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Greengrass v. International Monetary Systems Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 12, 2015

CELIA GREENGRASS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY SYSTEMS LTD., Defendant-Appellee

Argued September 19, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 2:12-cv-00212--Rudolph T. Randa, Judge.

For Celia Greengrass, Plaintiff - Appellant: Janet L. Heins, Attorney, Heins & Minko LLC, Mequon, WI.

For International Monetary System Limited, Defendant - Appellee: Shawn G. Rice, Attorney, Rice Business Law, Grafton, WI.

Before BAUER, ROVNER, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 482

Williams, Circuit Judge.

Celia Greengrass sued her former employer, International Monetary Systems Ltd. (" IMS" ), alleging that IMS retaliated against her for filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) against the company by naming her in its annual SEC filings and casting her complaint as " meritless." The district court granted summary judgment in favor of IMS on the ground that Greengrass lacked evidence showing a causal link between her EEOC filing and the alleged retaliatory act. We reverse. Greengrass made out a prima facie case of retaliation by demonstrating that she engaged in a statutorily protected activity when she filed her EEOC charge, that IMS engaged in an adverse employment

Page 483

action when it listed her name in its SEC filings, and that there was sufficient evidence for a rational trier of fact to find that IMS listed her name because Greengrass filed the EEOC charge.

I. BACKGROUND

Celia Greengrass began working as an account executive at IMS in January 2007. On September 10, 2007, Greengrass made a written complaint to IMS alleging harassment by Kevin Anderson, IMS's Las Vegas General Manager. Two days later, John Strabley, IMS's CEO, forwarded a copy of the complaint to Anderson, the alleged harasser, along with the message, " Call me before you explode." Greengrass quit her job at IMS on November 25, 2007. On January 20, 2008, Greengrass filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, alleging sex discrimination, national origin discrimination, and retaliation.

As a publicly traded company, IMS is subject to the SEC's annual filing requirements. In particular, item 103 of SEC Regulation S-K requires companies to describe any material legal proceedings, including the principal parties, facts giving rise to the proceeding, and the relief sought. See 17 C.F.R. § 229.103 (1982). In March 2008, IMS's Treasurer and CFO, Danny Weibling, consulted with an outside accountant, Derek Webb, regarding whether Greengrass's EEOC complaint needed to be mentioned in the company's SEC filings. Following this consultation, IMS did not refer to Greengrass's complaint in its 2008 disclosures. It did, however, without naming the complainant, refer to a different EEOC complaint brought against the company. IMS's 10-Q forms for the periods ending March 31, 2008, June 30, 2008, and September 30, 2008 (all of which were prepared and filed after Weibling's discussion with Webb) reported that IMS was engaged in litigation, but did not mention the names of parties, instead referring to the litigants as " former employees."

At some point in July 2008, IMS received correspondence from the EEOC regarding Greengrass's complaint. Apparently, the agency sought information regarding other sexual harassment claims leveled against the company. On July 29, 2008, IMS's general counsel, Martin Sklapsky, sent an email to the company's management team (including Weibling, Strabley, and ...


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