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Cummins v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp.

August 14, 2007


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


This matter is before the court on Defendant Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp.'s ("Metra") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant Metra's motion for summary judgment.


Plaintiff Mary M. Cummins ("Cummins") is a Caucasian female who was employed by Metra as a student in Metra's engineer training program beginning on February 15, 2005. Cummins alleges that on October 13, 2005, she and the crew on the locomotive, which consisted of F.D. Wright, a black male conductor, D. Cooper, a black male engineer, and D.G. Brown, a black female brakeman, were traveling on Metra's train from Millennium Park Station to University Station. Cummins claims that upon arrival at University Station, the brakeman received information regarding speed restrictions for the train and relayed the information to Cummins in anticipation of her return trip. Cummins contends that during the operation of the train back to Millennium Park Station she thought that the speed restriction information was incorrect. In response to her alleged belief that the information was incorrect, Cummins claims that she called the track flagman who was on duty and that the flagman confirmed that the information was incorrect. According to Cummins, as a result of the flagman's confirmation of her belief, Cummins modified the operation of the locomotive. Cummins further contends that when she arrived at Millennium Park Station, the locomotive crew reported to the foreman about the incident and the crew were subsequently notified by the foreman that the Federal Railway Administration ("FRA") and National Transportation Safety Board would be investigating the incident. On October 20, 2005, Cummins claims that the crew, including Cummins, were officially charged with possible violations of Metra's General Code of Operating Rules and that an investigation ensued. Cummins claims that throughout the investigation period, Metra approached Cummins numerous times to tell her that if Cummins signed a document which stated that she committed the rules violations, the charges against the engineer and brakeman would be dropped and that she would receive a reduced suspension. Cummins alleges that she refused to sign the document and requested a formal investigation into the incident.

According to Cummins, Metra terminated her employment and disqualified her from the engineer training program on December 27, 2005. Cummins claims that at the time of her dismissal she was notified that the investigation into the incident on October 13, 2005 had been cancelled and that all charges against the other crew members had been dismissed. Cummins contends that on January 18, 2005, she filed charges of gender discrimination and reverse race discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and received a right to sue notice on June 22, 2006. Cummins then filed the instant action, in which she includes a claim of reverse race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 ("Title VII") ("Count I"), and a Title VII gender discrimination claim ("Count II"). Metra moves for 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).


I. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Metra argues that Cummins failed to exhaust the administrative proceedings, and, as a result, Metra was deprived of its statutory right to mediate and conciliate.

Exhaustion of administrative remedies is a prerequisite to a federal court jurisdiction over employment discrimination actions arising under Title VII. Burton v. Great Western Steel Co., 833 F. Supp. 1266, 1270 (N.D. Ill. 1993). When an employee brings a Title VII claim against an employer, an EEOC charge is insufficient to confer jurisdiction in a private civil action when the charged party has not been given an opportunity to participate in conciliation proceedings aimed at voluntary compliance. Eggleston v. Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Local Union No. 130, 657

F.2d 890, 905 (7th Cir. 1981). This sufficient opportunity to conciliate is required because "conciliation between the parties may solve discriminatory problems without the animosities created by coercion, and it provides the respondent with the chance to voluntarily explain and justify past conduct prior to the expense, publicity, and time consumption associated with litigation." Id. at 906-07.

Metra contends that Cummins is barred from bringing the instant action because Cummins did not file a discrimination claim with Metra's Equal Opportunity Employment Department, which was required under Metra's internal policies for employees asserting a discrimination charge. We disagree. As Cummins admits, she did not experience gender or reverse race discrimination while she was employed at Metra. The claims of gender discrimination and reverse race discrimination brought by Cummins stem from Metra's termination of Cummins, and not from actions that occurred during Cummins' employment at Metra. Any meeting between the parties would not have resolved the policy implications of the need for a sufficient opportunity to conciliate between the parties because the justification and explanation for Cummins' termination was already described to her upon her disqualification from the engineer training program. Finally, at the time that Metra was notified of ...

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