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Fischer v. Sentry Insurance A Mutual Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

December 10, 2019

TERESA FISCHER AND DAVID FISCHER, Plaintiff,
v.
SENTRY INSURANCE A MUTUAL COMPANY AND ABC INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE

         This civil action brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act arises out of plaintiffs Teresa Fischer's and David Fischer's employment with defendant Sentry Insurance A Mutual Company from 2014 to 2017. Plaintiffs contend that defendant Sentry harassed Teresa Fischer, subjected her to a hostile work environment and discriminated against her because of her sex and gender, and then retaliated against her for complaining about it. (All further references to “defendant” are to defendant Sentry.) Plaintiffs also contend that defendant discriminated against David Fischer because of his age and because he complained about the discrimination toward his wife.

         Now before the court is defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' amended complaint in part. Dkt. #6. Defendant argues that many of plaintiffs' allegations are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and that some of plaintiffs' claims are untimely. Plaintiffs concede that their disparate impact claim relating to David Fischer (claim 5) should be dismissed, so I will dismiss that claim. However, defendant's' other arguments are unpersuasive. Therefore, I will deny the motion with the exception of dismissing claim 5.

         Plaintiffs allege the following facts in their amended complaint.

         ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

         Defendant Sentry Insurance operates SentryWorld, a golf course and food services complex in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Mike James is the general manager of SentryWorld. In August 2014, James hired plaintiffs David and Teresa Fischer to work at SentryWorld. James hired Teresa Fischer as the front house manager for PJ's Restaurant and hired David Fischer as executive chef of SentryWorld's banquet services.

         In 2015, James hired Roger Payne to be the executive chef and back house manager of PJ's. Approximately six months later, James promoted Payne to the position of restaurant department head, giving Payne supervisory authority over Teresa Fischer. Both James and Payne treated women employees more poorly than they treated men. James ignored suggestions and ideas from women, criticized them, spoke rudely to them and disciplined them more frequently and harshly than he did men. Payne also spoke in rude and condescending tones to women employees, and made demeaning and sexually charged comments to women at work. In addition, the compensation system was more favorable to male staff. Teresa Fischer kept a written log in which she recorded James's and Payne's conduct toward herself and other women that she thought was abusive, belittling and otherwise discriminatory.

         In January 2017, James and Payne completed a performance review of Teresa Fischer. Sometime in March 2017, Teresa noticed that the log in which she had documented James' and Payne's discriminatory acts was missing from the bag that she kept in her officer at PJ's Restaurant. The log was the only item missing from her bag. Teresa suspects that James or Payne took the log, or that another employee took the log and showed it to James and Payne. On March 7, 2017, James and Payne terminated Teresa from her position, after revising the January 2017 review to make it more critical of Teresa's performance. After Teresa Fischer was fired, she sent a letter to defendant's legal counsel regarding James' and Payne's mistreatment of her and other women. She also sent a draft complaint to defendant, and eventually filed a charge of discrimination with Wisconsin's Equal Rights Division.

         On March 7, 2017, the same day that James fired Teresa Fischer, James offered David Fischer a $30, 000 retention bonus. David Fischer told James that he should not have fired Teresa and that James was condoning Payne's misconduct toward PJ's staff. After that conversation, James began to act less favorably toward David. James reduced David's involvement in projects and changed budgeting so that David's department received less revenue.

         On October 25, 2017, defendants demanded David Fischer's resignation as a condition for settling Teresa Fischer's discrimination claims. On October 30, David wrote to defendants' chief executive officer to express his concerns about the demand for his resignation and to explain his support for his wife's complaints against defendants. The next day, defendant told David that it had decided to terminate his employment.

         OPINION

         Plaintiff's amended complaint includes the following seven claims:

(1) Hostile work environment in violation of Title VII against Teresa Fischer;
(2) Retaliation in violation of Title VII against Teresa Fischer because she maintained a log documenting harassing and abusive ...

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