not return messages. She lied to her supervisor. Her customers complained, and the company lost business. She consistently fell below her set quotas. Her performance produced many oral warnings and six written warnings, dated October 1989, January 1990, January 1990, February 1990, September 1990, and October 1990. She was placed on three-month probations in February 1990 and January 1991.

Geier was married in January 1991. Upon return from her honeymoon, Roberts asked her whether she planned to have a family. Roberts then said to Geier, "Have all the kids you would like--between spring, summer, and fall. I will not work your territory during the winter months." In September

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1991, Geier became pregnant, and in early October 1991, she was confined to bed because of problems with her pregnancy. Roberts telephoned Geier at home once or twice a day and instructed her to continue to call her accounts if she wanted to keep her job. Geier made the calls. Geier was admitted to the hospital a week later. Undeterred, Roberts telephoned Geier at the hospital once or twice a day and instructed her to close a deal with a client. Geier again made the calls. On October 23, Geier miscarried. While Geier was at home recovering, Roberts called her early in the morning to say "get out of your G_d d__n bed and call your accounts if you want to keep your f_____g job." Geier returned to work less than one week later.

Upon Geier's return, Roberts placed her on a sixty-day probation because of her enduring performance problems. Roberts presented Geier with a written performance improvement plan, which set forth the same quotas as had been established plus a weekly deadline for paper work submission. Her probation notice stated that failure to address performance issues could result in termination. Geier's performance did not improve. Roberts extended her probationary period by thirty days. In mid-January, Geier told Roberts that she was pregnant again. Roberts discharged her at the end of January for poor performance. Geier was replaced by a thirty-three year old woman with a small child.


Title VII makes it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or to otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's ... sex." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). In 1978, Congress amended Title VII to extend protection against discrimination to pregnant women: "The terms 'because of sex' or 'on the basis of sex' include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment purposes." Pub. L.No. 95-555, 92 Stat. 445 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k)). The 1991 Amendments clarified the scope of discrimination prohibited under Title VII: "except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, an unlawful employment practice is established when the complaining party demonstrates that race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was a motivating factor for any employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(m).

To prevail on her sex discrimination claim, Geier must show that she was treated differently because of her pregnancy. Geier may make a case of sex discrimination in either of two ways. She may present evidence to show that her termination was a result of intentional discrimination. She may demonstrate discriminatory animus through direct evidence, e.g., an acknowledgment on the part of the employer of discriminatory intent, or--as is more usually the case--by relying on circumstantial evidence, e.g., ambiguous statements or suspicious timing. Troupe v. May Department Stores Co., 20 F.3d 734 (7th Cir.1994). Once a plaintiff shows that an employment decision was motivated in part by her pregnancy, the defendant may avoid a finding of liability by proving that it would have made the same decision had the plaintiff not been pregnant. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 245, 109 S.Ct. 1775, 1788, 104 L.Ed.2d 268 (1989); Troupe, 20 F.3d at 737.

Alternatively, Geier could frame her case under the McDonnell Douglas approach, which shifts the burden of production to the defendant, once a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination. To make a prima facie case, a plaintiff must show that she was (1) a member of a protected class, (2) qualified for her position and (3) discharged, and (4) that others, similarly situated but not of the protected class, were treated more favorably. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 1824, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973); Perdomo, 67 F.3d at 144. Once a prima facie case is established, the defendant must come forward with a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for

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plaintiff's treatment to avoid liability. Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253, 101...

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