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El-Bakly v. Autozone

April 23, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. R. Dow


NOW INTO COURT, through undersigned counsel, come AutoZone, Inc. ("AutoZone"), Rob Harris, Juan Gutierrez, and Chris Ramos (collectively, "Defendants"), and respectfully submit this motion and memorandum in support of its Judgment as a Matter of Law.*fn1

I. Standard

Judgment as a matter of law is proper "[i]f a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue." Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 50. The 1991 comments to this rule state that the court has a "duty to enter judgment as a matter of law at any time during the trial as soon as it is apparent that either party is unable to carry a burden of proof that is essential to that part's case. . . . Early action is appropriate when economy and expedition will be served."

The Court need not make any decisions based on credibility. Based on the evidence presented by Plaintiff, and the law, he has failed to establish a legally sufficient basis to find for him on any of the claims at issue in this trial.

II. Plaintiff Failed to Present a Legally Sufficient Evidentiary Basis on Any of his Claims

a. Discrimination

Plaintiff asserts this claim only against AutoZone. To establish his prima facie case of discrimination based on his religion or national origin, Plaintiff would have to establish each of the following elements: (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 individuals not in his protected class received more favorable treatment. Brummett v. Lee Enters, Inc., 284 F.3d 742, 745 (7th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff failed to produce evidence to support the third and fourth elements of this claim.

First, other than his discharge, Plaintiff has failed to prove the existence of any adverse employment action. The 7th Circuit requires that an adverse employment action involves an economic injury and/or must materially alter the terms and conditions of employment. Markiel v. Bd. Of Regents of Univ. of Wis. Sys., 276 F.3d 906, 911 (7th Cir. 2002); Stauler v. Ill. Dept. of Corr., 263 F.3d 698, 703 (7th Cir. 2001). Although Plaintiff claimed to have been "demoted" from a commercial specialist to a commercial driver, he testified that his pay was NOT reduced. Moreover, he testified that his duties did not change. Thus, other than his discharge, he failed to produce legally sufficient evidence of any adverse employment action.

With respect to his discharge, Plaintiff failed to identify any non- Egyptian and/or non-Muslim who was suspected of drug use (based on a baggie being found in his truck and a statement he made to two managers regarding driving while "high") and received more favorable treatment. Thus, Plaintiff failed to meet his prima facie burden.

Even had Plaintiff met his prima facie burden, he failed to prove AutoZone's articulated, legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for his termination, loss of confidence, was a pretext for intentional discrimination based on his religion or national origin. Schuster v. Lucent Tech., Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 574 (7th Cir. 2003); Ajayi v. Aramark Business Services, Inc., 336 F.3d 520 (7th Cir. 2003). First, it has been stipulated that Mr. Merchant, the Regional Manager, was the individual that decided to terminate Mr. El Bakly. Plaintiff failed to present evidence that Mr. Merchant even knew what his religion or national origin were, let alone terminated him due to these factors. Moreover, Plaintiff failed to present any evidence to suggest any discriminatory motive. Indeed, he failed to present evidence that he was replaced by someone outside of his protected class. Accordingly, no reasonable factfinder could find for Plaintiff on his discrimination claim, and judgment of a matter of law is proper.

b. Retaliation

Plaintiff asserts this claim against AutoZone. To establish his relation claim, Plaintiff would have had to produce evidence that: (1) after lodging a complaint about discrimination, (2) only he, and not any otherwise similarly situated employee who did not complain, was (3) subjected to an adverse employment action even though (4) he was performing his job in a satisfactory manner. Stone v. city of Indianapolis Pub. Utils. Div., 281 F.3d 640, 642 (7th Cir. 2002). Again, Plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that a similarly situated individual, who did not lodge a complaint, received more favorable treatment. Moreover, Plaintiff made his complaint in February of 2004 and was not terminated until June of 2004. As a matter of law, such a lengthy time period would negate any inference of a causal link between his complaint and his later discharge. Richmond v. Oneok, Inc., 120 F.3d 205, 209 (10th Cir. 1997) (3-month lag insufficient for retaliation claim under FLSA); Wascura v. City of South Miami, 257 F.2d 1238, 1247 (11th Cir. 2001) (three and one-half month gap between protected activity and adverse employment action was insufficient to establish the causal connection); Conner v. Schnuck ...

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