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Ware v. Lasalle Bank Corp.

November 25, 2008

ERNESTA WARE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LASALLE BANK CORPORATION, ET AL., 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 Ernesta Ware ("Ware"), alleges that she was hired to be a Business Loan Officer (also known as a Business Banking Officer ("BBO")) for Defendant LaSalle Bank Corporation ("LaSalle") in March 2003. Ware claims that from the outset of her employment with LaSalle, she was subjected to different treatment on the basis of her race by Defendant Tom Kress ("Kress"), Defendant Tom Daugherty ("Daugherty"), and Defendant Tom Carlson ("Carlson"), all of whom were Ware's supervisors. Specifically, Ware alleges that she was not given branch referrals for almost the first two years of her employment and even when she was finally provided with branch referrals, she only received less desirable locations. Ware alleges that her "race is Black," (Compl. Par. 5), and that other similarly-situated white employees were given more numerous and more favorable branch referrals which allowed those employees to earn bonuses and advance within bank. Ware also claims that she was paid a lower salary than other similarly-situated white employees. According to Ware, Carlson, who was Ware's supervisor for most of her employment at LaSalle, often made comments about people living on the south side of Chicago, which Ware interpreted to be racial in nature. Ware claims that Carlson refused to attend business meetings on the south side of Chicago with Ware and that Carlson would not support the business deals of Ware in the same manner that he supported deals made by other similarly-situated white employees. According to Ware, Carlson refused to make eye contact with Ware and often took other employees out to lunch while excluding Ware. Ware alleges that on July 15, 2005, LaSalle terminated Ware's employment. Ware alleges that race appeared to be a motivating factor contributing to the termination of her employment.

Ware brought the instant action under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"), arguing that Defendants violated Ware's constitutional rights by (1) terminating her employment based on race, (2) paying Ware a lower salary than her similarly-situated white co-workers, and (3) treating Ware differently than her similarly-situated white co-workers with respect to other conditions of Ware's employment. Defendants now move for summary judgment.

LEGAL STANDARD

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 Transp. Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

Defendants move for summary judgment on Ware's Section 1981 claims, arguing that Ware has failed to put forth sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact. Under Section 1981, "all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right... to make and enforce contracts... and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings... as is enjoyed by white citizens." 42 U.S.C. § 1981. To prove employment discrimination under Section 1981, a plaintiff may proceed under either a direct method or an indirect method of proof. Hague v. Thompson Distribution Co., 436 F.3d 816, 820 (7th Cir. 2006); see also Herron v. Daimler Chrysler Corp., 388 F.3d 293, 299 (7th Cir. 2004)(stating that Section 1981 claims are analyzed "under the same rubric as Title VII claims").

I. Direct Method of Proof

Under the direct method of proof, a plaintiff must establish a discriminatory motivation through direct or circumstantial evidence. Rudin v. Lincoln Land Cmy. Coll., 420 F.3d 712, 719 (7th Cir. 2005). Direct evidence of discrimination would constitute "an admission by" the defendant that the adverse employment action was taken "on the basis of" his membership in a protected class. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 610 (7th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff can also present circumstantial evidence under the direct method of proof, but such evidence must be sufficient to create "a triable issue of whether the adverse employment action of which [the plaintiff] complains had a discriminatory motivation." Rudin, 420 F.3d at 721 (quoting Wallace v. SMC Pneumatics, Inc., 103 F.3d 1394, 1397 (7th Cir. 1997)). The Seventh Circuit has also indicated that one way that circumstantial evidence can create a triable issue is if there is a "'convincing mosaic of discrimination against the plaintiff.'" Paz v. Wauconda Healthcare and Rehabilitation Centre, LLC, 464 F.3d 659, 666 (7th Cir. 2006)(quoting Walker v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis., 410 F.3d 387, 394 (7th Cir. 2005)).

In the instant action, Ware has failed to point to direct evidence of unlawful discrimination. In addition, Ware has also not pointed to circumstantial evidence to create a triable issue and has not shown a "convincing mosaic" of discrimination against her. Id. The circumstantial evidence of discrimination relied upon by Ware consists largely of testimony by Ware that Carlson engaged in certain behavior which led Ware to believe that Carlson did not like her. (SAF Par. 25). These perceived slights alleged by Ware included: (1) Carlson's alleged failure to make eye contact with Ware, (2) Carlson's failure to say "hello" to Ware, (3) Carlson's failure to invite Ware to social events, and (4) Carlson's failure to treat Ware to meals despite the fact that he often did so for other employees. (SAF Par 25, 28). However, Ware has not pointed to any actions by Carlson or any other employee of LaSalle indicating a racial animus against Ware or an intent to discriminate against Ware on the basis of her race. Ware did testify that Carlson made negative comments about certain neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago being "rough" or "the wrong neighborhood." (SAF Par. 32). However, despite the fact that Ware interpreted these statements to be racial in nature, such statements do not, by themselves, create a triable issue of racial discrimination. See Paz, 464 F.3d at 666. Based on the lack of direct evidence of racial discrimination and the limited circumstantial evidence of discrimination presented by Ware, there is not a "convincing mosaic" of discrimination and Ware cannot proceed on her Section 1981 claims under the direct method.

II. Indirect Method of Proof

Ware argues that she can proceed under the indirect method of proof and that she has raised genuine issues of material fact as to whether Defendants discriminated against her. Under the indirect method of proof a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. Scaife, 446 F.3d at 739. Once a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden shifts to the defendant to provide a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action. Id. at 739. If the defendant provides such a ...


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