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WIMBERLY v. ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD

June 24, 2002

VERNON D. WIMBERLY, PLAINTIFF,
V.
ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY, U.S. District Judge.

ORDER

On August 21, 2001, Plaintiff, Vernon D. Wimberly, filed his Complaint (#3) against Defendant, Illinois Central Railroad. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.) by discriminating against him on the basis of his race. On January 24, 2002, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#9) with supporting documentation and a Memorandum of Law in Support (#10). On April 2, 2002, Plaintiff filed his own Motion for Summary Judgment (#13) with a statement of facts entitled "Introduction." On April 26, 2002, Defendant filed a Motion to Strike and Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#14). Following this court's careful review of the documents submitted by Defendant and the arguments of the parties, Defendant's Motion to Strike (#14) is DENIED, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (#9) is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#13) is DENIED.

FACTS

The following facts are taken from Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. In the fall of 1998, Plaintiff applied for a position with Defendant as Locomotive Engineer and was accepted into the training program effective January 11, 1999. There were eight locomotive engineer trainees in Plaintiff's class. Seven of the trainees were white, and Plaintiff was the only black locomotive engineer trainee in the class.
Defendant is a railroad subject to the provisions of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Part 240.209(a) of the FRA Regulations provides: "Prior to initially certifying . . . any person as an engineer . . . [a railroad] shall determine that the person has . . . demonstrated sufficient knowledge of the railroad's rules and practices for the safe operation of trains." Part 240.209(i) of the FRA Regulations further states that an applicant for an engineering position must exhibit "his or her knowledge by achieving a passing grade in testing that complies with this part."
On the first day of training, the locomotive engineer trainees, including Plaintiff, were informed that they would be given two chances to pass the required knowledge examination. Following four days of classroom instruction, a written exam was administered to all eight locomotive engineer trainees. Six of the eight trainees scored 90% or better on the exam and passed the exam. Plaintiff and Charles Poling did not score 90% or better. Plaintiff received a score of 70.5% and Poling received a score of 89.4%. Both Plaintiff and Poling were advised that they would be given one month to study before taking a second and final test. On February 23, 1999, the exam was administered again. Poling passed the test with a score of 97.1%. Plaintiff failed the test with a score of 85.9%, which was not a passing score. Plaintiff was the only individual who failed to pass the knowledge exam on either try.
Plaintiff was removed from the training program after he failed to pass the required knowledge exam on February 23, 1999. He was given a Notice of Pending Denial of Certification, which he and his supervisor signed. Plaintiff was given ten days to explain or rebut, in writing, the adverse information prior to denial of certification. He did not do so, and his employment was terminated because he failed to pass the required knowledge examination.
Plaintiff does not dispute any of these facts. However, in his "Introduction" attached to his Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff stated that, at the time he applied for the locomotive engineer position, he was employed with Florida Central Railroad as an Engineer/Conductor. He stated that he was "fully aware of all FRA, AAR, and DOT rules and regulations." He stated that he was not told prior to the first day of training that "if anyone failed the second test they would be discharge[d]." He stated that if he had been "given that pertinent information," it would have allowed him "to make a logical decision, base[d] on Company policies and procedures." Plaintiff stated that "[p]rior to employment every Loco-Engineer new hire should be aware of all the rules in [regards] to the job, especially when you are resigning one job" and moving to another job more than 1500 miles away.

ANALYSIS

I. MOTION TO STRIKE
Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment should be stricken as it is unsupported by any affidavits, deposition testimony or other admissible evidence. However, this court notes that the Local Rules of the Central District of Illinois specifically provide that Local Rule 7.1(D), which sets out the requirements for a motion for summary judgment, "does not apply to pro se litigants." Accordingly, Defendant's Motion to Strike (#14) is DENIED, and this court will consider the arguments and factual statements included in Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#13).
II. MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment shall be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a district court has one task and one task only: to decide, based upon the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial. Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). In making this determination, the court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970). However, neither the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Debs v. Northeastern Ill. Univ., 153 F.3d 390, 394 (7th Cir. ...

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