JOHN F. GRADY, District Judge.
Before the court is the motion for summary judgment of defendants Mary Ann
Plaintiffs Elena Diadenko, Sally Chiodo, and Andrew Breen worked for Schurz High School ("Schurz") during the time period relevant to this lawsuit. They allege that Folino, Schurz's principal, improperly disciplined them for criticizing the way that Folino and her staff ran the school, and that the Board has a policy or practice of "deliberate indifference to whistleblowers." (Pls.' Resp. at 11.) We will discuss the facts relevant to each plaintiff separately because their claims are based upon largely independent facts.
1. Sally Chiodo
In 2008, Chiodo was employed as Folino's secretary and as Schurz's treasurer. (See Defs.' Joint Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. of Material Facts (hereinafter, "Defs.' Stmt."), ¶¶ 1, 4, 29.) At that time, and for some years prior, Chiodo earned substantial overtime pay: between $18, 000 and $19, 000 per year. (Id. at ¶ 3.) In June 2008, Folino informed Chiodo that the school could no longer afford to pay her overtime. (Id.) Shortly after Folino broke the news to Chiodo, documents began to disappear from Folino's office. (Id. at ¶¶ 5, 7.) Folino suspected that Chiodo was the culprit, (see Folino Dep., attached as Ex. D to Defs.' Stmt., at 20-21, 24), and at some point that summer she saw Chiodo removing documents from the school. (See Pls.' Stmt. of Add'l Facts ¶ 31.) Chiodo admits that she removed documents from the school and admits that it was wrong to do so. (See Defs.' Stmt. at ¶¶ 5-6, 9.) At least initially, it appears that Chiodo took documents that she believed demonstrated that the school had funds available to continue paying her overtime. (See Chiodo Dep., attached as Ex. B to Defs.'s Stmt., at 154.) This led to — or was part of — a broader effort to find other financial improprieties at the school. (Id.; see also Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 9.) The defendants contend that a few weeks after Folino eliminated Chiodo's overtime eligibility Chiodo angrily confronted Folino, her assistant principal Debra Neiman, and others, and threatened to call the Illinois Inspector General about unspecified wrongdoing. (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 10; see also Folino Dep. at 40 (testifying that Chiodo called her co-workers "whores" and told Folino, "you don't know who you're messing with ... I'm going to take innocent people down with me because you don't know who you're messing with, I can buy and sell you, and I'm going to call the IG."); Neiman Dep., attached as Ex. N to Defs.' Stmt., at 87 (testifying that Chiodo "called [us] a bunch of whores and proceeded to tell us she could buy and sell us all").) Chiodo denies that she threatened to call the Inspector General, denies that she insulted anyone, and appears to deny that this meeting ever happened. (See Chiodo Dep. at 101-104.) Folino consulted Jim Ciesil, an attorney in the Board's law department, about Chiodo's behavior and he recommended that Folino remove Chiodo as treasurer. (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 11.) However, Folino did not remove Chiodo as treasurer at that time. (See id. at ¶ 29.)
Sometime in October 2008, Folino removed Chiodo as her secretary and transferred her from an area immediately outside Folino's office to a cubicle. (Id. at ¶ 26.)
The defendants contend that Folino learned sometime after the 2008 Christmas holiday that Chiodo had contacted the OIG. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 17.) But other evidence suggests that she learned earlier in December. (See Pls.' Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 17; see also Email from D. Temkin to R. Slingerland et al., attached as part of group Ex. C to Defs.' Stmt. (email from Temkin to an OIG representative, Chiodo, Folino, and others stating that "[w]e are prepared to disclose the information that we have and trust that you will proceed accordingly"); Temkin Dep., attached as part of group Ex. C to Defs.' Stmt., at 165-66; Folino Dep. at 146 (appearing to give an earlier date — "December 2008, late November or December" — for when she first learned that Chiodo had contacted the OIG).) On December 16, 2008, a substitute teacher named Ann Curriere threw a bag containing a plastic rat on Chiodo's desk. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 61; see also Investigative Summary, dated Jan. 14, 2009, attached as part of group Ex. 4A to Pls.' Resp., at 1.) Chiodo told an OIG investigator that before throwing the bag on her desk, Curriere stated: "Tell me you're not the whistleblower." (See Case Activity Report, dated Dec. 17, 2008, attached as part of group Ex. 4A to Pls.' Resp.) Folino's then-secretary, Patricia Elias, told an OIG investigator that Curriere visited Folino in her office for approximately 20 minutes before the incident and emerged from her office with a bag. (See Pls.' Supp.
On or about December 21, 2008, Chiodo sent a letter to Ciesil — the CPS attorney with whom Folino had previously spoken about Chiodo's behavior — accusing Folino of falsifying her own performance evaluation. (See Letter from S. Chiodo to J. Ciesil, dated December 21, 2008, attached as Ex. 1 to Chiodo Dep.)
2. Elena Diadenko
Folino hired Diadenko as a special education teacher in September 2009. (Id. at ¶ 54.) Within two weeks of being hired, Diadenko began complaining to Neiman, who oversaw the Schurz's special education department, that the department was doing "everything wrong." (Id. at ¶ 42.) She specifically complained about
On October 30, 2009, Folino gave Diadenko a "Notice of Pre-Discipline Hearing" in connection with several incidents that occurred on or around October 21, 2009. (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 49, 96; see also Notice of Pre-Discipline Hearing, dated Oct. 30, 2009, attached as part of group Ex. O to Defs.' Stmt.) Folino charged Diadenko with violating school policy by failing to report a matter involving the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") to a member of the school's administration, and with disclosing confidential and/or sensitive information about students in emails to staff members at Schurz and two other schools. (See Notice of Pre-Discipline Hearing at 1.) The Notice of Pre-Discipline Hearing also refers to other instances of combative and/or disruptive behavior by Diadenko. (Id. at 2.) Folino suspended Diadenko for three days in connection with these charges. (See Notice of Disciplinary Action, dated Nov. 12, 2009, attached as part of Group Ex. O to Defs.' Stmt.) Diadenko appealed her suspension to the Board, and lost. (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 96; see also Letter from C. Colston to E. Diadenko, dated Jan. 7, 2010, attached as part of Group Ex. O to Defs.' Stmt. (informing Diadenko that her three-day suspension was upheld and stating that it would be served February 3-5, 2010).)
In late November 2009, Diadenko sent a letter to the Mayor of Chicago complaining about certain practices in Schurz's special education department. (See Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 104; see also Investigative Memo., dated Feb. 3, 2010, attached as Ex. P to Defs.' Stmt., at 1 (describing a letter from Diadenko to former-Mayor Daley dated November 28, 2009).) The parties have not included Diadenko's letter in their summary judgment materials, but we gather from the report of Ray Poloko, the CPS investigator assigned to investigate Diadenko's claims, that Diadenko's letter raised the following concerns: (1) Schurz teachers were being required to write Individual Education Programs ("IEP") for students they did not teach;
On or about January 4, 2010, Folino gave Diadenko another "Notice of Pre-Discipline Hearing." (See Notice of Pre-Discipline Hearing, dated Jan. 4, 2010, attached as part of group Ex. O to Defs.' Stmt.) This notice accused Diadenko of sending a letter to an LSC member containing a printed copy of an email that had been one of the bases for Diadenko's earlier suspension. (Id.) According to the notice, the email enclosed in the letter contained confidential information about a student at the school, and included a handwritten note: "Mrs. Durbin[,] more wrong by principal as Schurz LSC look the other way[.] Clean it up for the students." (Id.) The notice also accused Diadenko of disrupting a student evaluation by refusing to participate without a union representative present. (Id.) In addition, the "Discipline Hearing Summary" related to these charges accused Diadenko of referring to Folino as the "Italian Mafia" and equating her with a "Nazi concentration camp leader." (Discipline Hearing Summary, dated Jan. 4, 2010, attached as part of Group Ex. O to Defs.' Stmt., at 1.) Folino suspended Diadenko for 10 days without pay in connection with these charges. (See Notice of Disciplinary Action, dated January 22, 2010, attached as part of Group Ex. O to Defs.' Stmt.) The Board issued a "formal Warning Resolution" to Diadenko in May 2010 after upholding her ten-day suspension on appeal. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 103.)
3. Andrew Breen
Breen began working at Schurz in July 2009 as a special education teacher, his first teaching position after completing college. (See id. at ¶ 62.) At a meeting held shortly before the children were to begin the 2009-2010 school year, Breen complained that Schurz was using outdated standardized tests. (Pls.' Supp. Stmt. (Dkt. 33) ¶ 37.)
The plaintiffs have filed a six-count complaint asserting claims for First Amendment retaliation (Count I), "class of one" equal protection (Count II), asbestos exposure (Count III, asserted by Chiodo only), violation of the Chicago Public Schools's "whistleblower" statute (Count IV), violation of the Illinois "whistleblower" statute (Count V), and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") (Count VI). The defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of the plaintiffs' claims. In response to the defendants' motion, the plaintiffs have abandoned their class-of-one equal protection claim (Count II). (See Pls.' Resp. at 10.) With respect to their other claims, the plaintiffs argue that there are material factual disputes that entitle them to proceed to trial.
A. Legal Standard
"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In considering such a motion, the court construes the evidence and all inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Pitasi v. Gartner Group, Inc., 184 F.3d 709, 714 (7th Cir.1999). "The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "Summary judgment should be denied if the dispute is `genuine': `if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Talanda v. KFC Nat'l Mgmt. Co., 140 F.3d 1090, 1095 (7th Cir.1998) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). The court will enter summary judgment against a party who does not "come forward with evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to find in [its] favor on a material question." McGrath v. Gillis, 44 F.3d 567, 569 (7th Cir.1995).
B. First-Amendment Retaliation (Count I)
The plaintiffs have filed claims for damages against both Folino and the Board for First-Amendment retaliation. In their complaint, the plaintiffs indicate that they are suing Folino in her "official capacity." (Compl. ¶ 13.) On that basis,
To prevail on their retaliation claims, the plaintiffs must prove that: "(1) [their] speech was constitutionally protected; (2) the protected speech was a but-for cause of the employer's action; and (3) [they] suffered a deprivation because of the employer's action." Wackett v. City of Beaver Dam, Wis., 642 F.3d 578, 581 (7th Cir.2011). We apply a two-part test to determine whether a public employee's speech is protected. See Spiegla v. Hull, 481 F.3d 961, 965 (7th Cir.2007). First, we ask whether the employee "spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). If so, we go on to balance the employee's interest in speaking against the employer's interest "in promoting effective and efficient public service." Id.
1. Whether the Plaintiffs Spoke "As Citizens"
The defendants argue that the plaintiffs were speaking as employees, not "as citizens," and therefore their complaints about Schurz were not protected by the First Amendment. See Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410, 420-25, 126 S.Ct. 1951, 164 L.Ed.2d 689 (2006). In Garcetti, a deputy district attorney challenged the accuracy of an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant. Id. at 414, 126 S.Ct. 1951. He told his supervisors about his concerns and recommend that they dismiss the underlying criminal case. Id. The plaintiff's statements upset his superiors and allegedly led to a series of retaliatory employment actions. Id. at 414-15, 126 S.Ct. 1951. The Supreme Court concluded that the plaintiff's complaints to his supervisors were not entitled to First Amendment protection because they made pursuant to the plaintiff's official duties as a prosecutor. Id. at 421, 126 S.Ct. 1951. In other words, he was speaking as an employee, not as a citizen. Id. "Garcetti requires a practical inquiry into whether an employee's expression was made pursuant to her official obligations, including both her day-to-day duties and her more general responsibilities." Trigillo v. Snyder, 547 F.3d 826, 829 (7th Cir.2008). The plaintiff in Garcetti "spoke as a prosecutor fulfilling a responsibility to advise his supervisor about how best to proceed with a pending case." Garcetti, 547 U.S. at 421, 126 S.Ct. 1951. Similarly, the plaintiff in Spiegla spoke as an employee "when she reported  possible misconduct to her superior and sought clarification of a security policy she felt may have been breached." See Spiegla, 481 F.3d at 967; see also Wackett, 642
We conclude that Diadenko and Breen spoke as employees when they complained internally about Schurz's special education department.
2. Whether the Plaintiffs' Allegedly Protected Speech Caused the Defendants' Adverse Employment Actions
At the summary judgment stage in a retaliation case, the burden of proof on causation is "split between the parties." Kidwell v. Eisenhauer, 679 F.3d 957, 965 (7th Cir.2012). "Initially, to establish a prima facie case of retaliation, the plaintiff must produce evidence that his speech was at least a motivating factor — or, in philosophical terms, a `sufficient condition' — of the employer's decision to take retaliatory action against him. Then, the burden shifts to the employer to rebut the causal inference raised by the plaintiff's evidence. If the employer fails to counter the plaintiff's evidence, then the employer's retaliatory actions are considered a `necessary condition' of the plaintiff's harm, and the plaintiff has established the but-for causation needed to succeed on his claim." Id. (citations omitted). The plaintiffs can meet their burden with either direct or circumstantial evidence. Id. Direct evidence establishes retaliation "without reliance upon inference or presumption." Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). "Circumstantial evidence may include suspicious timing, ambiguous oral or written statements, or behavior towards or comments directed at other employees in the protected group." Id. at 966 (quoting Long v. Teachers' Retirement Sys. of Ill., 585 F.3d 344, 350 (7th Cir.
There are several employment actions affecting Chiodo that we can quickly dispense with. Folino's decision to terminate Chiodo's overtime occurred months before Chiodo's first letter to the OIG in November 2008. Chiodo's purported threat to call the OIG in or around June 2008 — which she denies making, see supra — is not even arguably protected by the First Amendment. (Cf. Pls.' Resp. at 8.) Chiodo did not actually contact the OIG until November 2008, and Folino did not learn that she had contacted the OIG until December. (See Pls.' Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 17.) Likewise, the decisions to remove Chiodo as Folino's secretary, to move her to a cubicle, and to remove asbestos tiles from her former work area all occurred before she contacted the OIG. On the other hand, there is sufficient evidence in the record to support a finding that Curriere threw a plastic rat on Chiodo's desk after Folino learned that Chiodo had contacted the OIG. But the only evidence linking Folino to this incident is her then-secretary's statement to a CPS investigator that Curriere was in Folino's office for 20-30 minutes before the incident and that she saw Curriere emerge with a bag. (See Case Activity Report, dated Dec. 18, 2008, attached as part of Group Ex. 4A to Pls.' Resp.) This evidence is insufficient to raise a material factual dispute for trial. It would be pure speculation to find that, contrary to Folino's testimony, she knew what Curriere planned to do — or actually directed her to do it — based only on this evidence. See Stephens v. Erickson, 569 F.3d 779, 786 (7th Cir.2009) ("The nonmoving party must point to specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, and inferences relying on mere speculation or conjecture will not suffice.").
This brings us to the decisions in February 2009 to terminate Chiodo's duties as treasurer and to eliminate her parking spot. Although these events occurred after Chiodo's letters to the OIG, that alone is insufficient to survive summary judgment. If a plaintiff is relying on "suspicious timing" alone to support the inference of causation, then the alleged retaliation usually must occur within a "few days" after the employee's speech. Kidwell, 679 F.3d at 966. Otherwise, the inference that the employee's speech caused the employer to act is too speculative to survive summary judgment. See id. ("Suspicious timing may be just that — suspicious — and a suspicion is not enough to get past a motion for summary judgment.") (quoting Loudermilk v. Best Pallet Co., 636 F.3d 312, 315 (7th Cir.2011) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Chiodo was removed as treasurer approximately two months after Folino first learned that Chiodo had contacted the OIG, and approximately five weeks after Chiodo's letter to Ciesil. There may have been other correspondence closer in time to Chiodo's demotion, but as we discussed before, plaintiffs have not specifically identified Chiodo's other communications (despite being given a second chance to do so). The passage of time does not necessarily mean that the plaintiffs cannot show that Chiodo's speech was a motivating factor in her demotion. Cf. Sitar v. Indiana Dept. of Transp., 344 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir.2003) (case involving alleged retaliation for complaints of sex discrimination: the timing of an employment action is not "dispositive in proving or disproving a causal link"). But they must point to some other evidence to establish their prima facie case, and they have failed to do so. The thrust of the plaintiffs' argument seems to be that the admitted animosity between
The same analysis applies to the decision regarding Chiodo's parking space: it is remote in time from the only allegedly protected speech that plaintiffs have adequately identified, and the plaintiffs have not articulated any other reason to infer that the decision was retaliatory. In fact, the only relevant evidence that either party cites on this issue supports the opposite conclusion: plaintiffs admit that renovations to make the school ADA compliant also caused other school employees to lose their parking spots. (See Pls.' Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 28.) The plaintiffs contend that the ADA renovations were "pretext for retaliation (i.e., to force Chiodo to park much farther away)." (See Pls.' Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 28.) But they have not cited any evidence suggesting that the renovations were unnecessary. The defendants' motion for summary judgment on Chiodo's claim for First-Amendment retaliation is granted.
Although there is evidence that Diadenko complained to the ISBE as early as September 2009, the plaintiffs have not cited any evidence establishing precisely when she made those complaints. This is critical information because, as we just discussed, an employee's allegedly protected speech and the employer's adverse action must occur "very close" in time to support an inference of causation. Kidwell, 679 F.3d at 966. Absent some other evidence indicating that her discipline was retaliatory, Diadenko cannot survive summary judgment by vaguely asserting that she spoke out at some unspecified time before she was suspended. See, e.g., Wright v. Illinois Dept. of Children & Family Services, 40 F.3d 1492, 1500 (7th Cir.1994) (a court cannot "typically draw strong conclusions from the mere fact that protected speech may have preceded an adverse employment decision"). The only allegedly protected statement we can specifically identify — albeit by reference to a separate document — is Diadenko's letter to the Mayor of Chicago in late November 2009. Obviously, Diadenko's three-day suspension in late October could not have been retaliation for a letter she had not yet sent. Her ten — day suspension in January 2010 was imposed after she sent this letter, but the plaintiffs have not cited any evidence indicating that Folino learned about the letter before suspending Diadenko. Also, the time between the letter and the suspension — approximately a month — is too long to support an inference of causation. See Kidwell, 679 F.3d at 967 (periods of two months and five weeks, respectively, "militate[d] against allowing an inference of causation based on suspicious timing").
The context of the discipline that Folino imposed also undercuts the inference that Diadenko's complaints were a motivating factor in her suspension. See id. (a "significant intervening event" will defeat a causation argument predicated on suspicious timing). Folino learned on December 10, 2009 that an LSC representative had received by mail a copy of an email that Diadenko had sent to Folino and others with personal information about one of Diadenko's students. Folino admitted during her deposition that she believed
With respect to Breen, the plaintiffs cite two instances of alleged retaliation: (1) Folino's statement to Breen ordering him not to "break ranks;" and (2) criticisms of Breens' teaching performance by Folino and others. (Pls.' Resp. at 9.) First, the plaintiffs have not cited any evidence supporting their contention that Folino knew that Breen sent a letter to Poloko.
We turn now to the criticism of Breen's teaching performance. Even assuming that plaintiffs had cited evidence indicating that Folino was aware of Breen's allegedly protected speech, the circumstantial evidence that Folino criticized his performance because of his speech is insufficient to create a genuine factual issue. The plaintiffs rely primarily on Lang v. DCFS, 361 F.3d 416 (7th Cir.2004), but the facts of that case are very different than our own. In Lang, the plaintiff had received positive performance reviews for five years prior to his complaint of racial discrimination. See id. at 419. After he complained, he was faced with several accusations of "unexcused absences" that later proved unfounded, and his supervisor began issuing frequent written criticisms of his work. Id. at 419-20. Besides the suspicious timing and questionable validity of the supervisor's criticisms, there was also evidence that the supervisor was applying employer policies unreasonably. See id. at 420 (citing instances where the plaintiff's supervisor imposed requirements the plaintiff could not realistically satisfy). The totality of these circumstances led the Court to conclude that the plaintiff was entitled to proceed to trial. Id. at 421. By contrast, Breen was a new teacher in 2009 without any track record. Consequently, the fact that Folino and others criticized Breen for being disorganized is not suspicious in and of itself. See Burks v. Wisconsin Dept. of Transp., 464 F.3d 744, 758 n. 17 (7th Cir.2006) (distinguishing Lang on the grounds that the plaintiff in Burks had been employed less than a year when she began receiving negative performance reviews). The plaintiffs contend that Breen was a better teacher than Folino's criticisms would suggest, relying on Breen's assessment of his own performance. (See Pls.' Resp. to Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 70, 81). But they have not cited, nor are we aware of, any authority holding that an employee's subjective beliefs about his own performance are sufficient to survive summary judgment on a claim for First Amendment retaliation. In analogous employment-discrimination cases, such evidence is usually insufficient to defeat summary judgment because the ultimate question is not whether the employer correctly evaluated the plaintiff's performance, but instead whether the employer terminated the employee for an improper reason. See, e.g., Dey v. Colt Const. & Development Co., 28 F.3d 1446, 1460 (7th Cir.1994) (self-serving testimony that an employee performed adequately "generally is insufficient to raise a question of fact about an employer's honest assessment of inadequate performance"); Gustovich v. AT & T Communications, Inc., 972 F.2d 845, 848 (7th Cir.1992) (similar); cf. Kuhn v. Ball State University, 78 F.3d 330, 332 (7th Cir.1996) ("Employers may act for many reasons, good and bad; they may err in evaluating employees' strengths; unless they act for a forbidden reason, these errors (more properly, differences in assessment) do not matter.").
The plaintiffs seek to impose Monell liability against the Board based upon an alleged policy or practice of "deliberate indifference to whistleblowers." (Pls.' Resp. at 11.) Without an underlying constitutional violation, their Monell claim against the Board fails. See Sallenger v. City of Springfield, Ill., 630 F.3d 499, 505 (7th Cir.2010) ("[B]ecause there is no underlying constitutional violation, the City cannot be liable under Monell.").
D. State Law "Whistleblower" Claims
The plaintiffs have asserted claims under three separate statutory "whistleblower" provisions.
The plaintiffs have also asserted claims under the Illinois Whistleblower Act. They specifically cite 740 ILCS 174/10, which prohibits employers from maintaining policies preventing employees from disclosing illegal acts to "government or law enforcement" agencies, and 740 ILCS 174/20, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who refuse to participate in illegal acts. With respect to Section 10, there is no evidence of any formal policy or rule preventing employees from contacting government agencies about wrongdoing. An employer might have an unwritten policy to the same effect, but for the reasons we discussed in connection with plaintiffs' retaliation claims, there is insufficient evidence that defendants maintained or enforced such a policy to survive summary judgment. With respect to Section 20, the defendants point out that the plaintiffs have not cited evidence that they ever refused to participate in allegedly illegal acts. See Robinson v. Alter Barge Line, Inc., 513 F.3d 668, 670 (7th Cir.2008) (no violation where the plaintiff failed to show that he refused to participate in illegal activity). Section 15 of the Whistleblower Act, prohibiting retaliation for reporting illegal acts to outside agencies, is probably a better fit for the plaintiffs' claims. But they have not cited that provision in their
E. IIED (Count VI)
To prevail on their IIED claims, the plaintiffs must show: (1) that the defendants' conduct was "truly extreme and outrageous;" (2) the defendants intended to inflict severe emotional distress, or at least knew that there was a high probability that their conduct would cause severe emotional distress; and (3) the defendants' conduct in fact caused severe emotional distress. Harriston v. Chicago Tribune Co., 992 F.2d 697, 702 (7th Cir.1993) (quoting McGrath v. Fahey, 126 Ill.2d 78, 127 Ill.Dec. 724, 533 N.E.2d 806, 809 (1988)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The plaintiffs' response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment cites only one purported instance of "extreme and outrageous" conduct: the incident involving the plastic rat. (See Pls.' Resp. at 13.) Even assuming that this was "extreme and outrageous" conduct, we have already held that there is insufficient evidence linking Folino to this incident to create a triable issue. The defendants' motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs' IIED claims (Count VI) is granted.
F. Asbestos Exposure (Count III)
It is unclear from plaintiffs' complaint what legal theory underpins Chiodo's "asbestos exposure" claim, and their one-paragraph discussion of that claim in their response brief does not shed any light on that question. (See Compl. ¶ 37 (referring to unspecified OSHA regulations); see also Pls.' Resp. at 11.) They have not cited any legal authority supporting Chiodo's claim, and their one reference to the record is indecipherable.
The defendants' motion for summary judgment  is granted.