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Hodges v. Pointer

February 14, 2007

MARK A. HODGES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BETTY POINTER, SPEED SEJA DISTRICT 802, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion for summary judgment in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Mark A. Hodges ("Hodges") alleges that he was employed by Defendant Speed SEJA District 802 ("District") and that while he was employed he complained that he was being harassed because of his race by Jason Propp ("Propp"), a "Desk Top Technician" for the District. (EEOC 2). Hodges claims that Propp sent him an email ("Email") that contained a "picture of Buckwheat (a character from the television show The Little Rascals) with no words or phrases" and also that it depicted the character "in a non-safe situation." (R SF Par. 3, 8). Hodges further alleges that on August 23, 2004, an attorney for the District and Defendant Dr. Betty Pointer ("Pointer"), the Director of the District, called Hodges on the phone to ask if Hodges "thought that [Propp] . . . was a racist." (EEOC 2). Hodges allegedly told Pointer that he thought that the Email was "racially offensive." (EEOC 2). Hodges claims that he then ended the phone conversation because he did not have an attorney with him. According to Hodges, he was fired on August 25, 2004, for alleged insubordination. Hodges includes in his complaint a claim alleging hostile work environment claims in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, and Title VII retaliation claims. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all claims.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT

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).

DISCUSSION

I. Failure to Respond to Defendants' Motion and Local Rule 56.1

On December 12, 2006, we gave the parties until January 26, 2007, to file dispositive motions and until February 9, 2007, to file responses to dispositive motions. On January 18, 2007, Hodges filed a motion to reopen discovery and a motion to compel, and on January 22, 2007, we denied both motions since Hodges was seeking such relief on the eve of the deadlines for dispositive motions. On January 26, 2007, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and on February 1, 2007, Hodges filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint to include additional Defendants and additional causes of action. On February 7, 2007, we denied the motion for leave to file an amended complaint and warned Hodges that he was required to file his answer to Defendants' motion for summary judgment by February 9, 2007. The February 9, 2007 deadline has passed and Hodges has not filed a response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Hodges has thus not contested any of Defendants' arguments in their motion. Nor has Hodges filed a response to Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 statement of material facts and, therefore, all such facts are deemed admitted. Local Rule 56.1; Dent v. Bestfoods, 2003 WL 22025008, at *1 n.1 (N.D. Ill. 2003); see also 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 a district court is entitled to expect strict compliance with Rule 56.1" and that "[s]ubstantial compliance is not strict compliance"); Greer v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001)(indicating that pro se plaintiffs must comply with Local Rule 56.1).

II. Hostile Work Environment Claims

Defendants move for summary judgment on the hostile work environment claims. Title VII prohibits a workplace that is "'permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and create an abusive working environment . . . .'" Mendenhall v. Mueller Streamline Co., 419 F.3d 686, 691 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys. Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993)). For a Title VII hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must establish: "(1) that the work environment was both subjectively and objectively offensive; (2) that the harassment was based on membership in a protected class; (3) that the conduct was severe or pervasive; and (4) that there is a basis for employer liability." Id. In determining whether a work environment is a hostile work environment, the court can consider factors such as:

(1) "'the frequency of the discriminatory conduct,'" (2) the severity of the conduct, (3) "'whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance,'" and (4) "'whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance.'" Id. (quoting Harris, 510 U.S. at 21).

In the instant action, Hodges contends that he received the Email which he found to be offensive. However, pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, Hodges admits that the only personal problem he had with Propp was in regard to the one Email, and Hodges has not alleged any other incidents of racial harassment. (R SF Par. 6). Hodges contends that the Email was offensive, but he also admits that he "was not upset about the email in particular," which indicates that he did not subjectively find the Email to be overly offensive. (R SF Par. 7). Hodges also admits that during the phone conversation with Pointer, Hodges "did not claim that the picture was racially discriminatory" and that he "did not know what [the Email] meant." (R SF Par. 12, 17). Hodges also admits that he did not leave work the day he received the Email nor miss any days of work due to the Email. (R SF Par. 7). Hodges relies upon the one isolated Email and has not alleged any conduct that threatened his safety. Hodges' admissions indicate that his work environment was not subjectively ...


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