Mary R. Richards, Plain tiff-Appellant,
U.S. Steel, Defendant-Appellee.
December 9, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Illinois. No. 3:15-cv-00646 - J. Phil Gilbert,
Williams and Hamilton, Circuit Judges, and Chang, District
Richards filed this lawsuit against her employer, U.S. Steel.
As the case comes to us, all that remains is an Illinois
state-law claim for intentional in-fliction of emotional
distress. On that claim, the district court entered summary
judgment against Richards on the ground that it is preempted
by the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/8-111(D).
Although our analysis of the preemption issue differs from
the district court's take on it, we agree that the
emotional-distress claim fails as a matter of law. U.S. Steel
can be held responsible for only a subset of the factual
allegations that Richard relies on, and on that set of facts,
U.S. Steel did not engage in "extreme and
outrageous" behavior under Illinois common law. We thus
affirm the entry of summary judgment against plaintiff on her
the district court granted summary judgment to U.S. Steel, we
recite the facts in the light most favorable to Richards.
Richards was hired by National Steel Corporation in 1995, and
she continued to work for the company following its sale to
U.S. Steel in 2003. At some point in 2009 or early 2010,
Richards did a four-month rotation as a "learner
electrician" in a department supervised by Daniel
Harris. R. 29-8, Harris Dep. at 6. During that rotation,
Richards told Harris that she wanted to be the best
electrician she could be. Harris Dep. at 11. But in response,
Harris told Richards that she would never be able to meet his
the learner-electrician stint, Richards moved on to different
department, namely, the Basic Oxygen Furnace De- partment,
where she worked from April 2010 to January 2011. R. 29-1,
Richards Dep. at 15, 28. There, Jesse Byrd was one of her
supervisors. R. 29-3, Byrd Dep. at 11. Richards had several
negative experiences-most involving Byrd - during the nine
months that she worked in the Furnace Department.
example, on her first day at the Furnace Department, Richards
met with Byrd in his office. Richards Dep. at 36. During this
meeting, Byrd asked Richards whether she could draw a motor
circuit and what she had learned in blueprint class.
Id. at 36-37. Richards was the only learner
electrician to be asked those questions. Richards Dep. at
37-38. In May 2010 (the month after she started in the
Furnace Department), Richards lost a work glove. Richards
Dep. at 45-46. On her break, she approached Byrd, who was
talking to four or five men at the time, and she asked for a
new pair of gloves. Id. at 45-46. In response, Byrd
asked her if she wanted one glove or two-and then made a
comment about incompetent people. Richards Dep. at 46.
2010, Richards had another encounter with Byrd. Richards was
walking from a patio back to the work area when Byrd
approached her, jerked her jacket open, and said
"I like that" while staring at her.
Richards Dep. at 38-39. Richards was shocked and scared, so
she "got the hell away from" Byrd. Richards Dep. at
three months later, one of Richards's coworkers succumbed
to heat exhaustion. Richards took that coworker to the break
room, called 911, and started to administer first aid.
Richards Dep. at 87. When Byrd showed up, Richards offered to
retrieve her and her coworker's tools from the job site,
but Byrd went "b[ers]erk" and told her to stay put.
Richards Dep. at 88. After around 30 minutes, Richards left
the break room to go back to the job site to "see what
was going on, " and she ran into Byrd. Id.
Richards just asked Byrd if it was ok for her to retrieve the
tools, but Byrd "screamed at [her] again, " so she
walked away, returned to the break room, and sat down at a
table. Id. at 89. Byrd walked in, towered over
Richards, and told her to tell him that her boss (which was
him) was a prick. Id. Byrd then stood behind
Richards and said "[m] after of fact, tell your boss
he's a prick." Id. Richards replied,
"I don't have to, you already did."
that same day, Richards was in the breakroom when Area
Manager Lowery McBride (Byrd's supervisor) came into the
room. Richards Dep. at 206. Without saying anything, McBride
grabbed Richards's radio off of her chest to make a call.
Id. at 207. The radio had been hooked to
Richards's bra. Id.
the end of December 2010, Richards had several more run-ins
with Byrd. In one incident, Richards had to stand on a bucket
in order to reach some screws that she needed to fix a light.
Richards Dep. at 43. Byrd saw her doing this and said,
"You think that bucket will hold all that?"
Richards' Dep. at 43. Two other electricians were in the
room. Richards Dep. at 43. In this same time period, Richards
and several coworkers were gathered in the break room when
Byrd came in and told a sexual joke. Richards Dep. at 92.
on December 31, 2010, Byrd asked Richards to call a coworker
and ask that coworker if he would work over- time. Richards
Dep. at 68-69. During the call, the coworker asked Richards
if she could work the overtime instead. Richards Dep. at 69.
When Byrd heard this he told Richards to get off the phone
and said "[b]efore I let you work the overtime, I'll
jump off the bridge." Richards Dep. at 69. Richards
retorted, "I'll take you to the bridge."
Id. Richards ended up working the overtime shift,
and Byrd placed her on trash detail (though Richards's
coworker ended up taking out most of the trash, Richards Dep.
Richards's nine months in the Furnace Department, Byrd
also (1) criticized her in front of her coworkers for putting
a box on the floor instead of on a shelf; (2) asked Richards
if she was listening to him and said "[w]hat, are you
scared of me?"; (3) threatened to fire Richards after
she called him for help with a unit breakdown; and (4)
ominously told her that she was sitting in a chair where a
coworker had sat when he was fired. According to Richards,
Byrd also would not give her the tools she needed to do her
job, despite providing tools to other Department employees.
Richards Dep. at 15. When asked for specifics during her
deposition, however, Richards remembered only two instances.
Once, Richards asked for two stick rulers-one for her and one
for her coworker-but she received only one, which she gave to
her coworker. Richards Dep. at 24, 32-33. The second time,
Richards was out of the office on leave, and Byrd gave
everyone in the Furnace Department a flashlight as a
Christmas gift. Id. at 26. When Richards returned
from leave, Byrd did not have a flashlight for her.
Id. at 26.
left the Furnace Department on January 9, 2011 and began
working for the Maintenance Services Department. After she
left, Byrd followed her and attempted to speak with her
twice. Richards Dep. at 157, 159. Richards does not know what
Byrd tried to say ...