A potentially precedent-setting employment discrimination case reached the Supreme Court earlier this month. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on this case later this term.
In Staub v. Proctor Hospital, Vincent Staub, a radiology technician at Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Illinois from 1990 until April 2004, claims that he was fired because of his association with the military.
A jury originally sided with Staub, and Proctor Hospital appealed the ruling. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the jury verdict because it believed that the decision to terminate Staub was made by a Proctor Hospital executive who was unconnected to the alleged anti-military bias.
“It was around that time that Janice Mulally, second in command of the Diagnostic Imaging Department, began to prepare the department work schedules. Staub would notify Mulally of his drill and training obligations, which occupied one weekend per month and two weeks during the summer. Before Mulally took over scheduling, Staub had weekends off. But Mulally placed Staub back in the weekend rotation, creating conflicts with his drill schedule. Mulally did this even though she had advance notice of Staub’s military obligations, and when Staub approached her about the issue she became agitated. Beginning in 2000, the scheduling conflicts were only ‘occasional,’ but Mulally’s attitude reflected a deeper problem. Mulally responded to Staub’s questions by throwing him out of her office and saying she ‘didn’t want to deal with it.’ Staub found some relief by going to department head Michael Korenchuk, yet it was far from complete. Sometimes Mulally would change Staub’s schedule after Korenchuk spoke with her, but other times she would post a notice on the bulletin board stating that volunteers were needed to cover the drill weekends, portraying Staub as irresponsible. And occasionally Mulally made Staub use his vacation time for drill days or scheduled him for additional shifts without notice. Mulally made her reasons plain: She called Staub’s military duties ‘bullshit’ and said the extra shifts were his ‘way of paying back the department for everyone else having to bend over backwards to cover [his] schedule for the Reserves.’ And it came as no surprise that Korenchuk did little to remedy the situation. Although Korenchuk only commented about Staub’s reserve duties on a ‘couple different occasions,’ these comments were none too subtle. Korenchuk characterized drill weekends as ‘Army Reserve bullshit’ and ‘a b[u]nch of smoking and joking and [a] waste of taxpayers[‘] money.'”
[Staub co-worker] Knoerle left her post in July of 2003, to be replaced by Leslie Sweborg. Two weeks into the job, Sweborg met Mulally and another coworker, Angie Day, for drinks after work. Expecting nothing more than casual chit-chat, Sweborg was shocked when the conversation turned to Staub. Mulally was blunt: ‘She said that [Staub’s] military duty had been a strain on the department’ and ‘she did not like him as an employee.’ So Mulally asked Sweborg ‘to help her get rid of him.’ Sweborg refused. In her opinion, Staub was always competent and professional, and there was no reason for such animosity.
“Shortly afterwards she called Staub’s Reserve Unit Administrator, Joseph Abbidini, in Bartonville, Illinois. Mulally had called Abbidini on a prior occasion to confirm that Staub was actually a member of the Reserves, but now she wanted to know if Staub could be excused from some of his military duties. Mulally asked Abbidini if Staub really had to attend two-week training in the summer because he was needed at work. Abbidini stated that the training was mandatory. Most Reserve members have outside employment, he explained, so excusing Staub would set an ugly precedent. Mulally’s response? She called Abbadini an ‘asshole’ and hung up. (Again, we add that we are, as we are required to do at this stage of the proceedings, taking all facts in the light most favorable to Mr. Staub.)”