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RIMPSON v. BLISS & LAUGHLIN STEEL

February 20, 1998

WILLIE K. RIMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BLISS & LAUGHLIN STEEL, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO

 The plaintiff, Willie Rimpson, filed this Title VII action against the defendant, Bliss & Laughlin Steel ("B&L"), alleging discrimination in pay, racial harassment, retaliatory discharge, and discriminatory discharge. *fn1" B&L moves for summary judgment on all counts. For the reasons set forth below, B&L's motion is granted.

 Background2

 B&L hired Mr. Rimpson as an hourly employee in 1989. In 1991, he sought to advance to Job Class 19 ("JC-19"). Mr. Rimpson enrolled in B&L's apprenticeship program for advancement at Prairie State College ("Prairie State").

 Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between B&L and the union that represents B&L's hourly employees, employees seeking to advance to JC-19 must first successfully complete an apprenticeship program at Prairie State. Employees must provide a copy of their transcripts or grades to show that they successfully completed the program. Advancement to JC-19 and the corresponding pay raise occur only after B&L receives an employee's transcript or grades from Prairie State. No employee has ever been advanced to a higher job classification or received a pay raise without first providing B&L with a copy of his or her transcript or grades.

 Mr. Rimpson did not present B&L with his transcript or grades to show that he successfully completed the Prairie State program. The first notice B&L had that Mr. Rimpson completed his courses at Prairie State was when it received a copy of a charge of discrimination filed by Mr. Rimpson with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on May 29, 1992. The charge alleged that B&L had failed to place him in JC-19 and increase his salary because of his race, black.

 Subsequent to the charge, B&L asked Mr. Rimpson to provide it with his transcript or grades. When it became apparent that neither were forthcoming from Mr. Rimpson, on June 29, 1992, B&L sought and received his permission to obtain a copy of his academic record directly from Prairie State. On August 12, 1992, B&L received Mr. Rimpson's transcript which confirmed that he had taken the required training courses. Five days later, B&L placed him in JC-19 and he received his pay raise.

 After Mr. Rimpson's advancement to JC-19, he repeatedly violated B&L's attendance policy. B&L has a disciplinary action procedure for absenteeism and tardiness which provides for progressive discipline. An employee is discharged if he commits an attendance infraction within 30 days of receiving a three-day suspension.

 Mr. Rimpson received several verbal warnings for coming to work late before any written warning or action was taken against him. Then, in 1995, Mr. Rimpson received a written warning on January 18 for reporting to work late; a one-day suspension on January 24 for calling off his shift late; a three-day suspension on February 2 for reporting to work late; a one-day suspension on April 28 for reporting to work late; and a three-day suspension on May 22 for calling in sick without proof of illness. Within 30 days of his three-day suspension, Mr. Rimpson was late to work on June 3 and absent on June 5. B&L terminated his employment on June 7, 1995 pursuant to its disciplinary action procedure for unacceptable attendance.

 On July 2, 1995, Mr. Rimpson filed an EEOC charge of discrimination claiming that he had been discharged in retaliation for filing his previous charge of discrimination in May 1992.

 Pay Raise Claim

 Mr. Rimpson alleges that B&L discriminated against him on the basis of his race in that he was denied a JC-19 pay raise after he undertook an apprenticeship program while other similarly situated white employees were given a pay raise. He seeks to prove discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973), burden-shifting method of proof. Consequently, Mr. Rimpson must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that: (1) he belongs to some protected class, (2) he performed his job satisfactorily, (3) he suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) his employer treated similarly-situated employees outside his classification more favorably. Lenoir v. Roll Coater, Inc., 13 F.3d 1130, 1132 (7th Cir. 1994). Once established, the burden of production shifts to B&L to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its alleged discriminatory action. Id. at 1133. If B&L meets its burden, Mr. Rimpson must demonstrate that the reason is pretextual. Id.

 B&L contests the fourth-prong of the prima facie case. *fn3" B&L defines similarly situated employees as all employees who undertook the apprenticeship program but never presented documentation to B&L that they completed the program. It contends that Mr. Rimpson did not establish his prima facie case because the two white employees who did receive raises before Mr. Rimpson, Forrest Oney and Douglas Steiber, had presented documentation to B&L before receiving their pay raise while Mr. Rimpson had not presented any documentation. I agree. However, assuming that the two white employees are considered to be similarly situated, in which case Mr. Rimpson could establish a prima facie case, B&L has articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not giving Mr. Rimpson his JC-19 pay raise sooner. B&L states that under the collective bargaining agreement, to receive a JC-19 pay raise, an employee must complete the apprenticeship program and present documentation to B&L, such as a transcript, to prove that he completed the program. Once the documentation is provided, the employee is entitled to a JC-19 pay raise. Mr. Rimpson did not present the required documentation prior to filing his charge of discrimination in May 1992, and thus, he did not receive a pay raise while other employees, who did present documentation, did receive the raise.

 Mr. Rimpson must show that B&L's explanation for his failure to receive a pay raise is merely a pretext for discrimination. Mr. Rimpson has offered no evidence of pretext to rebut B&L's nondiscriminatory reason. In fact, Mr. Rimpson received a pay raise after he provided documentation to B&L. The evidence shows that no employee has received a JC-19 ...


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