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Johnson v. Chicago Board of Education

January 31, 2007

LONNIE JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Lonnie Johnson (hereinafter, the "Plaintiff") alleges that the Chicago Board of Education (hereinafter, "the Board") violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against her because of race and sex, and by retaliating against her for filing charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"). The Board has moved for Summary Judgment.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate 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). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and a dispute is genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court must view all the evidence and any reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Miller v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 997, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000).

A. Failure to Respond to the Rule 56.1 Statement

In a Motion for Summary Judgment, the movant initially has the burden to identify portions of the record that the movant believes shows the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 319 (1986). Once this burden is met, the non-movant must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial," and may not rely solely upon their pleading. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Becker v. Tenenbaum-Hill Associates, Inc., 914 F.2d 107, 110 (7th Cir. 1990).

Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(a)(3), the movant must submit a statement of material facts in the form of short numbered paragraphs supported by specific references to the factual record. See also, Duncan v. Lamanna, 2003 WL 21960344 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 14, 2003). The non-movant must respond to each such paragraph (including specific references to the factual record in the case of disagreement) in accordance with Local Rule 56.1(b)(3). Wilcox v. American Stores, 2002 WL 31654938 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 22, 2002). If the non-movant fails to do so, all material facts in the movant's statement are deemed admitted. Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B); Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co. L.L.C., 401 F.3d 803, 810 (7th Cir. 2005); Duncan, 2003 WL 21960344; Wilcox, 2002 WL 31654938. The Seventh Circuit has "endorsed the exacting obligation[s] these [local] rules impose on a party contesting summary judgment" and has "repeatedly upheld their strict enforcement . . . " Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir. 1994); Wilcox, 2002 WL 31654938.

Courts have required even pro se plaintiffs to respond sufficiently to a Rule 56.1 statement. See Wilcox, 2002 WL 31654938 at *2. According to Local Rule 56.2, any party who moves for summary judgment against a pro se plaintiff must provide that plaintiff with a form entitled "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment" as well as file that document with the court. This Court became aware that the Board did not comply with Local Rule 56.2 after receiving Plaintiff's first response to the summary judgment motion. At that time, the Court supplied the Plaintiff with the form and directed the Plaintiff to file a supplementary response, cautioning Plaintiff that her response needed to respond to Defendant's 56.1 statement and include legal reasons why summary judgment should not be granted. Plaintiff filed a supplementary response, generally asserting that the Board's 56.1 statement "is full of lies and inaccuracies," but otherwise failed to respond to the motion due to Plaintiff's asserted mental illness.

As such, this Court deems the facts set forth by the Board as undisputed. To do otherwise would obligate this Court to "scour the record looking for fact disputes," a task which is inconsistent with our adversary system of justice. Waldridge, 24 F.3d at 922. This court will not scour the record on Plaintiff's behalf. Thus, this Court's task becomes merely to determine whether, "given the undisputed facts, summary judgment is proper as a matter of law." Wienco, Inc. v. Katahn Associates, Inc., 965 F.2d 565, 568 (7th Cir. 1992).

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is an African-American female custodian employed by the Board and staffed at Sauganash Elementary School (hereinafter, "Sauganash") since May 2003. Christine Munns ("Munns")(also a Board employee) was at all relevant times the principal at Sauganash. Plaintiff is the only Board-employed custodian staffed at Sauganash. Plaintiff's immediate supervisor at Sauganash was the Factor Janitor, Michael Suvanto ("Suvanto")(also a Board employee), and the only other custodian staffed at Sauganash was Steve Wozny ("Wozny"), under the employ of A & R Cleaning Company ("A & R"), a corporation providing janitorial services on an independent contract basis. Wozny was staffed at Sauganash from the time that Plaintiff arrived until June 2005.

Wozny's and Plaintiff's employment differed. Because Wozny was not an employee of the Board, he was not subject to the Board's collective bargaining agreement with the union representing custodians. The Board did not determine Wozny's pay or benefits and did not review his performance, whereas Munns periodically reviewed Plaintiff's performance. Plaintiff works according to a schedule set by Suvanto and Munns, whereas Wozny was directed by A & R to work hours that roughly coincided with student attendance, and did not report his hours into the Board's electronic time-keeping system.

Plaintiff and Wozny roughly split the custodial duties at Sauganash; Plaintiff cleaned the first floor while Wozny cleaned the second. Wozny cleaned the grounds, but the two shared responsibilities for the basement and the gymnasium/lunchroom. When Plaintiff was first assigned to Sauganash, she cleaned the only modular unit. Later, when a new modular unit was added, she cleaned that unit and Wozny cleaned the older unit. Plaintiff does not allege that her general duties were discriminatory. At all relevant times, Plaintiff received good reviews.

Plaintiff alleges both sex and race discrimination. Plaintiff alleges that Wozny was treated more favorably than her and that the assignment to clean the old modular unit (before the second was added) constituted sex and race discrimination. She also believes that being required to clean the areas assigned to Wozny while Wozny was absent and after his permanent departure constituted sex and race discrimination.

Plaintiff also alleges sex and race discrimination based on being required to clean bathrooms regularly assigned to Wozny when he left work early on Mondays to go bowling. According to Plaintiff, when she met with Munns and Suvanto to contest these extra bathroom cleaning duties, Munns said that "women do it better" and to "just do it." However, neither Munns nor Suvanto told Plaintiff that "women do it better"; instead, Munns reminded Plaintiff that she was required to comply with reasonable directives to meet Sauganash's cleaning needs and that, based on teachers' feedback, her cleaning was superior to Wozny's. In March 2004, Munns asked Plaintiff to clean a bathroom usually cleaned by Wozny to comply with the ...


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