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ONOFREI v. GENERAL SECURITY SERVICES CORPORATION

December 5, 2005.

DORINA ONOFREI, Plaintiff,
v.
GENERAL SECURITY SERVICES CORPORATION (a Minnesota Corporation) and INDEPENDENT SECURITY AND POLICE UNION, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT GETTLEMAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Dorina Onofrei, was employed by defendant General Security Services Corporation ("GSSC") as a security guard from September 2001 until her termination on October 31, 2003. Plaintiff has filed a five-count complaint against GSSC and defendant Independent Security and Police Union ("ISP"),*fn1 which is the certified collective bargaining representative of the bargaining unit consisting of GSSC's security guards, including plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges sex and race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., retaliatory discharge in violation of Title VII and Illinois public policy, and violations of § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). On January 24, 2005, this court granted GSSC's motion to dismiss Count V, the LMRA claim.

GSSC has filed a motion for summary judgment on Counts I through IV under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, arguing that plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination and has failed to rebut defendant's asserted non-discriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff's employment, and that plaintiff has failed to show that she engaged in protected activity under Title VII. For the reasons stated below, the court grants summary judgment on the Title VII claims and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the Illinois retaliatory discharge claim.

  STATEMENT OF FACTS*fn2

  Defendant GSSC provides security personnel for federal buildings in the Chicago metropolitan area pursuant to contracts with the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") and the Federal Protection Service ("FPS"). Under the "Loop Contact," GSSC provides security personnel for four federal buildings in Chicago located at 77 West Jackson, 211 South Clark, 219 South Dearborn, and 230 South Dearborn. Defendant the ISP is the certified collective bargaining representative of the bargaining unit consisting of GSSC's security guards, including plaintiff. Guy D'or ("D'or"), a Caucasian male, was the contract manager for the Loop Contract. Robert Doble ("Doble"), a Hispanic male, was the GSSC captain and reported to D'or. John Bier ("Bier") was a DHS/FPS contract inspector who monitored GSSC's compliance with the Loop Contract. Plaintiff Dorina Onofrei a Caucasian woman, was employed as an armed security guard under the Loop Contract from her hire in September 2002 until her termination on December 31, 2003.

  Plaintiff was late to work at least six times between November 2002 and April 2003, sometimes by more than an hour, and received counseling from supervisors and four written warnings as a result. Plaintiff protested her written warning for being tardy on February 21, 2003, but admitted at her deposition that she was late on that date. Plaintiff testified that Doble stated that he would "take care of [the warning]," which she understood to mean that he would "tear it up." Plaintiff also testified that she had never seen the written warning for arriving to work two hours late on April 29, 2003.

  D'or received a guard contract inspection report regarding plaintiff dated April 16, 2003 (the "Report"), stating that the property manager for 230 South Dearborn, Jeff Mornar ("Mornar"), had complained that plaintiff was violating company policy by allowing trucks into the dock area without notifying the federal agencies receiving the trucks, as required. The Report requested that plaintiff be removed from the dock area and prohibited from working certain posts. The box at the bottom of the Report titled "signature of inspector" contains the typed name of FPS inspector Traci R. Hicks ("Hicks") but no signature. The box titled "signature of contractor's rep." contains a signature, dated June 23, 2003. In response to the Report, D'or instructed Doble, who was responsible for scheduling the Loop Contract guards, not to schedule plaintiff for the 230 South Dearborn dock posts. Doble told plaintiff about Mornar's complaint. GSSC asserts that plaintiff was not scheduled for these posts for several months. Plaintiff testified that she worked on the dock after April 16, 2003, but could not recall any specific dates and failed to produce any documentation in support of this claim.

  On the afternoon of May 21, 2003, D'or received an e-mail from Bier stating that the doors to 230 South Dearborn were to remain locked until 6:30 a.m. and that no one was allowed into the building before that time unless they had a key-card with which to open the doors. Previously, the doors were unlocked at 6:00 a.m. D'or informed Doble of the change. Plaintiff was assigned to the midnight to 8 a.m. shift at 230 South Dearborn. At approximately 5:30 a.m. on May 22, 2003, Doble called plaintiff at her post and gave her a direct order not to unlock the doors until 6:30 a.m. and that no one without a key-card was permitted to enter the building.

  At about 6 a.m. people were gathered outside the building. Plaintiff testified that the people outside were angry and were banging on the windows, screaming, cursing plaintiff and calling her names. Plaintiff "lost it" and started crying. Plaintiff testified that she called the on-duty sergeant, Sergeant Pruitt ("Pruitt"), and that he told her to let people into the lobby to talk to him on the telephone. Plaintiff opened the handicap door to allow 10 or 12 people into the lobby. Doble arrived at 230 South Dearborn at approximately 6:00 a.m., accompanied by the regional director of General Services Administration for DHS, and saw people in the lobby. Doble asked plaintiff why she had let the people in, and plaintiff responded that she let some of them in because they wanted to talk to Pruitt and let the rest in because they were cold.

  Bier initially wanted GSSC to take plaintiff off the Loop Contract based on the May 22, 2003, incident. He subsequently reconsidered and wrote D'or a letter stating that GSSC must take "appropriate action" against plaintiff. D'or suspended plaintiff for three days for not following Doble's order. Plaintiff filed a grievance with the ISP regarding her suspension, which was denied. The ISP's response states, "In your grievance you admit the instructions were given to you prior to the incident. This being the case, your grievance has no merit." Plaintiff also filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") regarding her suspension. The NLRB dismissed her charge.

  On October 12, 2003, plaintiff was assigned to guard 77 West Jackson from midnight to 8 a.m. Plaintiff was the only guard on this shift. At approximately 1:30 a.m., plaintiff observed on one of the security monitors that a man had entered the building through a side door and was waiting for an elevator. Plaintiff testified that she was 98 percent sure that the intruder was Bryan Carey ("Carey"), a lieutenant assigned to the another GSSC contract with the federal government, but that the "camera was fuzzy and sometimes[s] didn't show the complete picture." Plaintiff testified that she knew that Carey had no reason to be in the building, and that she thought he was coming to see what she was doing at her post or to "catch [her] doing something." No guard is allowed into any federal building during closed hours when the guard is not on duty. The man was not wearing a GSSC uniform and did not enter through the front door or come to the security post to check in, which would have been proper procedure for a GSSC employee entering the building. The man entered through a side door opened by a key that no one except the guard on duty, plaintiff in this case, was authorized to have.

  The intruder went to the third floor, which contains offices for the Social Security Administration and restrooms. Plaintiff lost video contact with the intruder for approximately ten or fifteen minutes and does not know what he was doing during that time period. Plaintiff regained video contact and observed the intruder leave the building through a back door with a bag that he had not been carrying when he entered the building. Plaintiff testified that she knew that she was supposed to contact the government's Mega Control Center ("Mega Center") when she saw a suspicious person enter a building, but that she never contacted the Mega Center on October 12, 2003, because she believed the person was Carey. More than ten minutes after plaintiff observed the man enter the building she contacted the GSSC sergeant on duty, Sergeant Moss ("Moss"), and told him that Carey had entered the building. Plaintiff testified that she called Moss while the intruder was in the building and was still on the phone with Moss when she saw him leave. The written report she prepared on the date of the incident, however, suggests that she called Moss after the man exited the building. Plaintiff never physically confronted the man.

  DHS/FPS began an investigation of the October 12, 2003, incident, which included reviewing the security tapes. Doble and D'or concluded from the investigation that Carey had not been in the building, but that another GSSC employee was the intruder. On October 16, 2003, D'or received a letter from DHS/FPS requesting the GSSC take "appropriate action" against plaintiff. Plaintiff was suspended effective October 17, 2003, for failing to properly challenge the intruder, for incorrectly identifying him, for failing to call the Mega Center, and for delaying calling her supervisor until after or shortly before the intruder left the building.

  On October 21, 2003, at plaintiff's request, she met with D'or, Doble, and Jim Martin, vice president of the ISP, to discuss her suspension and her grievance of that suspension. DHS/FPS's investigation ultimately led to the intruder's termination and his arrest by the Chicago Police Department. At the conclusion of the investigation, D'or determined that it was appropriate to terminate plaintiff. D'or wrote plaintiff a letter dated October 31, 2003, terminating her effective October 23, 2003. D'or's letter stated that the reason for her termination was the October 12, 2003, incident, and that she was negligent in failing to properly challenge an unknown person who entered the building and to properly notify her supervisor or the Mega Center. The letter also discussed two prior incidents when FPS had asked GSSC to take action against ...


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