The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN GRADY, Senior District Judge
Before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment on both plaintiff's complaint and defendant Sandra
Rzeszutko's counterclaim. For the reasons stated below,
plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied, and
defendants' motion is granted in part.
This is a civil rights action brought by pro se plaintiff
Kirti A. Mehta against Des Plaines Development Limited, also
known as Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel ("Harrah's") and Harrah's
employees or former employees Sandra Rzeszutko, John Parsons,
Fran Fehrenbach, Vince Donlevie, and Thomas Mueller. The thrust
of the complaint is that defendants discriminated against
plaintiff because of his national origin. (Mehta is originally
from India.) The following facts are taken largely from the defendants'
Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Facts and plaintiff's
deposition testimony. These facts are undisputed except as
indicated and where plaintiff's version of the facts is noted.
Defendants have objected to the procedural inadequacies of
plaintiff's submissions, most notably his failure to comply with
Local Rule 56.1. We have a duty, however, to apply a more lenient
standard to pro se parties. Although plaintiff's failure to
comply with the local rules might provide adequate reason to rule
against him, we will instead evaluate his arguments on the
In 1996, plaintiff began going to Harrah's to gamble. Some time
later, he enrolled in Harrah's "Total Rewards" customer loyalty
program.*fn1 Plaintiff enrolled in the program because he
saw a Harrah's newspaper advertisement allegedly stating that
Total Rewards members would be reimbursed 50 percent of the
amount they gamble (their "play"). Plaintiff's problems with
Harrah's began the first time he gambled after having enrolled in
Total Rewards. Plaintiff lost $900.00 and complained to personnel
at the Total Rewards Center (in the casino) that he was entitled
to be reimbursed for 50 percent of $900.00. Harrah's personnel informed
him that he would only be reimbursed up to $100.00. According to
plaintiff, he never received the $100.00 reimbursement, and the
dispute over it continued "all the way through" 1999.
(Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. F, Mehta Dep. Tr.
Nonetheless, plaintiff continued to gamble at Harrah's about
three to four times a week. A few years went by without incident,
during which plaintiff attained "Platinum" status in the Total
Rewards program based on his level of play.*fn2 As a result,
plaintiff began receiving complimentary rewards ("comps") from
Harrah's, such as meals, drinks, and hotel stays.
One day in December 1999, plaintiff gambled at Harrah's and
received a comp ticket for four meals at Harrah's buffet
restaurant. The next day, he returned with his four children and
his wife to dine at the buffet. When plaintiff tried to redeem
his comp ticket at the buffet cashier's counter, a Total Rewards
supervisor named Sue (who has not been named as a defendant)
rushed over to the counter along with another supervisor and
confiscated the comp ticket. According to plaintiff, Sue told him
that he was not entitled to the comp and said, "You beggar. Go
back to the country where you come from." (Mehta Dep. Tr. at 53-55.)
Plaintiff and his family walked out without having a meal.
After that incident, plaintiff continued gambling at Harrah's.
The next problem occurred in March 2000. Plaintiff was playing
slot machines and told a slot supervisor, Mike Pavich (who is not
a defendant), that Harrah's had "ripped [plaintiff] off." (Mehta
Dep. Tr. at 72.) Plaintiff was referring to the $100.00 that he
claims Harrah's owed him due to his play years ago, after he had
first enrolled in Total Rewards. Plaintiff asserts that Mr.
Pavich issued him a $100.00 voucher by making a computer entry.
When plaintiff went to the Total Rewards Center about a week
later to claim his voucher, the woman named Sue (with whom
plaintiff had the run-in at the buffet) refused to issue the
voucher. Thereafter, plaintiff contacted various casino personnel
by telephone, asking that the voucher be issued.
A week or two later, plaintiff went to the VIP Lounge and spoke
with Mr. Pavich's supervisor, defendant Fran Fehrenbach.
Fehrenbach refused to issue the voucher to plaintiff and told him
that it was a moot point because the $100.00 credit never
existed. Plaintiff also brought two other complaints to
Fehrenbach's attention. One was that plaintiff had written a
check to Harrah's for $5.00 that had been cashed for $500.00. The
other issue had to do with a "Wheel of Fortune" slot machine that
plaintiff claimed was "fixed" because he had lost a lot of money
playing the machine and had never received a "bonus spin" while playing. Fehrenbach
denied that the game was "fixed."
After the conversation, plaintiff turned around and was leaving
the VIP Lounge when he purportedly heard someone use the term
"camel jockey." Plaintiff states that he doesn't know who said
it, but it "sounded like [Fehrenbach] to [him]." (Mehta Dep. Tr.
at 94.) (Fehrenbach denies it.) There were other customers in the
same area of the VIP Lounge at the time.
Clashes between plaintiff and Harrah's continued to occur. On
June 29, 2000, Harrah's overcharged plaintiff for a hotel stay.
According to plaintiff, Harrah's compensated for the error by
giving him two dinner buffet comps, each for six people
(plaintiff, his wife, and the four children), and a two-night
hotel suite stay. Harrah's had originally issued a comp for a
two-night stay in a standard hotel room, but plaintiff protested
that he wanted a suite, and plaintiff alleges that an employee
added the word "suite" to the comp ticket.
On July 20, 2000, plaintiff complained to VIP Lounge employees
that he was not credited for table game play. On July 27, 2000,
plaintiff tried to get comps from various Total Rewards
representatives for four buffet dinners, but was denied. Around
that time, plaintiff tried several times to use the dinner
vouchers that were issued for the June overcharge, but was told
that they would not be honored. In October 2000, plaintiff phoned Harrah's, attempting to
reserve his purportedly-comped two-night suite stay, and was told
that the comp would not be honored by phone and that he should
bring the comp voucher with him in person. On October 12, 2000,
he and his wife checked into the hotel and plaintiff attempted to
redeem his suite stay comp again. Plaintiff showed his comp
voucher to defendant Thomas Mueller, a hotel supervisor. Mueller
called non-defendant Jeff Kasuda, Executive Host, to the hotel
desk. Kasuda refused to give plaintiff a suite and stated that
the original hotel voucher did not have the word "suite" written
on it. Mueller and Kasuda took the voucher, but plaintiff asked
to see the voucher again, quickly put it in his pocket, and
walked away. Plaintiff alleges that as he was walking away, he
heard Kasuda ask Mueller whether "that fucking Indian" had
checked in. Mueller said yes.
Plaintiff gambled all night in the casino and returned to his
hotel room early the next morning. Defendant Vince Donlevie,
Vice-President of Operations, called plaintiff in his hotel room.
Donlevie was angry about the previous night's incident, but
according to plaintiff stated that he would look into the
situation and that Harrah's would accommodate plaintiff if it was
true that plaintiff had received a comp for a suite. (Donlevie
later sent plaintiff a letter stating that a two-night comp would
be honored in December for a standard room, but not for a suite.) Plaintiff sent a fax to Donlevie and Mueller on November 1,
2000, threatening suit for violation of his civil rights.
Donlevie referred the matter to Harrah's general counsel. The
same day, plaintiff brought his family to the buffet for dinner
and attempted to use a comp that he had just received at the
Total Rewards Center. A Total Rewards supervisor came to the
buffet and told the restaurant manager not to honor plaintiff's
comp. The restaurant manager honored plaintiff's comp anyway.
On November 9, 2000, Harrah's Vice President of Legal Affairs
sent plaintiff a letter indicating that Harrah's believed that
any lawsuit by plaintiff would be frivolous. In addition, the
letter suggested that plaintiff take his business elsewhere and
noted that Harrah's would no longer issue plaintiff ...