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Wilkerson v. Schirmer Engineering Corp.

January 30, 2006

GAIL J. WILKERSON, AND HIGHLAND DESIGN GROUP, INC., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SCHIRMER ENGINEERING CORPORATION, AND AON CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Walker D. Miller

ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This matter is before me on the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Schirmer Engineering Corporation and Aon Corporation on February 3, 2005. I have reviewed the parties' written arguments and their summary judgment evidence and find that oral argument is not required. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part.

Background

Defendant Schirmer Engineering Company (Schirmer) is a fire protection engineering company and a subsidiary of Defendant Aon Corporation (Aon).

Plaintiff Gail Wilkerson (Wilkerson) began working for Schirmer in October 2001, soon after Schirmer bought her previous employer, High Country Engineering. At all relevant times, Wilkerson worked under the supervision of Glen Saraduke (Saraduke), Manager of Schirmer's Denver office.

The remaining facts of this case are hotly disputed. According to Wilkerson, her job duties were quite varied, and included everything from computer-aided design (CAD) work, preparing plans and specifications, performing inspections and tests, locating sprinkler heads and alarms and marking them on drawings, contacting and meeting with clients, marketing, and acting as project manager on some projects. She worked only four days a week, as an accommodation to a disability - chronic visceral pain of the abdomen and pelvis related to adhesions in her abdomen.

This disability requires Wilkerson to receive injections every four to six months that are so strong that she is completely unable to walk, sit, stand, or care for herself for about four to five days afterwards. As another accommodation to her disability, Saraduke agreed to allow Wilkerson to "bank" extra hours worked so that she would not have to use sick or vacation leave to recover from these injections.

Wilkerson claims that around December 2001, Saraduke began to engage in various acts of sexual harassment and discrimination, disability discrimination, and outrageous conduct. For example, Wilkerson claims that Saraduke:

* asked her and her husband to go to a topless bar with him;

* referred to other female employees and applicants as "Barbie" and "Bay Watch Babe;"

* bragged about his sexual prowess and exploits;

* ordered her to wear steel-toed shoes when male employees were not required to;

* bragged to her about stealing and ingesting the pills she took for her disability; and,

* during a confrontation that occurred while he was driving her to a job site, Saraduke began driving wildly, reaching speeds of 80 miles per hour, while shouting at her and beating the steering wheel.

These and other events led Wilkerson and a co-worker named Donna Conrad to file, on February 11, 2002, written complaints with Aon's human resources department accusing Saraduke of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. After this, Wilkerson took about a week off of work while Schirmer and Aon claim to have dealt with the complaint. When Wilkerson returned to work, the sexual harassment stopped, but she claims that she continued to be discriminated and retaliated against in many ways, ultimately leading to her termination. For example, Wilkerson claims that Saraduke:

* pulled her off billable work,

* ordered her not to speak with clients,

* ordered her to cease marketing duties,

* pulled her off of all jobs where she was listed as project manager,

* rescinded previous accommodations for her disability - the four day workweek and "banking" of overtime, and

* recommended her termination to company executives, who accepted the recommendation on July 26, 2002.

After her termination, Wilkerson joined with Pilbin to form Highlands Design Group (Highlands), which focused on fire engineering jobs that required less than a professional engineer's certification. After Carl Baldassarra, a Schirmer executive, learned of Highlands' activities, one of Schirmer's attorneys sent a complaint letter to the Board of Registration for ...


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