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Cannon-Stokes v. Potter

November 3, 2005

TRACI CANNON-STOKES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Traci Cannon-Stokes ("Cannon-Stokes"), a postal worker, filed this action against John E. Potter ("Potter"), the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service ("Postal Service"). Cannon-Stokes alleges that the Postal Service discriminated against her because of her disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 791 et seq., and retaliated against her for complaining of discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-1 et seq. The court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343 and 29 U.S.C. § 791. Before the court is Potter's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the court grants the motion.

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS

Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where 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). To determine whether any genuine fact exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c) Advisory Committee's notes. The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). In response, the nonmoving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must use the evidentiary tools listed above to designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). A material fact must be outcome determinative under the governing law. Insolia, 216 F.3d at 598-99. Although a bare contention that an issue of fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 492 (7th Cir. 2000), the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party as well as view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986).

II. LOCAL RULE 56.1

Before reaching the merits of the motion for summary judgment and determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must address the deficiencies in the parties' Local Rule 56.1 filings. Local Rule 56.1(a) provides that a motion for summary judgment must include, inter alia, a "statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to a judgment as a matter of law." This statement of material facts "shall consist of short numbered paragraphs, including within each paragraph specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon to support the facts set forth in that paragraph." Part (b) of Local Rule 56.1 requires a party opposing summary judgment to file, inter alia, a concise response to the movant's statement of material facts. For purposes relevant here, that statement is required to include a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including in the case of any disagreement, "specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." The rule is very clear that "all material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party." Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B).

In Plaintiff's Rule 56.1(b)(3) Response to Defendant's Statement of Facts and Statement of Additional Facts, Cannon-Stokes decided against filing any response to the material facts set forth in paragraphs 1-11, 19, 21, 22, 24, 27, 31, 32, 34-39, 41, 43, 45, 47, 49, 50, 53-56, 60, and 62 of Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Uncontested Facts. Thus, these facts are deemed admitted.

Cannon-Stokes also admitted certain statements and/or denied certain statements but then improperly included additional facts in her response to paragraphs 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 26, 33, 40, 46, 51, 52, 57, 58, 59, 61, and 63 of Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Uncontested Facts. As a result, the court will disregard the additional information in these paragraphs. See Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581 at 584 (N.D. Ill. 2000) ("Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) 'provides the only acceptable means of . . . presenting additional facts.'"), quoting Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1316 (7th Cir. 1995) (emphasis in original).

Potter also improperly included additional information in response to paragraphs 97, 112, 128, 137, 139, 140, 145, 156, 158, and 165 of Cannon-Stokes' Additional Statement of Uncontested Facts. Portions of Potter's responses to these paragraphs went beyond identifying improper characterizations of testimony or facts unsupported by the cited material and included new facts or additional information in an attempt to qualify the stated fact. Accordingly, the court will disregard the additional information contained in these paragraphs.

In response to Plaintiff's Additional Statement of Uncontested Facts, Potter also challenges the accuracy of Cannon-Stokes' portrayal of the cited evidence. See ¶¶ 66-69, 71, 74, 80, 82, 83, 88, 89, 92, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, 103, 105, 106, 108, 109, 111, 116, 117, 119, 120, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 130, 135, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 145, 146, 148, 149, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 162, 164, 166, 167, 168, 170. To the extent that the court agrees or disagrees with Potter's challenges, or Cannon-Stokes' challenges to Potter's submissions, the court will note its findings in the context of the facts. The court will consider only those facts which are supported by the cited evidence. Likewise, the court will disregard documents submitted with a motion that are not referred to in the statement of facts or statement of additional facts, e.g., Defendant's exhibits 8, 16, 17, 18. See Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 583 (noting that "[e]xperience has amply demonstrated the danger of making arguments a party has not advanced by relying on exhibits not explained by either side.").

III. FACTS*fn1

A. Background

The Postal Service has employed Cannon-Stokes since 1989 and continues to do so today. Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Uncontested Facts ("DSOF") ¶ 1. After working as a part-time employee, Cannon-Stokes became a career employee as a city letter carrier in December 1989. DSOF ¶ 2.

In November of 1995, Cannon-Stokes was grabbed and sexually assaulted by a postal customer while delivering mail. Plaintiff's Additional Statement of Uncontested Facts ("PSOF") ¶ 65. As a result of the attack, Cannon-Stokes was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD"). PSOF at ¶ 67. She received medical treatment and, for medical purposes, was restricted from delivering mail on a residential delivery route. PSOF at ¶¶ 68, 69. She notified the Postal Service of her PTSD diagnosis and that her condition and medical restrictions were permanent. PSOF ¶ 68. In response to this diagnosis, the Postal Service placed Cannon-Stokes on limited duty, which meant that she did not have to deliver mail on a route with residential buildings. DSOF ¶ 46; PSOF ¶ 101.

B. Events Giving Rise to Cannon-Stokes' Claims in the Present Lawsuit

1. The Austin Postal Station

On December 18, 1995, John Sims, the manager of the Austin postal station where Cannon-Stokes worked, sent a letter to the Postal Service's medical unit asking that Cannon-Stokes and all other limited duty employees submit to fitness for duty examinations. PSOF ¶ 95. The letter stated further that if these employees were unable to perform their duties, they should be discharged. Id.

Sims subsequently sent a letter to Joyce Alston of the Postal Service's Human Resources Department on December 29, 1995. PSOF ¶ 92; DSOF ¶ 24. Sims stated in this letter that there was nothing physically wrong with Cannon-Stokes but that she said that she had mental and emotional problems with returning to the street to deliver mail. PSOF ¶ 92. Sims indicated his belief that Cannon-Stokes wanted a transfer to the Loop Postal Station, that this was the only way she could get a transfer, and that she did not want to work outside in the cold. PSOF ¶ 92.*fn2 The letter also advised that Cannon-Stokes had caused morale problems since going on limited duty. DSOF ¶ 24.

Sims also informed Yvonne Coleman of the Postal Service's Human Resources Department that Cannon-Stokes was causing morale problems and had done so since going on limited duty. PSOF ¶ 93, 157. Additionally, Sims notified Cannon-Stokes and the other limited duty employees at the Austin station that they could not speak to other co-workers and that they had to inform a supervisor any time they left the workroom floor, even if it was to go to the washroom. PSOF ¶ 94. Sims did not give this order to the employees who were not on limited duty. PSOF ¶ 94.

On another occasion, Sims orally informed Cannon-Stokes that her schedule was being changed to 4:00 a.m. PSOF ¶ 96. Cannon-Stokes had not received prior notice of the change, and Sims did not provide her with any documentation or forms for this change. Id. Cannon-Stokes filed a grievance, which the parties settled. Id. In settling the grievance, the Postal Service agreed that there was "no reason or justification" for changing Cannon-Stokes' schedule. Id. At some other point, Cannon-Stokes filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") charge.*fn3

2. Transfer to Graceland Annex Postal Station

A few months later, Cannon-Stokes' psychologist, Dr. Katherine Jeans, sent a letter to Postmaster Rufus Porter requesting that Cannon-Stokes be transferred to another postal station from the Austin station because of her PTSD. PSOF ΒΆ 97. Porter responded to Cannon-Stokes' psychologist by a letter dated March 8, 1996. Id. Porter informed Dr. Jeans that in order to process transfers, a legitimate vacancy must exist and that all stations were at ...


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