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SANTOS v. BOEING COMPANY

MICHAEL SANTOS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOEING COMPANY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant The Boeing Company's ("Boeing") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff Michael Santos ("Santos") worked for Boeing as a Mailroom Specialist in its Chicago, Illinois office between September 17, 2001, and October 21, 2002. Steve Richards ("Richards") was the direct supervisor for Santos and one of Santos' co-workers was Bob Delelio ("Delelio"). Santos alleges that Richards and Delelio made comments regarding his racial and national origin. Santos complained about the comments to Boeing supervisors and Santos claims that Boeing retaliated against Santos by demoting him from the lead mailroom position and taking away his office. Santos also claims that Boeing ultimately terminated him because of his race and national origin.

  In addition, Santos claims that Boeing failed to protect its employees, including Santos, from the alleged fits of rage by Delelio at work. Santos claims that Delelio threw items across the mailroom, kicked furniture, and screamed and shouted at Santos and other co-workers. Santos claims that he informed Richards that he feared for his physical safety around Delelio, but Richards ignored Santos' complaints. In December of 2001, Santos complained about Delelio's alleged tantrums to Dave Komendat ("Komendat"), Boeing's Director of Security. Santos claims that Komendat assured Santos that he would investigate the matter, but that Boeing did not conduct any investigation. Around January 15, 2002, Santos once again reported Delelio's conduct after Delelio became enraged and began yelling at Santos. Santos claims that Delelio received a telephone call, apparently regarding Santos' complaint, and after Delelio hung up the telephone, he yelled at Santos and turned and allegedly grabbed for a box cutter. Santos claims that he feared that Delelio would use the knife to harm him and ran out of the mailroom.

  Santos' second amended complaint contains a hostile work environment claim alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") (Count I), a race discrimination claim alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") (Count II), Title VII retaliation claims (Counts III, IX, and X), Section 1981 retaliation claims (Counts IV and V), a Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") claim, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (Count VI), a negligent retention claim (Count VII), and a Title VII race and national origin claim (Count VIII). On May 10, 2004, we granted Boeing's motion to dismiss the negligent retention claim (Count VII).

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment the moving party must identify "those portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "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); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

  DISCUSSION

  I. Title VII Discrimination Claim

  Boeing is seeking summary judgment on the Title VII race and national origin discrimination claims. If an employer in a Title VII discrimination case brings a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff can proceed under the direct or indirect method of proof in order to defeat the motion. Pafford v. Herman, 148 F.3d 658, 665 (7th Cir. 1998). Santos argues that he can proceed under either the direct or indirect method of proof.

  A. Direct Method of Proof

  Under the direct method of proof, the plaintiff can show through direct or circumstantial evidence that the alleged harmful action of the employer was "motivated by an impermissible purpose, such as [his] race or national origin." Id. However, a plaintiff cannot proceed under the direct method by merely pointing to evidence that allows for an inference of discrimination. Wallace v. SMC Pneumatics, Inc., 103 F.3d 1394, 1397 (7th Cir. 1997). Rather a plaintiff is required under the direct method to point to "enough evidence, whether direct or, more commonly . . . circumstantial, to create a triable issue of whether the adverse employment action of which he complains had a discriminatory motivation — whether he was fired, or denied a promotion, or not hired, or paid less, because of the racial or other protected group to which he belongs." Id.; See also Oest v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections, 240 F.3d 605, 612 (7th Cir. 2001) (stating that evidence to proceed under the direct method of proof is usually a "smoking gun" remark by a supervisor or some overt act of discrimination); Robin v. Espo Engineering Corp., 200 F.3d 1081, 1088 (7th Cir. 2000) (stating that under the direct method of proof a plaintiff generally must point to overt "smoking gun remarks indicating intentional discrimination. . . ."). A plaintiff cannot proceed under the direct method based on comments made long before the alleged adverse employment action or on comments "made by individuals who had no involvement or influence over the decision making process that led to" the plaintiff's termination. Cerutti v. BASF Corp., 349 F.3d 1055, 1066 (7th Cir. 2003).

  Santos argues that the evidence indicating that Richards and Komendat made derogatory comments about Santos' race and national origin is sufficient to support the direct method of proof. We disagree. Such evidence is not in itself sufficient to create a triable issue that would warrant proceeding to trial. Santos also claims that Richards told Santos that he was hired to meet the minority quota. However, Santos suffered no adverse employment action in this regard and even if the statement was true, it does not necessarily indicate discrimination ...


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