United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
March 12, 2004.
Bloomin Apple LLC
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PHILIP REINHARD, District Judge
For the reason stated on the reverse memorandum opinion and order, the
court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment as to both
plaintiffs and dismisses this cause in its entirety.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs, Serena Miller and Stacy Whitfield, filed an amended
complaint, naming as defendants, The Bloomin' Apple, LLC, and The
Bloomin' Apple Feeport, LLC, and alleging that they were the victims of
race discrimination when they were not promoted from the position of
serverto the position of bartender at the Appelbee's restaurant in
Freeport, Illinois. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, asserting
that defendant, The Bloomin' Apple, LLC, was not an employer of either
plaintiff and, alternatively, that plaintiffs have failed to establish a
prima facie case of race discrimination or show that the reason offered by
defendants for not promoting either was a pretext for race
Initially, the court denies summary judgment to defendant, The Bloomin'
Apple, LLC, as there exists a question of material fact as to whether it
was an employer of plaintiffs.
Turning to the alternative basis for summary judgment, plaintiffs have
chosen to characterize their claims as ones for failure to promote. While
it is debatable, based on the evidence, whether a move from server to
bartender was in fact a promotion, the court will consider plaintiffs'
claims in the context of a failure to promote.
Plaintiffs concede that they have no direct evidence of discrimination
and so proceed under the burden-shifting methodology of McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green. 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Grayson v. City of Chicago.
317 F.3d 745, 748 (7th Cir. 2003). Under that approach, a prima facie
case of employment discrimination creates a rebuttable presumption that
the employer's actions, if unexplained, were the result of impermissible
factors and shifts the burden of production to the employer to articulate
some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions. Grayson. 317
F.3d at 748. If the employer meets that burden, the plaintiff must show
that the articulated reasons are pretextual. Grayson. 317 F.3d at 748. In
order to establish a prima facie case in the failure-to-promote context,
the plaintiff must show that: (1) she belongs to a protected class; (2)
she applied for and was qualified for the position sought; (3) she was
rejected for that position; and (4) the employer granted the promotion to
someone outside of the protected group who was not better qualified than
the plaintiff. Grayson, 317 F.3d at 748.
In this case, the court will apply this analysis to each plaintiff
separately. In doing so, the court must define the position to which both
plaintiffs claim they were not promoted. First, contrary to their
assertion in their brief, there was no "bartender trainee" position.
While all new bartenders underwent training, the undisputed evidence is
that the position was for bartender. Having said that, it is also
undisputed that the two bartender positions that plaintiffs sought
required some level of prior experience and an availability to work full
As for Whitfield, she has failed to establish either element 2 or 4 of
the prima facie case. She was not qualified for the position because she
lacked prior experience as a bartender. It is also undisputed that as to
element 4 the people chosen to fill the particular positions at issue had
previous bartending experience.
In the case of Miller, while she did have some prior bartending
experience, she fails to establish element 4 because she has not shown
that the people selected were not better qualified than her. Curiously,
even though she carries the burden to establish all elements of the prima
facie case, she stated in her deposition that she did not care what the
qualifications for the people chosen were. This was both a strategic
error and fatal to her claim.
Aside from any failure to establish a prima facie case, neither
plaintiff has offered any evidence from which a reasonable trier of
fact could conclude that the reasons asserted by defendants for hiring
someone other than plaintiffs was pretextual. It is undisputed that
defendants reasons for doing so were based on a combination of their
need for experienced bartenders at those particular times and certain
concerns pertaining to each plaintiff's qualifications. For example,
defendants were concerned about Miller's availability to work full
shifts and her job performance as a server. As for Whitfield, she
lacked bartending experience and had either not finished her probation
or had only recently done so. These legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason have gone unrebutted.
Plaintiffs having failed to establish a prima facie case of race
discrimination or to show that defendants' reasons were pretextual, the
court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismisses this
cause in its entirety.
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