Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

JACKSON v. RESTAURANT DEPOT

October 18, 2005.

JOSEPH JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
RESTAURANT DEPOT, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES ZAGEL, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Restaurant Depot ("Depot") is in the wholesale restaurant equipment and food service business. In April 2001, Depot hired Plaintiff Joseph Jackson ("Jackson") as a "hi-lo" forklift driver. On October 17, 2001, Jackson took off work in order to respond to a summons to jury duty in Cook County. That evening, his managers held a mandatory staff meeting for all employees, which Jackson did not attend. Upon his return, Jackson was suspended for three days for failing to attend the meeting. In January 2002, Jackson was sent home for one day without pay after his manager reported that Jackson was unorganized and insubordinate. Two months later, Jackson was fired after another manager reported that Jackson had again failed to keep his area clean and organized.

Jackson filed suit in federal court alleging that he was the victim of impermissible discrimination when he was denied overtime because of his race and that Depot fired him in retaliation for his complaints of discrimination. Jackson also complains that Depot violated federal and Illinois jury duty statutes when it suspended him for failing to attend a staff meeting that occurred on the same day Jackson was called to jury service. Depot argues that Jackson cannot claim discriminatory denial of overtime work when he failed to request overtime but nevertheless worked overtime during the relevant period; that Jackson cannot establish a prima facie case of retaliation; and that Jackson cannot avail himself of the protection of the Illinois statute because he failed to deliver a copy of his jury summons to Depot before reporting to jury service. For these reasons, Depot has moved for summary judgment of Jackson's claims.

  Summary judgment is proper if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-33 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists when there is evidence on the basis of which a reasonable jury could find in the plaintiff's favor, allowing for all reasonable inferences drawn in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Summary judgment is not the time for credibility determinations or to "choose between competing inferences." Sarsha v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 3 F.3d 1035, 1041 (7th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). However, Jackson must offer more than "[c]onclusory allegations, unsupported by specific facts" to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 773 (7th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). For each element of his case, Jackson must "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (internal quotations omitted).

  It is difficult to construct a more thorough review of the facts of this case on the basis of the record before me. Plaintiff's pro se status entitles him to considerable leeway in framing his arguments; nonetheless he is required to follow Local Rule 56.1 in presenting facts in defense of Depot's motion. For the large part, he has failed to do so, and for the large part I credit the un-rebutted statements of fact offered by Depot. However, Depot also failed to support some of the facts offered in its motion and supporting Local Rule 56.1 statement; for example, Depot consistently cites to transcripts of Jackson's deposition as evidence, yet the transcript excerpts attached to its motion are incomplete, arguably take statements out of context, and on occasion conflict with the purported statements of fact they supposedly support. I carefully reviewed the facts offered by both sides and have ignored those facts lacking adequate support and construed the facts in Jackson's favor to the extent possible.

  Jackson's Claim of Discrimination for Failure to Award Overtime

  Jackson complains that Depot denied him opportunities to work overtime from September 2001 to late October 2001, but granted overtime opportunities to similarly situated employees who were not African American. Depot argues that Jackson's own testimony forecloses this complaint, claiming that Jackson admits that he never asked for overtime and actually refused overtime that was offered to him. If true, Jackson's claim of discrimination would be weak indeed. See, e.g., Thomas v. Honeywell Corp., No. 00 C 50022, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4948, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2003) (suggesting that overtime claim would fail where plaintiff was offered and worked some overtime); and West v. Maxon Corp., No. IP 98-0339-C 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22228, at *11 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 10, 2001) (finding that denial of overtime is not an adverse action when employee admits to turning down overtime assignments).

  Once again Depot relies on Jackson's deposition as evidence that Jackson never asked for overtime (Def. Exh. 1 at 140, 144); never asked for overtime that was denied by his managers (Def. Exh. 1 at 142); accepted and worked overtime offered by his managers (Def. Exh. 1 at 135); and rejected other overtime offers (Def. Exh. 1 at 140, 142, 144).*fn1 These pages of Jackson's deposition testimony establish only that Jackson would not ask for overtime if he worked beyond his shift, because he did not think his managers would approve his request and that he asked his managers why Hispanic employees were awarded overtime when he was not. Jackson's testimony is simply not the evidence Depot suggests it is.

  There is a better ground on which to dismiss Jackson's claim: his failure to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. In the absence of direct evidence of discrimination, a plaintiff alleging discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., must establish discrimination through the "indirect method" established in McDonnell Douglas. See Cerutti v. BASF Corp., 349 F.3d 1055, 1061(7th Cir. 2003). That test requires Jackson to show that Depot treated other similarly situated employees outside of his protected class more favorably. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).

  Fatal to Jackson's claim of discrimination is his failure to offer admissible, comparative evidence of the number and types of overtime opportunities denied him but offered to similarly situated employees outside of his protected class. See Conley v. Village of Bedford Park, 215 F.3d 703, 711-12 (summary judgment appropriate when plaintiff cannot substantiate allegations that overtime was denied for discriminatory reasons; plaintiff's failure to "set forth any specific times that [Defendant] gave others overtime opportunities, but denied the same to him" in combination with self-serving assertions could not defeat summary judgment). Jackson's response contains only self-serving, unsupported allegations of discrimination, such as his claim that Hispanic workers "would get the overtime over African-Americans." (Pl. Resp. at 4.) Neither these statements nor the handwritten documents attached to Jackson's response are sufficient under Local Rule 56.1 or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to avoid summary judgment.*fn2

  Jackson's Claim of Retaliation

  Jackson also claims that Depot first suspended him and then fired him in retaliation for his complaints about race discrimination. Jackson alleges that sometime in 2001, Depot manager Eric Reaves informally approached a group of African American employees including Jackson and asked if they had suffered discrimination on account of their race at Depot. Jackson avers that he and others responded affirmatively, but gave Reaves no additional feedback. Jackson and other African American employees later met with Reaves and Jackson's manager, Andres Trejos, to discuss the allegations of discrimination. At that meeting Jackson complained of discrimination against African Americans and favoritism toward Hispanic employees.*fn3 Jackson believes his termination was in retaliation for his complaints both at the initial, informal gathering and at the meeting where manager Trejos was present.

  Jackson offers no direct evidence that he was disciplined and fired as a result of his complaints of discrimination. Jackson's unwavering conviction that his complaints led to his termination is not direct evidence of retaliation. See Stone v. City of Indianapolis, 281 F.3d 640, 644 (7th Cir. 2002) (noting that direct evidence is "evidence that establishes without resort to inferences from circumstantial evidence"). Nor is the timing of his discharge, whether five months (as Jackson suggests) or eleven months (as Depot suggests) after the meeting in which Jackson allegedly complained of discrimination, direct evidence of retaliation.*fn4 See id. ("mere temporal proximity between the filing of the charge of discrimination and the action alleged to have been taken in retaliation for that filing will rarely be sufficient in and of itself to create a triable issue"). Most importantly, the decision-makers who disciplined and fired Jackson in 2002 — Chuck Spirk and Dan Nicholas — were not present at the meeting where Jackson complained of discrimination, and he has presented no evidence that they knew of this protected activity.

  Therefore, to withstand summary judgment of this claim Jackson must establish that: a) he engaged in a statutorily protected activity, b) he performed his job according to Depot's legitimate expectations, c) despite his satisfactory performance he suffered an adverse employment action, and d) he was treated less favorably than similarly situated employees who did not engage in statutorily protected activity. Id. (noting that plaintiffs seeking to prevent summary judgment of retaliation claims may resort to an adaptation of the McDonnell Douglas test when they lack direct evidence of discrimination). See also Williams v. Waste Mgmt. of Ill. Inc., 361 F.3d 1021, 1031 (7th Cir. 2004) (identifying the criteria ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.