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Hill v. Potter

March 31, 2009

CARLA HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER, GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

District Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Carla Hill ("Hill") filed a two count complaint alleging that she was subject to discrimination on the basis of her disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and retaliation for filing EEOC complaints in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Defendant John E. Potter, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service ("Potter"), originally filed a motion to dismiss (or in the alternative for summary judgment) [33]. The Court denied that motion without prejudice [57]. Defendant subsequently filed a renewed motion for summary judgment [61], contending that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendant's motion for summary judgment [61].

I. Background

A. Standard

The Court takes the relevant facts from the parties' respective Local Rule 56.1 ("L.R. 56.1") statements. The Court resolves all genuine factual ambiguities in Plaintiff's favor (see Foley v. City of Lafayette, Ind., 359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004)), and takes no position on whose version of disputed factual matters is correct. See, e.g., Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) (stressing that on summary judgment, courts must look "at the evidence as a jury might, construing the record in the light most favorable to the non-movant and avoiding the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true").

L.R. 56.1 requires that statements of facts contain allegations of material fact and that those allegations be supported by admissible record evidence. See L.R. 56.1; Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 583-85 (N.D. Ill. 2000). The Seventh Circuit repeatedly has confirmed that a district court has broad discretion to require strict compliance with L.R. 56.1. See, e.g., Koszola v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 385 F.3d 1104, 1109 (7th Cir. 2004); Curran v. Kwon, 153 F.3d 481, 486 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1317 (7th Cir. 1995) (collecting cases)). As noted above, where a party has offered a legal conclusion or a statement of fact without offering proper evidentiary support, the Court will not consider that statement. See, e.g., Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 583. Additionally, where a party improperly denies a statement of fact by failing to provide adequate or proper record support for the denial, the Court deems that statement of fact to be admitted. See L.R. 56.1(a), 56.1(b)(3)(B); see also Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 584. The requirements for a response under Local Rule 56.1 are "not satisfied by evasive denials that do not fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2000). Finally, the Court disregards any additional statements of fact contained in a party's response brief rather than in its statement of additional facts. See, e.g., Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 584 (citing Midwest Imports, 71 F.3d at l317).

B. Facts

Plaintiff Carla Hill began working for the United States Postal Service ("USPS") as a letter carrier at the Hazel Crest, Illinois Post Office. Def. SOF ¶ 1. She was stationed at that office during the time period relevant to this case. She is still employed as a postal worker although the record is unclear whether she remains at the Hazel Crest office. Id.

On May 4, 2005, Hill contacted a USPS EEO Dispute Resolution Specialist to lodge a complaint that she was discriminated against and harassed based on her race, sex, age and marital status of being married to a Mexican and retaliated against for engaging in prior EEO activity. Def. SOF ¶ 2. Those claims stemmed from an incident on March 21, 2005, in which James Fuscaldo ("Fuscaldo") used a scanner with Hill's social security number. Id. On May 10, 2005, Hill again contacted an EEO Dispute Resolution Specialist alleging that she was discriminated against and harassed based on her race, sex, age and marital status of being married to a Mexican and retaliated against for engaging in prior EEO activity. Id. ¶ 3. The basis of this complaint was that Fuscaldo used the scanner with Hill's social security number on May 5 and 9, 2005. Id. On May 17, 2005, Hill again contacted an EEO Dispute Resolution Specialist alleging that she was discriminated against and harassed based on her race, sex, age and marital status of being married to a Mexican and retaliated against for engaging in prior EEO activity and having a physical disability. Id. ¶ 4. The first page of the complaint discussed an incident in which Patrick Kavanaugh ("Kavanaugh"), a Postmaster, called Hill's orthopedic doctor on April 29, 2005. Id. Hill also attached a seven page handwritten letter to the May 17, 2005 pre-complaint form which made numerous other allegations.

On June 23, 2005, Hill filed a formal complaint of discrimination against the USPS in EEO Case No. 4J-604-0101-05 ("Case No. 0101-05") alleging that she was discriminated against based on her race ("African American"), color ("Black"), sex ("Female"), age ("45 years of age"), and disability ("On the Job Back Injury") and retaliated against for engaging in "prior EEO activity." Def. SOF ¶ 5; Pl. SOF ¶ 21. Included in that complaint were statements that: (i) Hill received a letter from Dale Schultz informing her to provide medical documentation; (ii) Kavanaugh contacted her orthopedic doctor trying to obtain medical information; (iii) "Dale Schultz [told me] * * * that my doctor can't tell them what to do and I have been hired to be carrier and I am going to carry mail and that's it"; (iv) "[s]ince my original injury in November 2002 they have been harassing the hell out of me"; (v) "In December 2003 my hours were cut from being an 40 hour regular to a 13-15 hour week regular" while another worker was allowed to continue working 40 or more hours a week; (vi) "James Fiscauldo told my union vice president that he was going to force me to go back to the street carrying mail against my doctor's restrictions! James Fiscauldo will not let me case mail on my route but he said I could if I carry my route * * *"; (vii) "My doctor says I can't carry mail because it will always cause me to have recurrences. Dr. Booker recommended permanent change of 'inside duties." They aren't willing to accommodate me * * *"; and (viii) "The managers are all aware of my prior EEO activity since my EEO's are filed against them * * * Their retaliatory actions are all because of my filing EEO's against them -- Retaliating against me because of my permanent disability to not be able to no longer carry mail." Pl. SOF ¶¶ 22-27; Def. SOF ¶ 5. Hill also attached a letter to her formal complaint in which she claimed that as a result of her absences for May 23, 2005, she was charged with .6 units of Leave Without Pay ("LWOP"). Def. SOF ¶ 5.

On June 28, 2005, the USPS EEO Office issued a Partial Acceptance/Dismissal of Complaint in EEO Case No. 0101-05 which summarized Hill's claims as whether she was discriminated against based on her race, color, sex, age, disability and retaliation when:

(1) on March 21, May 5, and May 9, 2005, Supervisor Fuscaldo used your scanner with your social security number; (2) on April 29, 2005, Postmaster Kavanaugh (Calumet City Post Office) contacted your orthopedic doctor and requested information on your back injury even though he was no longer the Postmaster of Hazel Crest, IL and you didn't sign a medical release; (3) on May 10, 2005, you completed a PS Form 3971 for 2 hours of sick leave for May 23 and was charged LWOP and Supervisor Fuscaldo changed the requested leave without permission; (4) on June 16, 2005, you received a letter from Dale Schultz, Injury Compensation Unit, advising you that you needed to submit updated medical since your current medical was not acceptable, and you alleged that Supervisor Fuscaldo threatened to make you go back on the street to carry mail; and (5) on June 17, 2005, your check stub had .6 LWOP and you alleged that you punched in at 8:06 AM and that you are guaranteed a 5-minute leeway which is up to .8.

Def. SOF ΒΆ6. The Partial Acceptance/Dismissal of Complaint notified Hill that the issues numbered (1) and (4) were not accepted for investigation and were dismissed ...


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