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Milligan-Grimstad v. Stanley

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

December 11, 2017

Kerrie Milligan-Grimstad, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Morgan Stanley and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued September 12, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 13 C 8913 - Thomas M. Durkin, Judge.

          Before Bauer, Easterbrook, and Kanne, Circuit Judges.

          Kanne, Circuit Judge.

         Kerrie Milligan[1] alleges that Morgan Stanley Smith Barney ("Morgan Stanley") fired her on the basis of her sex and that it allowed her coworkers to create a hostile work environment. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits both. The district court granted summary judgment in Morgan Stanley's favor, finding that Morgan Stanley dismissed Milligan for her performance and that the conduct she alleged did not create a hostile work environment. Milligan now appeals. We affirm.

         I. Background

         This appeal challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Morgan Stanley. Thus, the following facts are either undisputed or disputed but taken in the light most favorable to Milligan. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242(1986).

         A. Milligan's allegations

         Milligan joined Morgan Stanley as a sales associate in 2001. In 2005, after a series of promotions, she partnered with a senior financial advisor, John Mitchell, on a number of client accounts. This partnership continued until Morgan Stanley fired Milligan in 2012.

         During her deposition, Milligan testified that she was mistreated throughout her career at Morgan Stanley. Broadly, her allegations describe two periods of abuse. The first period extended from about 2003 to 2009, though Milligan's testimony on the duration was unspecific and conflicting. Milligan alleges that coworkers, including a financial advisor named David Brendza, harassed, unduly criticized, and made sexual advances towards her during this period. Milligan never reported this alleged harassment to management.

         A second period began in 2011-when Mitchell started to regularly comment to Milligan about the revealing outfits of a CNBC anchor-and continued until Morgan Stanley fired Milligan the following year. During this second period, Milligan married. Though Milligan never revealed if she had pregnancy plans, Mitchell frequently questioned her on the topic. Ultimately, he asked that Milligan plan her pregnancy to accommodate his work schedule.

         Also during this second period, Mitchell began to plan for retirement and spent more time out of the office. Management encouraged him and Milligan to bring in other advisors to help them service their book of business. After Mitchell and Milligan rejected a number of potential partners, management encouraged them to work with Brendza on their accounts. Milligan, however, had no interest in partnering with him. Nevertheless, Milligan and Mitchell discussed Brendza at various points in 2011 and 2012. Milligan's immediate supervisor, Troy Mooyoung, and the manager of the Chicago branch, Mark Evans, occasionally joined these conversations. And, on September 19, 2012, Brendza joined Milligan and Mitchell in a client meeting in which he told the client that Milligan planned to start a family. Milligan never reported harassment from this second period either.

         B. The fraudulent wire transfer and later investigation

         Earlier in 2012, Milligan processed a fraudulent wire transfer request that led to an investigation. That summer, Milligan received a series of emails-signed by a longtime client and her husband-requesting that Milligan transfer $36, 900 to an account she wasn't familiar with. After a person who Milligan recognized as the client's husband called to confirm the transaction, Milligan transferred the funds.

         On August 10, the client contacted Milligan to inform her that she had been the victim of identity theft and had not authorized the transaction. Over the next few weeks, Evans investigated the way that Milligan handled the request. He spoke with Milligan, Mooyoung, fraud prevention and compliance officers, and in-house counsel. He also studied emails and notes related to the transfer. Finally, he reviewed Milli-gan's past disciplinary violations: a suspension for signing a client's name to a letter of authorization and a letter of education for adding information to a form that had already been signed by a client.

         C. Milligan's dismissal and the lawsuit

         On September 24 -over a month after Evans began his investigation into Milligan's handling of the fraudulent wire request and five days after Brendza had ...

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