Rector v. Steckenrider, Case No. 14-CV-878-NJR-RJD

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Southern District of Illinois
PartiesANGEL RECTOR, Plaintiff, v. ANITRA PARRISH STECKENRIDER, Individually and in her official capacity, and WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., a Pennsylvania corporation, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 14-CV-878-NJR-RJD
Decision Date19 April 2017

ANGEL RECTOR, Plaintiff,
v.
ANITRA PARRISH STECKENRIDER,
Individually and in her official capacity,
and WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC.,
a Pennsylvania corporation, Defendants.

Case No. 14-CV-878-NJR-RJD

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS

April 19, 2017


MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge:

Plaintiff Angel Rector ("Rector") claims that, while she was employed by Defendant Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford") as a nurse practitioner at Pinckneyville Correctional Center, she suffered sexual harassment and was a victim of retaliation. Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Wexford (Doc. 52) and a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Anitra Parrish Steckenrider ("Steckenrider") (Doc. 53). After the motions were fully briefed, the Court heard oral argument on December 1, 2016. For the reasons set forth below, both motions for summary judgment are granted.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND1

Rector has worked as a nurse practitioner at Pinckneyville Correctional Center ("Pinckneyville") from 2009 to the present (Doc. 52, p. 3; Doc. 59, p. 2). She is specifically

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employed by Defendant Wexford, who contracts with the State of Illinois to provide comprehensive medical, dental, mental health, and pharmacy services to individuals remanded to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") (Doc. 52, p. 2-3; Doc. 59, p. 1). Defendant Steckenrider was an employee of Wexford from January 2013 through January 2014, and served as the Director of Nursing within Pinckneyville, which was a managerial or supervisory position, but she was not Rector's direct supervisor (Doc. 52, p. 3; Doc. 52-1, p. 3). Dr. Vipin Shah ("Dr. Shah") is also an employee of Wexford, and he served as the Medical Director at Pinckneyville from July 2011 through January 2016 (Doc. 52, p. 4; Doc. 60-4, p. 3; Doc. 60-5, p. 6). As the Medical Director of Pinckneyville, Dr. Shah was Rector's direct supervisor (Doc. 52, p. 4; Doc. 60-5, p. 53). Terry McCann ("McCann") was the Wexford Regional Supervisor, and he oversaw the Wexford operation within Pinckneyville (Doc. 52, p. 4; Doc. 59, p. 2).

Rector claims that, during her time at Pinckneyville, Steckenrider made many inappropriate comments in the workplace on a frequent and daily basis (Doc. 69, p. 3; Doc. 60-5, p. 32). Rector's office was located next to Steckenrider's office, their offices sharing a wall, and Rector often overheard these inappropriate comments (Doc. 59, p. 3). The topics of these comments included Steckenrider's sexual experiences, physical appearance, and sexual desires (Doc. 60-5, pp. 32-38). These comments were made directly to Rector, made to other Wexford employees and overheard by Rector, or heard by Rector through other employees (Id.). Rector specifically alleges that Steckenrider made the following comment to her directly:

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• Steckenrider, referencing an officer who worked at the prison, said that "I fuck him. I love him. His girlfriend, wife, ex-wife and lover all work here." (Doc. 60-5, pp. 32-33).

Specific comments made to others in the workplace and overheard by Rector include the following:

• Steckenrider commented to multiple employees that her "pussy lips were black" and she did not know why (Doc. 60-5, p. 36).

• Steckenrider commented to two other employees that "my boyfriend started throwing dildos, sex toys around the room and accused me of living big n***** dick." (Doc. 60-5, p. 35).

• Steckenrider made the following comments to other employees on various occasions: "I want to fuck him," "Oh, my God, he is so sexy," and "I love black men." (Doc. 60-5, p. 36).

• Steckenrider commented to another employee that "I got so drunk on a boat that I let some chick eat me out and then I let my cousin fuck me." (Doc. 60-5, p. 37).

Rector also heard from another employee, Christine Brown, that Steckenrider showed other employees a photograph of a man's penis, using a thumb to cover up "her parts" when they were at a country club after work for a personal gathering (Doc. 60-5, p. 24-25; Doc. 59, p. 5). Rector also heard from another employee, Amy Hughsman, that Steckenrider told Hughsman while they were at work that "she wanted to fuck [Huseman's] son." (Doc. 60-5, p. 18).

Rector also claims that an inappropriate comment was made by McCann. Specifically, Rector overheard McCann ask another employee, Melissa Sageser, "how did your surgery turn out?" (referencing her recent breast surgery) (Doc. 60-5, p. 19). Sageser responded "[a]s long as they stay right here, I will be 100 percent satisfied."

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(Doc. 60-5, p. 20). Rector does not know what McCann said in response, as the two had walked behind a closed door (Id.).

Rector alleges that Steckenrider's sexual comments in the workplace were so offensive and occurred so often that it caused her to experience concentration issues at work (Doc. 59, p. 6; Doc. 60-5, p. 54). Often times, other nurses would approach Rector with complaints about Steckenrider's behavior (Doc. 59, p. 6; Doc. 60-5, pp. 54-55).

Between March 2013 and June 2013, Rector complained about Steckenrider's conduct to Christine Brown, the facility's Healthcare Unit Administrator, on five different occasions (Doc. 59, p. 6; Doc. 60-5, p. 24). Rector also reported Steckenrider's conduct to her direct supervisor, Dr. Shah, on a daily basis (Doc. 60-5, p. 29). Additionally, in June 2013, Rector reported Steckenrider's conduct to Assistant Warden Jody Goetting on two separate occasions, and to Terry McCann on two separate occasions (Doc. 60-5, p. 26, 28).

After reporting such conduct, Rector complains that the following things occurred: (1) her overtime hours diminished; (2) she experienced a two-month delay in receiving reimbursement for a DEA license fee; (3) she was advised that her schedule was planned to be changed; (4) Steckenrider began enforcing the tardy and call-in policy; (5) Steckenrider addressed the dress code policy in a meeting, after McCann witnessed Rector providing patient care in non-uniform dress; and (6) McCann held a meeting with Rector where he questioned Rector about alleged wrongdoing and accused her of being a "ring leader" and creating issues at work (Doc. 59, pp. 12-14).

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In April 2013, Rector was able to relocate her office in order to avoid Steckenrider (Doc. 59, p. 6). In July 2013, Rector filed charges of discrimination against Wexford, Steckenrider, and McCann with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR"), alleging that she had been subjected to sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, and experienced acts of retaliation for seeking relief from the harassing behavior (Doc. 52, p. 4; Doc. 52-3, p. 4; Doc. 60-5, p. 13; Doc. 59, p. 15). The IDHR conducted an investigation into the charges and concluded that there was a finding of sexual harassment (Doc. 59, p. 15; Doc. 59-3, p. 70).2

Rector filed her Complaint on August 11, 2014 (Doc. 2). The case was originally assigned to United States District Judge J. Phil Gilbert. On December 16, 2014, Judge Gilbert granted Steckenrider's and Wexford's Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 10 and 12). Rector subsequently filed an Amended Complaint, the operative complaint in this matter, which asserts the following five counts: Title VII claim for unlawful sexual harassment against Wexford (Count I); Illinois Human Rights Act claim for unlawful sexual harassment against Wexford (Count II); Illinois Human Rights Act claim for retaliation against Wexford (Count III); Illinois Human Rights Act claim for sexual harassment against Steckenrider (Count IV); and Illinois Human Rights Act claim for retaliation against Steckenrider (Count V) (Doc. 27).3 On February 24, 2015, the undersigned accepted transfer of this case as related to Flowers v. Steckenrider, et al. (Case

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No. 14-cv-877-NJR-RJD), as both cases, brought by different plaintiffs, asserted similar claims against Wexford and Steckenrider based on violations of Title VII and the Illinois Human Rights Act. Flowers v. Steckenrider, et al. (Case No. 14-cv-877-NJR-RJD) settled on March 6, 2017.

On October 21, 2016, Defendants Steckenrider and Wexford each filed summary judgment motions (Docs. 52 and 53). On November 21, 2016, Rector responded to both motions (Docs. 57-60). On November 29, 2016, Defendants filed a joint reply brief (Doc. 62). The Court held a hearing on the motions on December 1, 2016.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is only appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a)). Once the moving party has set forth the basis for summary judgment, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party who must go beyond mere allegations and offer specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 232-24 (1986). The nonmoving party must offer more than "[c]onclusory allegations, unsupported by specific facts," to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 773 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990)). In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. See Bennington v. Caterpillar Inc., 275 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001); see also Anderson v. Liberty

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Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A "court may not assess the credibility of witnesses, choose between competing inferences or balance the relative weight of conflicting evidence . . . ." Reid v. Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, 749 F.3d 581, 586 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 769 (7th Cir. 2005)).

ANALYSIS

I. Sexual Harassment Under Title VII and the IHRA...

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