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Peters v. Renaissance Hotel Operating Company

September 20, 2002


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 98 C 3990--William J. Hibbler, Judge.

Before Bauer, Posner and Ripple, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ripple, Circuit Judge.


Christian S. Peters brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 42 U.S.C § 2000e et seq. against his former employer, Renaissance Hotel Operating Corp. ("Renaissance"). Mr. Peters alleged that Renaissance had subjected him to discriminatory treatment and had terminated his employment on the basis of his race and in retaliation for voicing concern on issues of diversity. The district court granted summary judgment for Renaissance, and Mr. Peters appealed. We now affirm the judgment of the district court.


A. Facts

1. Employment History

Mr. Peters was employed by Renaissance as a Loss Prevention Officer ("LPO") from March 1996 to November 17, 1997; Mr. Peters typically worked the third shift. As a LPO, Mr. Peters' duties included providing for the safety and security of guests, monitoring Renaissance guest and associate activity, and working with outside agencies like the Chicago Fire Department. LPOs were supposed to record their activities in an activity log; the importance of keeping an accurate activity log was communicated to all LPOs at a departmental meeting in October 1997.

a. Discriminatory Treatment of Guests

Mr. Peters maintains that he began to notice discriminatory treatment toward African-American guests shortly after he began his employment. Mr. Peters points to four incidents during his employment that evidenced this discrimination. First, Mr. Peters states that LPOs were instructed to watch or follow African-American guests, but were not given similar instructions with respect to Caucasian guests. As well, a Renaissance bartender reported that an African-American man was taking money from the coin fountain; after investigation, it was determined that the report was unfounded. Furthermore, according to Mr. Peters, on at least one occasion, a party of African-American guests was not provided with additional ice and cups, while noisier parties of Caucasian guests were moved, with hotel assistance, to public rooms and provided with additional supplies. Finally, Jeffrey Simons, a Loss Prevention supervisor, *fn1 referring to music being played by some African-American guests, commented that he could not wait until the "wicca wicca woo" music was turned off. R.69, ¶ 97.

b. Discriminatory Treatment of Employees

In addition to discriminatory treatment of guests, Mr. Peters maintains that Renaissance engaged in discriminatory treatment of its employees. Mr. Peters recalls an incident in which he overheard a Caucasian LPO use the word "nigger." *fn2 Mr. Peters claims that he complained about this incident "up the chain of command" and, at least initially, "was told to mind his own business," R.77, ¶ 134; however, Mr. Peters also admits that the offending LPO was required to apologize to Mr. Peters and was suspended for the use of the term. The incident also prompted management to hold diversity training classes for the Loss Prevention department. See R.69, ¶¶ 136 and 144; R.77, ¶¶ 136 and 144.

Mr. Peters also points to other ways that African-American employees at Renaissance were subjected to different treatment. Mr. Peters states that Steve Keith, Renaissance's director of human resources, would greet Caucasian employees, but did not greet Mr. Peters or another African-American LPO, Tyrone Kuehnel, in the same manner. As well, on one occasion, Simons, a supervisor, asked Milt Stroner, a Caucasian LPO, to retrieve coins from the fountain, but Mr. Peters and Kuehnel were not asked to perform this duty.

c. Retaliation

According to Mr. Peters, when he brought complaints to management concerning the treatment of African-American patrons and employees, he soon started to experience retaliation in response to these complaints. With one exception, Mr. Peters does not identify the specific nature of his complaints, to whom the complaints were addressed and when, in proximity to the alleged retaliation, the complaints were made. The record does reflect that, in September 1997, Mr. Peters and Kuehnel met with Anthony Stewart-Moore, the General Manager, to discuss their concerns about diversity. *fn3

The first of the alleged retaliatory actions occurred in June 1996, after several Renaissance guests complained that they had not received the breakfasts that they had placed orders for the previous evening. It is the responsibility of LPOs on the night shift to pick up breakfast order cards. When Baughman confronted Mr. Peters, who had been on duty on the evening in question, Mr. Peters claimed that he had, in fact, picked up the breakfast cards. Baughman reviewed Mr. Peters' activity log and discovered that it did not reflect time collecting the cards. Mr. Peters was counseled that he "should document on his activity log all times, actions and observations." R.77, ¶ 71. Mr. Peters also was issued a warning for failing to document his activities on his activity log: "Failure to properly document actions on the Activity Log will result in further disciplinary action and retraining." Id. Mr. Peters believes that he should not have been given this warning because the more generic term "touring floors," which was stated in his activity log, encompasses picking up the breakfast cards. R.77, ¶ 71.

Also early in Mr. Peters' employment, Baughman was alerted by other members of Renaissance management that unauthorized telephone calls were being charged to a telephone located in the Audio Visual Room. Baughman set up a hidden surveillance camera to determine who was making the calls. Mr. Peters was recorded on video using the telephone. Baughman again reviewed Mr. Peters' activity log to see if his log reflected his calls from the Audio Visual Room, but the log reflected no such activity. When questioned by Baughman, Mr. Peters stated that he did not recall making the calls. In a subsequent meeting with Baughman and Keith, Mr. Peters admitted making the calls, but claimed that he did not know that he could not make calls from that room. Mr. Peters received another warning for this action. *fn4

d. Events Leading to Mr. Peters' Termination

In November 1997, an employee in the national sales office ("NSO") reported to Baughman that she believed someone was entering the office after hours without authorization. As a result, an investigation was conducted, and Baughman set up a hidden camera in the office. At about 11:15 p.m. on November 12, 1997, Mr. Peters was asked by Erik Williamson, an off-duty, Caucasian LPO, if Mr. Peters would come to the NSO with Williamson and help Williamson look for computer disks containing software he needed for a Loss Prevention department project. Once in the sales office, Mr. Peters and Williamson opened drawers and closets to see if they could find what Williamson wanted. Williamson also turned on the computer and showed Mr. Peters how to access the internet. Mr. Peters and Williamson were in the sales office for about 51 minutes.

Mr. Peters' activity log, however, did not reveal any time spent in the sales office. In contrast, his log stated that he was various places performing his duties during that time period. *fn5 Mr. Peters later explained that he had preentered some of the items on the log, but had forgotten to change them later.

On November 17, 1997, Baughman and Keith met with Mr. Peters and Williamson in separate meetings and terminated their employment with Renaissance. Williamson was terminated for being in the sales office while off-duty, for using the computer and for accessing the internet without authorization. Mr. Peters was terminated for being in the office for an extended time without authorization and for falsification of his activity log. *fn6

2. Charges of Discrimination

In February 1998, shortly after his termination, Mr. Peters brought his first charge of discrimination against Renaissance, charge number 210981300. In that charge, Mr. Peters claimed that he had been terminated on the ...

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