United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 16, 2005.
NICHOLAS OKAIJA THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
CHICAGO STATE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge
This matter is before the court on Defendant Chicago State
University's ("CSU) motion for summary judgment. For the reasons
stated below, we grant the motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff Nicholas Okaija Thompson ("Thompson") alleges that he
was employed by CSU and that Defendant Elnora Daniel ("Daniel")
was the President of CSU while Thompson was employed there.
Thompson claims that in a letter dated April 30, 2003, Defendant
Slyvus Moore ("Moore"), the Vice President for Administrative and
External Affairs for CSU, informed Thompson on behalf of CSU that Thompson's employment was terminated. According to Thompson,
the letter indicated that his employment was terminated for
violating Section 11.B4 of the CSU Board of Trustee Regulations,
which provides that an employee may be terminated if he or she
constitutes a threat of bodily harm, a threat of harm to
property, or an impediment to operations. Thompson alleges that
the reason given for his termination was false and that Moore
terminated Thompson's employment because of Thompson's age and
national origin. Thompson alleges that he is of African national
origin and that at the time of his termination he was 58 years
old. (Compl. 3-4). Thompson also alleges that he has been unable
to secure new full-time employment due to the alleged false
reason given for his termination by CSU. Thompson, proceeding
pro se, brought the instant action and includes in his
complaint a claim alleging a violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.,
and a claim alleging a violation of the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. In this
action, we have previously granted CSU's motion to dismiss all
the ADEA claims and granted CSU's motion to dismiss the Title VII
claims brought against Defendants Daniel and Moore. CSU moves for
summary judgment on the remaining Title VII claim. LEGAL STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the
light most favorable to the non-moving 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).
I. Lack of Response to CSU's Motion and Local Rule 56.1
On May 17, 2005, the court set a briefing schedule for
dispositive motions in the instant action. The court provided
that any dispositive motions had to be filed by September 16,
2005, and that all answers to dispositive motions had to be filed
by September 30, 2005. In accordance with the court's schedule,
CSU filed the instant motion for summary judgment on September
16, 2005. The deadline for the filing of an answer to the motion
has passed and Thompson has not filed any answer to CSU's motion
for summary judgment. Thompson thus has not contested any of
CSU's arguments, despite being given the opportunity to do so.
The record also reflects that Thompson was provided with the
necessary notice of summary judgment motions required pursuant to
Local Rule 56.2, for motions that are brought against pro se
individuals. Thompson has also failed to file any responsive brief to CSU's
statement of material facts. If a non-movant fails to dispute a
fact in an opponent's statement of material facts, the fact is
deemed to be undisputed by the non-movant. Local Rule 56.1;
Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920, 922 (7th
Cir. 1994) (stating that a court is not "obliged in our adversary
system to scour the record looking for factual disputes and may
adopt local rules reasonably designed to streamline the
resolution of summary judgment motions"); Ammons v. Aramark
Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004) (stating
that the Seventh Circuit has held "that a district court is
entitled to expect strict compliance with Rule 56.1" and that
"[s]ubstantial compliance is not strict compliance"). A pro se
individual is not excused from compliance with Local Rule 56.1.
See, e.g., Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago,
Illinois, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001); Banks v.
Archer/American Wire, 2005 WL 2007227, at *1 (N.D. Ill. 2005).
Therefore, pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, all the facts in CSU's
statement of facts are deemed to be undisputed.
II. Title VII Claim
CSU moves for summary judgment on the Title VII claim. In order
for a plaintiff to defeat a defendant's motion for summary
judgment on a Title VII discrimination claim, the plaintiff can proceed under either the
direct method of proof or the indirect method of proof. Rudin v.
Lincoln Land Community College, 420 F.3d 712, 720-21 (7th
Cir. 2005). Under the direct method of proof, the plaintiff must
establish a discriminatory motivation through direct or
circumstantial evidence. Id. Direct evidence in such a context
would be evidence that "can be interpreted as an acknowledgment
of discriminatory intent by the defendant or its agents." Id.;
see also Jordan v. City of Gary, 396 F.3d 825, 832 (7th Cir.
2005) (stating that "[t]o prove discrimination via direct
evidence `essentially requires an admission by the decision-maker
that his actions were based on the prohibited animus [and
that][i]t should not be surprising that in today's politically
correct workplace environment such admissions are rarely, if
ever, made or encountered'"); Rozskowiak v. Village of Arlington
Heights, 415 F.3d 608, 612 (7th Cir. 2005) (stating that
"[d]irect evidence `essentially requires an admission by the
decision-maker that his actions were based upon the prohibited
animus'") (quoting Rogers v. City of Chicago, 320 F.3d 748, 753
(7th Cir. 2003)).
A plaintiff can present circumstantial evidence under the
direct method of proof, but such evidence must be sufficient to
create "a triable issue of whether the adverse employment action
of which [the plaintiff] complains had a discriminatory
motivation." Rudin, 420 F.3d at 721. The Seventh Circuit has
indicated that circumstantial evidence can create a triable issue only if there
is a "`convincing mosaic' of circumstantial evidence that allows
a jury to infer intentional discrimination by the decisionmaker."
Rhodes v. Illinois Dept. of Transp., 359 F.3d 498, 504 (7th
Under the indirect method of proof, a plaintiff must establish
a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that: "(1) he
belongs to a protected class; (2) his performance met his
employer's legitimate expectations; (3) he suffered an adverse
employment action; and (4) similarly situated others not in his
protected class received more favorable treatment." Brummett v.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir.
2005). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the
defendant must provide a "legitimate and non-discriminatory
reason for the employment action." Id. If the employer does so,
the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show that "the
proffered reasons are a pretext for discrimination." Id.
In the instant action, since Thompson has not filed an answer
to the instant motion, he also has not pointed to any evidence of
a discriminatory motivation. A review of the evidence and facts
admitted pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 reveals that there is not
sufficient evidence of a discriminatory motivation that would
enable Thompson to prevail under the direct method of proof and
Thompson will thus need to proceed under the indirect method of
proof. CSU does not contest that Thompson is a member of a protected class or that he suffered an adverse
employment action. Neither does CSU argue for the purposes of the
instant motion that Thompson's performance was not meeting CSU's
legitimate expectations. CSU argues that Thompson has not met the
similarly situated employee and pretext requirements.
A. Similarly Situated Employees
CSU argues that Thompson has failed to point to a similarly
situated employee outside the protected class that was treated
more favorably. A similarly situated employee is an employee that
is "directly comparable to [the plaintiff] in all material
respects." Ajayi v. Aramark Business Services, Inc.,
336 F.3d 520, 531-32 (7th Cir. 2003) (stating that "[t]o evaluate
whether two employees are directly comparable, we consider all of
the relevant factors, `which most often include whether the
employees (i) held the same job description, (ii) were subject to
the same standards, (iii) were subordinate to the same
supervisor, and (iv) had comparable experience, education, and
other qualifications provided the employer considered the
latter factors in making the personnel decision'"). In the
instant action, Thompson has not pointed to evidence of any
similarly situated employee that was treated more favorably and
has thus failed to satisfy that element of the prima facie
case. See Rozskowiak, 415 F.3d at 614 (affirming district
court's granting of defendant's motion for summary judgment because the
plaintiff "did not establish a prima facie case of
discrimination, as he failed to produce any evidence that
similarly-situated employees who were not of [the same] descent
were treated more favorably").
Even if Thompson could establish a prima facie case, he has
not pointed to sufficient evidence showing that the reason given
by CSU for his termination was a pretext for unlawful
discrimination. In order to show that a reason given by an
employer is a pretext under the indirect method of proof, the
plaintiff must show "more than [that] the decision was `mistaken,
ill considered or foolish,'" and that the given reason is a
"dishonest explanation, a lie rather than an oddity or an error."
Ballance v. City of Springfield, 424 F.3d 614, 617 (7th
Cir. 2005). In the instant action, CSU claims that it terminated
Thompson's employment because he violated the CSU Board of
Trustees Regulations. (SF 41). There is not sufficient evidence
in the instant action indicating that the given reason was a
pretext for unlawful discrimination. The only allegation of
unlawful discrimination is Thompson's contention that he was told
by someone that he was being fired because of his national
origin. Thompson admits, pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, that he has
refused to disclose that individual's name. (SF 36). Thompson also
admits, pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, that he does not know if the
individual took part in the decision to terminate Thompson and
that he does not know how the undisclosed individual knew about
the alleged unlawful discrimination. (SF 37). Such an alleged
statement by an undisclosed individual, without any foundation to
support the statement, is entirely inadequate to satisfy the
pretext requirement. In fact, Thompson agrees pursuant to Local
Rule 56.1 that it is undisputed that "President Daniel did not
terminate [Thompson's] employment because of his national origin
or any factor prohibited by law." (SF 42). Therefore, Thompson
has failed to point to sufficient evidence to meet the pretext
requirement. Based on the above, we grant CSU's motion for
Based on the foregoing analysis, we grant CSU's motion for
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