United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
plaintiff, Rosemary Madlock (“Madlock”), filed
this action against the defendant, WEC Energy Group Inc.
(“WEC”), on allegations of racial discrimination
in employment and retaliation. See generally (Docket
#1). On November 1, 2016, WEC filed a motion for summary
judgment. (Docket #21). Madlock submitted her response on
December 1, 2016. (Docket #39). WEC offered a reply in
support of the motion on December 15, 2016. (Docket #43). The
motion is fully briefed and, for the reasons explained below,
it will be granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides the mechanism for seeking
summary judgment. Rule 56 states that the “court shall
grant summary judgment 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a); see Boss v. Castro, 816 F.3d 910, 916 (7th
Cir. 2016). A “genuine” dispute of material fact
is created when “the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). The Court construes all facts and reasonable
inferences in a light most favorable to the non-movant.
Bridge v. New Holland Logansport, Inc., 815 F.3d
356, 360 (7th Cir. 2016). In assessing the parties'
proposed facts, the Court must not weigh the evidence or
determine witness credibility; the Seventh Circuit instructs
that “we leave those tasks to factfinders.”
Berry v. Chicago Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 691
(7th Cir. 2010).
the Court notes that the disposition of this motion is based
largely on the parties' refusal to comply with the rules
of summary judgment practice. The parties' factual
briefing is replete with unsupported facts, multiple
assertions of fact within one paragraph, and legal argument.
They also have included numerous facts which are plainly
irrelevant to the issues presented.
parties have also made curious additions and omissions in
their fact briefs. Madlock fails to reproduce all of
WEC's asserted facts and state her disputes with them or
lack thereof. As to the facts she actually mentions, Madlock
includes legal argument in the form of improper objections.
For instance, she often objects as to relevance, when that
issue may be argued in her legal brief, and objects to
completeness or that “issues of fact exist”
rather than simply stating her dispute and citing the
appropriate evidence. WEC is not blameless either. Like
Madlock, it submits a great deal of commentary and legal
argument on the facts rather than directly stating a given
dispute. It also regularly fails to cite any evidence to
oppose facts. Finally, it offers a “reply” in
support of its statement of facts, though no such document is
contemplated by this District's Local Rules; the
“reply” will be entirely disregarded.
See Civil L. R. 56(b)(3).
Court expects that the parties will carefully review the
requirements of the federal and local rules on summary
judgment, and that these woeful submissions will not be
repeated in the future. Despite the substantial infirmities
with the parties' factual briefing, the Court has done
its best to formulate a set of undisputed facts. If the
parties are surprised by the inclusion or exclusion of
certain facts, they have only themselves to blame.
facts presented below are limited to a general timeline of
events and those relevant to the Court's analysis.
Madlock is African-American. She has worked for WEC for
almost forty years. Madlock has worked in the Meter to Bill
department for approximately the past twenty years. Meter to
Bill is further subdivided into the Industrial Billing group,
handling large commercial accounts, and Volume Billing,
addressing small commercial accounts and residential
customers. Madlock began her Meter to Bill tenure in the
Industrial Billing group.
co-workers, and Madlock herself, describe her as a confident
and knowledgeable worker to whom other employees often go for
assistance. Though WEC had no formal training procedure for
Industrial Billing, Madlock and other experienced billers
provided informal training. In 2011, Cathy Wrycza
(“Wrycza”) became Madlock's supervisor. Prior
to that time, the parties dispute the quality of
Madlock's job performance and whether there were hints or
outright statements showing discriminatory animus by her
employees on Wrycza's team observed that she was not very
good at billing, and when Madlock tried to help her, Wrycza
would become upset. This, in Madlock's view, led to
retaliatory discipline. WEC maintains that Madlock's
discipline was appropriate given its recent emphasis on
improving customer service through, inter alia,
accurate billing. This was not only Wrycza's duty to
implement, but fell to her superiors as well. Wrycza and
Renee Rabiego-Tiller (“Tiller”), the manager of
the Meter to Bill area and Wrycza's boss, never
specifically looked for errors in Madlock's work; those
were always presented to them by a third party. Wrycza
believes that Madlock's errors were due to carelessness,
not a lack of experience or training.
February 2012, Madlock was issued a “Record of
Corrective Counseling” (“RCC”), a form of
internal discipline, for two work errors, one of which had
occurred in December 2011. Both errors concerned an
inaccurate meter reading, and the parties dispute to what
extent Madlock was responsible for failing to investigate the
error. WEC claims the errors cost it over $80,
Madlock filed a grievance in response to the discipline. The
grievance was denied by Wrycza and Tiller. In doing so,
Wrycza acknowledged that as to the December error, the
account in question had been consistently billed incorrectly
in the months preceding Madlock's involvement. When the
grievance came to Tiller, she denied it on the basis of a
newly discovered error on a different account.
2012, Wrycza issued a written warning to Madlock for taking
only twenty seconds to review an account, which led to the
customer being overbilled by almost $60, 000. The warning
stated that additional errors could lead to greater
discipline or even termination. Such warnings are a step
higher than an RCC on the disciplinary ladder.
August 2012, Jean Frelka (“Frelka”), the director
of Meter to Bill, reduced the February 2012 RCC to a
“coaching, ” a lesser form of discipline. The May
2012 warning was also lowered to the level of an RCC. Frelka
nevertheless stressed that Madlock was to apply her
experience and knowledge with a critical eye to find
potential problems and raise those issues with management.
The RCCs kept coming for Madlock, however. In October 2012,
Madlock was issued another RCC for a billing error, and in
light of her previous errors, Tiller concluded that it was
the result of Madlock's inattention to detail. Yet
another RCC was issued in November 2012, this time for
inappropriate and unprofessional behavior. Madlock's
grievance on this latest RCC was denied by Wrycza, on
Frelka's orders, because the inappropriate behavior was
reported by multiple sources.
was made aware of another error in early 2013 which had
originated in December 2010. This error involved mis-coding
an account such that it would not be billed even though the
customer was using energy. Madlock maintains that the error
was the result of the meter itself being broken, which WEC
ultimately confirmed was true. She further admits, however,
that her job was not restricted to merely passively receiving
information from broken meters, improper readings, or
otherwise, but that she needed to use her experience and
judgment to critically assess the information provided. In
general, when assigned to review an account's bill,
billers must use their skills and experience to determine
whether the bill is accurate and/or what caused an
inaccuracy. Madlock contends that this can be difficult,
however, because the billers have no way of confirming
whether the data presented to them is ...