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HAMILTON v. SPRAYING SYSTEMS

September 27, 2004.

Delores Hamilton, Plaintiff,
v.
Spraying Systems, Inc., and Mario Martinez, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARK FILIP, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Delores Hamilton ("Plaintiff" or "Hamilton") is suing her former employer, Defendant Spraying Systems, Inc. ("SSCo.") and a former co-worker, Mario Martinez ("Martinez"). Hamilton alleges that SSCo., in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., subjected her to less favorable terms and conditions of employment by denying her on-the-job training based on her race (Count I) and sex (Count II) and by subjecting her to a hostile work environment because of her sex (Count II). Hamilton further alleges that SSCo. retaliated against her by denying her overtime and by allowing co-workers to continue to harass and refuse to provide her with on-the-job training (Count III). She also claims (Count IV) that SSCo. paid her lower wages than her male counterparts, in violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). In addition to these claims against SSCo., she is suing Defendant Martinez under an Illinois state law assault theory, arising from a work-related incident (Count V).*fn1 This case is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Law in Support (D.E. 36), Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Portions of the Defendants' Reply Brief (D.E. 56), and Defendants' Motion to Strike Declarations of Willivory Simpkins and Mariano Capote (D.E. 51). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part, Plaintiff's motion to strike is granted, and Defendants' motion to strike is denied.

BACKGROUND

  I. Facts

  A. The Parties

  The parties and individuals relevant to this suit are as follows.*fn2 Plaintiff Hamilton, an African-American female, was hired by Defendant SSCo. on January 19, 1998 (Pl.'s St. ¶ 1; Defs.' St. ¶ 9), to work in Department 4 (Industrial Accessories) at SSCo.'s manufacturing facility located at North Avenue and Schmale Road in Glendale Heights, Illinois ("Schmale Facility") (Defs.' St. ¶ 9). SSCo. is an international company engaged in the business of designing and manufacturing spray nozzles and related accessories for industry and agriculture. (Id. ¶ 1.) Defendant Martinez, a Hispanic male, is currently a Setup/Operator on the first shift in Department 4 at the Schmale Facility; however, prior to working in Department 4, he held the same position in Department 6. (Id. ¶ 4.) Non-party John Vaca ("Vaca") is the Center Leader for Department 4 and Department 6 (Industrial Valves) at the Schmale Facility. (Id. ¶ 10.) Vaca, a Hispanic male, hired Hamilton, and he was her direct supervisor throughout her employment with SSCo. (Id.) After Vaca hired Hamilton, he informed Hamilton that he would hire her as a permanent employee, promoted her on another occasion, and recommended that she apply for a position (Setup/Operator Trainee) that constituted yet another promotion, which position she also received. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14, 17.) Non-party Eugene Whisman ("Whisman"), a white male, is a Setup/Operator in Department 4. (Id. ¶ 15.) (The parties stipulated to the dismissal of Vaca and Whisman from this suit with prejudice on June 20, 2003. (D.E. 13.))

  B. Hamilton's Positions at SSCo.

  Over the course of her employment, Hamilton held three different positions at SSCo., eventually being promoted to the position of Setup/Operator Trainee. As noted above, she began her employment as a Temporary Manufacturing Helper, which is a 90-day probationary position, on the first shift in Department 4. (Defs.' St. ¶ 9, 12.) She completed the 90-day probationary period, and SSCo. promoted her to the entry level and permanent position of Assembler/Utility Operator on the first shift of Department 4 on May 11, 1998. (Id. ¶ 14.) She was the only African-American female in Department 4. (Pl.'s St. ¶ 30.)*fn3 On November 6, 2000, SSCo. promoted Hamilton to Setup/Operator Trainee in Department 4 (Defs.' St. ¶ 17), and she was assigned to work primarily on operating, setting up and programming the CNC vertical machines (id. ¶ 51). Setup/Operator Trainees set up various manufacturing machines and keep those machines operational. (Id. ¶ 50.) On January 7, 2002, Vaca transferred Hamilton from Department 4 to 6. (Id. ¶ 67.) (This transfer, as discussed below, relates to Hamilton's retaliation claim.) From the time Hamilton began in Department 6 until April of 2002, her primary job duties were setting up and operating the CNC vertical machines. (Id. ¶ 68.)*fn4 Hamilton remained a Setup/Operator Trainee until October of 2002.*fn5 (Id. ¶ 6.) Hamilton was the only African-American female Setup/Operator Trainee in Departments 4 and 6. (Pl.'s St. ¶ 32.)

  C. Training at SSCo.

  SSCo. does not have a formal training policy, program, or system. (Defs.' St. ¶ 40.) Rather, knowledgeable employees are typically available to provide on-the-job training as conditions permit, and on-the-job training is a team concept. (Id. ¶ 41.) None of the SSCo.'s employees is solely available to train other employees because all employees work to perform their primary job duties to complete manufacturing jobs. (Id.) Given the demand and flow in manufacturing, on-the-job training may not occur on a regular basis. (Id.)

  The lack of a formal training mechanisms notwithstanding, Hamilton was slated to receive on-the-job training, and she also attended certain training classes. The parties agree that, as discussed below, Whisman was to train Hamilton on the CNC lathe machines (id. ¶ 53) while she was in Department 4 and that Martinez was to train Hamilton on the CNC lathe machines while she was in Department 6 (id. ¶¶ 72-74). In addition to on-the-job training, Hamilton attended at least ten training classes as an Assembler/Utility Operator, including computer classes, blueprint reading classes, and a CNC vertical machine setup/programming class. (Id. ¶ 48.) In or around August 2001, Vaca sent Hamilton to a six-week training course called "CNC Turning Center Setup," which taught Hamilton how to set up and program lathe machines. (Id. ¶ 54.)

  D. CNC Lathe Machine Training in Department 4

  Hamilton contends that she was denied on-the-job CNC lathe machine training by Whisman, a Setup/Operator with twenty years of experience, while she was stationed in Department 4. When Hamilton was working in Department 4, there were two CNC vertical machines and eight lathe machines. (Pl.'s St. ¶ 44.) During the first 90 days of her employment, Donald Johnson, a Setup/Operator, trained (and was the only person to train) Hamilton on how to operate the CNC vertical machines in Department 4. (Id. ¶ 49.) At some point, Vaca made the decision to have Hamilton cross-train on the CNC lathe machines. (Id. ¶ 56.) Vaca made this decision based on Hamilton's desire to learn more on the CNC lathes, the needs of the Center, and the progression of Hamilton's training. (Id.) As part of her training on the lathe machines, Vaca sent Hamilton to a six-week long classroom training course, which course taught Hamilton how to set up and program lathes. (Defs.' St. ¶ 54.) Hamilton successfully completed this course. (Id.)

  Vaca testified that Whisman was Hamilton's "primary go-to person" on the lathes (Pl.'s St. ¶ 57), and SSCo. acknowledges that Whisman was "primarily responsible for cross-training" Hamilton on the lathe machines. (D.E. 36 at 5.) But when Hamilton sought CNC lathe machine training from Whisman, Hamilton contends, and SSCo. denies, that Whisman would not answer her training-related questions. (Pl.'s St. ¶ 80.)*fn6 Instead, according to Plaintiff, Whisman would represent that he did not know the answer, but then fix the problem without showing Hamilton how to do so by herself. (Id.) Hamilton testified that Whisman also spoke down to her and yelled at her. (Id. ¶ 81.)*fn7 Hamilton complained to Vaca on several occasions that she was not getting adequately trained by Whisman. (Id. ¶ 85.)

  E. CNC Lathe Machine Training in Department 6

  Hamilton also contends that she was denied on-the-job CNC lathe machine training by Defendant Martinez, a Setup/Operator, while she was stationed in Department 6. On January 7, 2002, Hamilton was officially transferred to the first shift in Department 6. (Id. ¶ 112.) When Hamilton was in Department 6, there was one CNC vertical machine and five CNC lathe machines. (Id. ¶ 115.) Upon her transfer to Department 6, Hamilton was assigned to work on a CNC vertical machine. (Id. ¶ 113.) At some point Vaca spoke with Defendant Martinez and informed Martinez that he would be training Hamilton on the CNC lathe machines. (Id. ¶ 121.) However, at least according to Plaintiff, Martinez refused to train Hamilton on the lathes (id. ¶ 124), and Martinez asked at least one other co-worker not to help Hamilton with the lathe machines (id. ¶¶ 126, 127). F. The Wasino Machine Incident

  According to Hamilton, Martinez's refusal to train her on the lathe machines went so far as to involve an intentional assault against her. On one morning that Hamilton was working in Department 6, Martinez approached Hamilton regarding one of the CNC machines, the Wasino machine, and told her that the machine was "ready to run." (Id. ¶ 147.)*fn8 In order for Martinez to have gotten the machine "ready," he would have had to turn the machine on, warm the machine up, and check the machine's parts. (Id. ¶ 148.)*fn9 Hamilton approached the machine and found that it was already running. (Id. ¶ 149.)*fn10 She began operating the machine, and shortly thereafter it crashed. (Id. ¶ 147.) According to Plaintiff, at the time the machine crashed, Martinez was standing right next to her. (Id. ¶ 150.) Hamilton essentially argues that Martinez somehow booby-trapped the Wasino machine so that when she was operating it, it would crash and potentially eject sharp parts.

  ANALYSIS

  II. Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Is Granted

  The Court begins it analysis by addressing the threshold issue of whether certain portions of Defendants' reply brief should be stricken. In their opening summary judgment brief (which is close to ten pages longer than what is presumptively permitted by Local Rule), Defendants do not argue that SSCo. is entitled to summary judgment on Hamilton's sex-based hostile work environment claim, which is asserted in Count II of Hamilton's Complaint.*fn11 Plaintiff noted the absence of such an argument in her response and characterized Defendant's motion as a "partial" motion for summary judgment. (D.E. 41 at 3.) Nonetheless, in Section II.B of Defendants' Reply brief, SSCo. argues, for the first time, that it is entitled to summary judgment on this claim.

  On April 16, 2004, Hamilton filed a Motion to Strike Portions of Defendants' Reply Brief (D.E. 56), which moved this Court to strike Section II.B of Defendants' Reply in Support of Summary Judgment (D.E. 49). Hamilton contends that this section "raises a new legal and factual argument that Defendants failed to raise in their" opening summary judgment brief. (D.E. 56 ¶ 4.) In response, Defendants argue that "Section II.B of Defendants' Reply contains proper argument made in direct reply to an issue raised by Plaintiff in her Response, and, therefore should not be stricken." (Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Strike Portions of Defs.' Reply Br. (D.E. 58) at 4.)

  SSCo. offered two different reasons for not including an argument directed at Hamilton's sex-based hostile work environment claim. First, SSCo. attempted to explain the omission of a sex-based hostile work environment argument in its opening brief with a footnote in its Reply, explaining that its memorandum in support of its motion for summary judgement "did not focus on Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim because she failed to put forth any evidence . . . and failed to make even the minimum showing required to sustain a hostile work environment claim." (Defs.' Reply in Supp. of Summ. J. (D.E. 49) at 5 n. 4.) This explanation is unavailing. SSCo. elsewhere in its briefs recognizes that, as the moving party, it had the initial burden under Rule 56. (Indeed, Defendants detail the burdens imposed on parties under Rule 56, and argue that Plaintiff has failed to meet her Celotex burden.) Second, SSCo., in response to Plaintiff's motion to strike, argued that "Section II.B of Defendants' Reply contains proper argument made in direct reply to an issue raised by Plaintiff in her Response, and, therefore, should not be stricken." (D.E. 58 at 2.) This argument is also unavailing, because SSCo. never argued for summary judgment on this claim in the first instance, as it must.

  Because SSCo.'s arguments against Plaintiff's sex-based hostile work environment claim were first raised in SSCo.'s reply brief, the arguments are waived for purposes of the summary judgment motion before the Court. See, e.g., James v. Sheahan, 137 F.3d 1003, 1008 (7th Cir. 1998); Stein v. United Airlines, 203 F.Supp. 2d 974, 978 (N.D. Ill. 2002). The Court, therefore, strikes Section II.B of Defendants' Reply. Defendants' failure to include an argument directed at Hamilton's sex-based hostile work environment claim in its opening brief deprived Hamilton of the opportunity to present argument in ...


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