The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARLANDER KEYS, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Foster Palmer, brought this Title VII action against
Defendant, Anthony J. Principi, Secretary of Veterans Affairs (the VA).
The VA now moves for summary judgment. For the reasons below, the court
grants the VA's motion.
This lawsuit arises out of the circumstances surrounding Foster
Palmer's retirement from the VA after thirty years of service. During his
tenure, Mr. Palmer held various positions and titles. In 1994, Mr. Palmer
became chief of the Business Services Office of the VA's National
Acquisition Center (NAC). As chief, Mr. Palmer was responsible for
marketing VA contracts to other government agencies. Mr. Palmer also had
the authority to bind the VA to contracts for goods and services. Shortly before Mr. Palmer became chief, a VA employee brought sexual
harassment charges against him. Upset by the VA's subsequent
investigations, Mr. Palmer filed a series of Equal Employment Opportunity
(EEO) complaints against the VA, claiming that the VA was using the
sexual harassment investigations to force him into an early retirement.
In March 1996, Mr. Palmer and the VA agreed to mediate his EEO
complaints. With the assistance of counsel, the parties reached a
settlement agreement whereby Mr. Palmer agreed to retire by June 1, 1996
or no later than November 1, 1996 if Mr. Palmer secured temporary
assignment outside the NAC (the Settlement Agreement). The Settlement
Agreement also provided that, upon reasonable documentary proof of
damages and expenses, the VA would pay Mr. Palmer a lump sum payment of
$75,000 by January 31, 1997. After executing the Settlement Agreement,
the VA placed Mr. Palmer on paid leave until June 1, 1996. Mr. Palmer
then decided to procure temporary assignments outside the NAC, rather
than elect the June 1 retirement date.
Soon after signing the Settlement Agreement, Mr. Palmer began demanding
that the VA pay him the agreed upon $75,000. Various issues arose over
the adequacy of Mr. Palmer's medical documentation. The VA claims that,
despite the parties' disagreements, it hoped to meet the January 31, 1997
deadline. But Mr. Palmer was not satisfied. So, on November 4, 1996, he returned to the VA and announced that he wished to continue working.
To accommodate Mr. Palmer's unexpected return, the VA created a
temporary position that of liaison between the NAC and the VA's
Washington D.C. business services office.*fn1 Although the job paid the
same salary as his previous post, Mr. Palmer was not pleased with his new
position. He complains that the VA put him in a separate building, apart
from his former NAC colleagues. Mr. Palmer also complains that, in
contrast to his former post, he did not have a dedicated parking space,
his name was not listed in the agency phone directory, and he did not
have a properly functioning computer or adequate office supplies. Mr.
Palmer further claims that his supervisor did not invite him to regular
staff meetings, and that VA employees generally ignored him. Mr. Palmer
says that these circumstances caused him to feel ostracized, degraded,
Meanwhile, the parties continued negotiating payment of the settlement
monies. After considerable discussion, the parties executed an addendum
to the Settlement Agreement wherein the VA agreed to make payment on a
date certain and Mr. Palmer agreed to retire. Despite this resolution,
Mr. Palmer filed another EEC complaint, alleging that the VA's decision
to place him in the temporary position was retaliatory. Without deciding the matter,
the EEOC remanded Mr. Palmer's complaint to the VA for a final agency
decision. On April 22, 2002, the VA denied Mr. Palmer's retaliation
claim, finding that Mr. Palmer did not suffer an adverse employment
action. Mr. Palmer subsequently filed charges with the EEOC, which issued
a right to sue. Mr. Palmer then initiated the instant lawsuit, and
subsequently consented to proceed before this Court.
Mr. Palmer's complaint alleges that the VA retaliated against him after
he engaged in statutorily protected activity. Following written
discovery, the VA now moves for summary judgment. The VA argues that Mr.
Palmer has not produced evidence to sustain his retaliation claim and
that summary judgment is, therefore, appropriate.
The court will grant summary judgment only if the pleadings and
supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue of material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2003). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists,
the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party and draws all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Shank v.
William R. Hauge, Inc., 192 F.3d 675, 681 (7th Cir. 1999).
The moving party in a motion for summary judgment bears the initial
burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact exists.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party's
burden is met, then the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial in order to survive
summary judgment. Schacht v. Wisconsin Dep't of Corrs., 175 F.3d 497, 504
(7th Cir. 1999). In a summary judgment proceeding, the Court will
disregard all facts not properly supported by the record. Brasic v.
Heinemann's Inc., 121 F.3d 281, 284 (7th Cir. 1997).
Unlawful retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse
employment action against an employee for opposing impermissible
discrimination. Rogers v. City of Chicago, 320 F.3d 748, 753 (2003);
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3. To overcome summary judgment, the plaintiff may
establish a prima facie case of retaliation using either the direct
method or the direct method of proving discrimination. Stone v. City of
Indianapolis Public Utilities Division, 281 F.3d 640, 644 (7th Cir.
2002). Under the direct method, the plaintiff must present direct
evidence of (1) a statutorily protected activity; (2) an adverse
employment action taken by the employer; and (3) a causal connection between the
two. Id. (emphasis added). Under the indirect method, the plaintiff must
show that (1) he engaged in a statutorily protected activity; (2) he
performed his job according to his employer's legitimate expectations; (3)
despite his satisfactory job performance, he suffered an adverse action
from the employer; and (4) he was treated less favorably than similarly
situated employees who did not engage in statutorily protected activity.