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Ellsworth v. URS Construction Services

September 12, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Wayne R. Andersen


This case is before the court on defendants URS Construction Services, Rodriguez & Associates and Sharif Abou-Sabh's motions for summary judgment [219, 223, 227]. For the following reasons, the motions are granted.


After plaintiff Paula Ellsworth's was fired from her job as a project manager on the Chicago Transit Authority's ("CTA") five-year Capital Improvement Project ("CIP"), she filed this lawsuit. In June 2000, the CTA hired O'Brien Kreitzberg, a division of URS Construction Services ("URS"), to provide project management services for the CIP. In turn, URS hired Rodriguez & Associates ("Rodriguez") as a subcontractor to perform certain consulting services as part of URS's contract with the CTA. Sharif Abou-Sabh ("Abou-Sabh") was URS's project manager responsible for overseeing the company's responsibilities to the CTA, and by virtue of URS's contractual relationship with Rodriguez, Abou-Sabh also was responsible for supervising Rodriguez's work pursuant to the subcontract.

In early fall of 2000, Abou-Sabh became acquainted with Ellsworth on the bus while they commuted to work. Ellsworth, an architect, expressed interest to Abou-Sabh about working on the CIP, but Abou-Sabh was unable to hire Ellsworth to work for URS because of budgetary constriants. However, Abou-Sabh recommended to Rodriguez that he hire Ellsworth to work on the CIP as part of the sub-contractor's team. Rodriguez hired Ellsworth as a project manager on October 15, 2001. With the approval of the CTA, Ellsworth was assigned to two separate CIP projects, the Front Door Program and the Art in Transit Program. At some later point, Ellsworth requested and received approval to withdraw from the Front Door Program.

As one of of his duties, Abou-Sabh participated in annual budget negotiations with the CTA, known as Annual Service Orders ("ASO"). In July 2003, negotiations began on the fourth ASO. During these negotiations, the CTA secured a commitment from URS that it and its subcontractors would reduce the number of staff assigned to the CIP. The CTA requested that Abou-Sabh propose which staff members should be removed, and with CTA approval, those employees would be removed from the CIP. Ellsworth was one of the individuals Abou-Sabh proposed should be cut from the CIP.

While Ellsworth was working on the CIP, Abou-Sabh promoted several employees. This upset Ellsworth because she believed that she was better qualified than those who received the promotions. However, Ellsworth never applied for a promotion, nor was she aware of any promotion opportunities until after URS officially announced a promotion to those working on the CIP. In mid-to-late July 2003, Ellsworth complained to Kim Nelson-Jones, the Human Resources representative on the CIP, that she believed Abou-Sabh did not promote her because she was female and because of her race. Ellsworth is Caucasian, and Abou-Sabh is Arabic.

Nelson-Jones told Ellsworth that she should speak with Rodriguez and that Nelson-Jones would talk to Mike Just about her complaint. Ellsworth did not complain to Abou-Sabh.

Ellsworth states that she complained to Osvaldo Rodriguez, principal of Rodriguez, on July 11, 2003. She asserts that she told Rodriguez that Abou-Sabh was discriminating against her, which resulted in Abou-Sabh passing her over for various promotion opportunities for which she believed she was better qualified for than those individuals who were promoted. Rodriguez denies that this conversation occurred. Ellsworth claims that Rodriguez told her that he would discuss her complaint with Mike Just, a URS employee, and ask him to talk to Abou-Sabh. Ellsworth alleges that Rodriguez talked to Just about her complaint. Rodriguez denies ever discussing her allegations with Just.

On August 4, 2003, Rodriguez informed Ellsworth that she was one of the CIP staff members the CTA removed from the project and that it was going to terminate her employment relationship with the firm on August 15, 2003. Following her discharge, Ellsworth attempted to secure alternative employment, but she was not able to secure a position that she believed to be appropriate for a person with her qualifications. Ellsworth interviewed with a few companies, but believes that, when they contacted Abou-Sabh, he told them not to hire her.

On May 19, 2004, Ellsworth filed this lawsuit against defendants alleging discrimination on the basis of gender, race, and national origin. Ellsworth later filed an amended complaint which contains the following claims: (1) Count I alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5 for discriminatory failure to promote on account of her gender; (2) Count II alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5 for discriminatory failure to promote on account of her national origin; (3) Count III alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. §1981 for intentional interference with contractual relationship based on Ellsworth's ethnic background; (4) Count IV alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5 for discriminatory discharge on account of Ellsworth's gender; (5) Count V alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5 for discriminatory discharge based on national origin and ethnic background; (6) Count VI alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 for discriminatory discharge based on retaliation; (7) Count VII alleges a conspiracy to deprive Ellsworth of employment and prospective economic advantage in violation of Illinois law; and (8) Count VIII alleges tortious interference with a contractual relationship in violation of Illinois law.

On March 11,2005, this court dismissed Count VIII against Rodriguez and Counts I, II, IV, V and VI aganst Abou-Sabh. On September 22, 2006, this court also granted Rodriguez's motion for partial summary judgment on Counts I, II, IV, V and VI. Therefore, all counts are pending against URS. Counts III, VII and VIII are pending against Abou-Sabh, and Counts III and VIII are pending against Rodriguez.


I. Ellsworth's Response to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment

Ellsworth failed to comply with this court's local rule governing summary judgment motions, LOCAL RULE 56.1, in at least three ways. First, Local Rule 56.1 is quite clear that "[a]bsent prior leave of Court, a respondent to a summary judgment motion shall not file more than 40 separately-numbered statements of additional facts." L.R. 56.1(3)(C). Ellsworth's Statement of Material Facts contains forty-eight separately-numbered statements. This court is generous about granting parties leave to file statements of fact that are longer when the need arises and would have given plaintiff leave to exceed the number of statements permitted under the Local Rules. Second, it is improper for a party to merely combine what should be separately-numbered statements into one long statement so as to undermine the purpose of the rule. As identified in this court's management procedures, each individual statement shall be limited to the recitation of a single fact and not exceed four sentences in length. Ellsworth's Statement of Facts makes a mockery of this rule. For example, paragraph 3 is three and a half pages, consisting of no less than thirty-six separate statements of fact.

Finally, Ellsworth's response briefs in opposition to the summary judgment motions inadequately cite the record, therefore making it more difficult for the court to determine which statements are supported by appropriate evidence and what, if any, material facts are disputed. The Seventh Circuit has made clear that "it is not the duty of the district court to scour the record in search of material factual disputes." Roger Whitmore's Auto. Servs., Inc. v. Lake County, 424 F.3d 659, 664 (7th Cir. 2005). "Judges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in the record." United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991). Not only does this waste the resources of the court, it also unfairly burdens opposing parties and unjustly increases litigation costs. While the ...

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