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ARMFIELD v. RUNYON

October 26, 1995

VERNELL ARMFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
MARVIN RUNYON, JR., Postmaster General, U.S. Postal Service, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO

 Vernell Armfield, plaintiff in this action, was an employee of the U.S. Postal Service from March, 1990 through April 17, 1992, when he was suspended, allegedly due to violations of Postal Service rules. Mr. Armfield's employment subsequently was terminated. His two-count complaint in this action, brought pursuant to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq., originally alleged that he was discharged because of his race as well as in retaliation for filing a complaint with the Postal Service Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor. On May 17, 1995, Mr. Armfield voluntarily dismissed his race discrimination claim. Defendant seeks summary judgment on Mr. Armfield's retaliation claim. For the reasons discussed below, defendant's motion is granted.

 I. Undisputed Facts

 The undisputed facts in this case show that on October 17, 1991, Mr. Armfield received a Postal Service letter of warning prepared by Juan Torres, Mr. Armfield's direct supervisor, addressing Mr. Armfield's failure to follow instructions by parking in a certain lot. *fn1" Mr. Armfield received a second letter of warning on March 12, 1992 from Mr. Torres concerning his failure to deliver mail on March 9, 1992.

 On April 17, 1992, Mr. Armfield was issued a seven day suspension for "failure to follow instructions," "conduct unbecoming a postal employee," and "creating a potential safety hazard" due to purported behavior on April 8, 1992 consisting of parking in a lot in violation of orders, telling Jaspar Booker, the Postal Service manager at the postal service facility where Mr. Armfield worked, "suspend me, I don't give a f/--, I'm going home" and throwing a glass juice bottle in an employee work area. *fn2" After receiving notice of the suspension in Mr. Torres' office, Mr. Armfield was instructed to leave the Postal Station. Instead of doing so, he went to his work area, then returned to Mr. Torres' office where he told Mr. Torres and Mr. Booker "that he was going to get them" and afterwards, went back to his work area. Mr. Booker subsequently told Mr. Armfield twice to leave the Postal Station, and while the two were "toe to toe," Mr. Armfield said that he should knock off Mr. Booker's glasses. The Postal Service placed Mr. Armfield on emergency off duty status for threatening a postal supervisor and again told him to leave the premises of the Postal Station. The Chicago Police Department arrived at the Postal Station and arrested Mr. Armfield for assault.

 A Postal Service General Order dated May 1, 1991, of which Mr. Armfield was aware, warned employees that fights and assaults could be punished with emergency suspension and/or removal. Mr. Armfield also knew that threatening another Postal Service employee with violence could result in discharge and that compliance with supervisors' directions was required.

 Mr. Armfield's informal EEO complaint as well as the complaint in this case assert that his first contact with an EEO counselor was April 21, 1992. On May 28, 1992, Flora Greenlee, an EEO counselor and investigator, contacted Mr. Booker regarding Mr. Armfield's allegations. On or about June 6, 1992, Mr. Armfield received a notice of removal from the Postal Service informing him that thirty days later he would be removed from his position for threatening two supervisors and becoming disruptive on the work room floor.

 II. Retaliation

 Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it is illegal "for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by [Title VII]." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). A plaintiff claiming retaliation under this section has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case by showing the following three elements:

 
(1) she engaged in statutorily protected expression;
 
(2) she suffered an adverse action by her employer; and
 
(3) there is a causal link between the protected expression and the adverse action.

 Dey v. Colt Construction and Development Company, 28 F.3d 1446, 1457 (7th Cir. 1994); Koelsch v. Beltone Electronics Corporation, 46 F.3d 705, 708 (7th Cir. 1995). Once Mr. Armfield establishes these elements, defendant must produce a nondiscriminatory reason for Mr. Armfield's discharge. Dey v. Colt Construction and Development Company, supra, 28 F.3d at 1457. Mr. Armfield bears the ultimate burden of demonstrating that the defendant's proffered reason for dismissing him is pretextual because the true reason is ...


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