November 1, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. 2:16-cv-00332-JPS - J.P.
Manion, Kanne, and Rovner, Circuit Judges.
Manion, Circuit Judge.
Madlock has worked for Wisconsin Electric Power Company
("WEPCO") for approximately forty years. In 2016,
she brought this § 1981 suit against WEPCO after she was
transferred from one section of WEPCO's billing division
to another, a move she claims was the result of racial
discrimination. She also claims WEPCO retaliated against her
by disciplining her after she filed an internal
discrimination complaint against her former supervisor.
district court granted summary judgment to WEPCO, and Madlock
now appeals. Because there is no genuine dispute about any
material fact and WEPCO is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law, we affirm the judgment of the district court.
an appeal from the grant of summary judgment, so we
"view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, " Foskett v. Great Wolf Resorts,
Inc., 518 F.3d 518, 522 (7th Cir. 2008), and "draw
all reasonable inferences from the evidence" in her
favor, Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Nw. Nat'l Ins.
Co., 427 F.3d 1038, 1041 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Franklin v. City of Evanston, 384 F.3d 838, 843 (7th
who describes herself as a "confident and knowledgeable
African American woman, " has worked at WEPCO since
1977. In the mid-1990s, Madlock began working in the
"Meter to Bill" division of WEPCO, which was
responsible for handling WEPCO's billing. Meter to Bill
was split into two sections: Industrial Billing, which served
WEPCO's large commercial customers, and Volume Billing,
which served smaller commercial and residential customers. At
the time of the events involved in this action, Madlock was
working as a Lead Customer Service Specialist in the
Industrial Billing section. As a "Lead, " Madlock
was not in management, but she was expected to be a point
person for her team of "billers."
2011, WEPCO assigned a new management team to Meter to Bill,
and Renee Rabiego-Tiller assumed the position of Manager.
This new management team came in with a mandate to perform a
comprehensive review of Meter to Bill to reduce rebills. As
part of this focus, management instituted various metrics to
Frelka, the Director of Meter to Bill, hired Cathy Wrycza, a
white woman, to be a "Team Leader" in the
Industrial Billing section, meaning that Wrycza became
Madlock's direct supervisor. From very early on, Wrycza
and Madlock butted heads. Wrycza, who had come from
WEPCO's Call Center, was unfamiliar with certain aspects
of her new post. Due to her lack of experience, Wrycza would
approach Madlock with questions, but these sessions would not
go well, and Wrycza would storm away. At some point, Wrycza
admitted to Madlock that she had problems dealing with
Madlock's stature, which Madlock took as a reference to
her height and her demeanor in conversation.
before the new management team arrived in Meter to Bill,
Madlock's conduct, such as personal phone use, had drawn
the attention of management, and under Wrycza and the rest of
the new management team, Madlock's conduct came under
even greater scrutiny. In December 2011, Wrycza learned of a
billing error Madlock had made the preceding June. In
February 2012, Wrycza gave Madlock an official written
"coaching, " which constituted the first step on
WEPCO's graduated discipline system, for that error.
Madlock filed a grievance against that discipline, but Tiller
ultimately denied the grievance, noting Madlock had committed
another error on a different account. In May 2012, Wrycza
issued Madlock a "Record of Disciplinary Action, "
the second step in the discipline system, because Madlock had
approved a bill that overbilled a customer by $58, 900. In
August 2012, Frelka rescinded the February discipline,
concluding that Madlock had not received the requisite
training at the time she committed the error. This downgraded
the discipline for the $58, 900 overbill to a first-step
official coaching. In November 2012, Frelka instructed Wrycza
to discipline Madlock for inappropriate behavior and the use
of unprofessional language due to an incident with two
coworkers. Madlock filed a grievance against that discipline,
which Wrycza denied.
February 2013, the conflict between Wrycza and Madlock was
apparently coming to a head. The two met with Tiller, who
told them to communicate. A month later, Tiller decided to
transfer Madlock out of Industrial Billing into Volume
Billing. Tiller cited Madlock's billing errors as the
reason for the move. Because Volume Billing handled smaller
accounts, the magnitude of any future errors would be
result of the transfer, Madlock was moved to a cubicle in the
center of the room between two managers, and her team from
Industrial Billing was told to no longer go to her for help.
Though WEPCO did not initially give her a new team in Volume
Billing, this was due to Madlock's unfamiliarity with
Volume Billing's processes. The transfer did not affect
Madlock's title or salary, but one co-worker described
the transfer as a ...