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Hobbs v. Potter

August 27, 2009

REACY H. HOBBS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, U.S. POSTMASTER GENERAL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald A. Guzman District Judge

Judge Ronald A. Guzmán

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Reacy H. Hobbs, an equipment mechanic for the U.S. Postal Service, has sued his employer, John E. Potter, the Postmaster General, for race, color and national origin discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.

Local Rule 56.1

Local Rule 56.1 sets forth the summary judgment filing. LR 56.1. The local rule requires the movant to file a supporting memorandum of law and a statement of material facts along with any affidavits and other materials. LR 56.1(a)(1). The local rule also requires the non-movant to file a statement of facts that responds to each numbered paragraph of the movant's statement of facts with references to the record to support the non-movant's denial of any fact statement. LR 56.1(b)(3)(A). Any facts in the movant's statement that are not properly denied by the non-movant will be deemed admitted for the purposes of summary judgment. Id. It is important to note that defendant complied with Local Rule 56.2 and notified plaintiff of the requirements of a non-movant under Local Rule 56.1 as well as the consequences of non-compliance with the Rule. Because of the importance that Local Rule 56.1 serves with regards to organizing evidence and disputed facts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has consistently upheld a district court's requirement of strict compliance with the Rule. F.T.C. v. Bay Area Bus. Council, 423 F.3d 627, 633 (7th Cir. 2005).

With these principles in mind, it is important to note that Hobbs has failed to comply with Local Rule 56.1. His statement of facts fails to respond to each of the numbered paragraphs in defendant's statement of facts in that it only responds directly to a few of defendant's fact statements. Further, Hobbs failed to submit any documentation or declarations along with his statement of facts and, as such, many of his assertions are unsupported and purely speculative. Hobbs at times makes passing reference to various documents and statements by witnesses but he did not fulfill his responsibility of providing these materials to the Court.

Facts

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed or deemed admitted due to a party's noncompliance with Local Rule 56.1. Hobbs is an African-American male who has been employed by the U.S. Postal Service since 1982. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. 1, Hobbs Dep. 11:8-12:24, Nov. 25, 2008). Hobbs works at the Bulk Mail Center in Forest Park, Illinois. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 1.) Wayne Johnson is a Caucasian male and is Hobbs' supervisor at the Bulk Mail Center. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. 1, Hobbs Dep. 13:3-11.) Johnson considers Hobbs an excellent worker, and Hobbs maintains a high rate of work attendance. (Id., Ex. 1, Hobbs Dep. 20:9-19; id., Ex. 5, Johnson Aff. ¶ 16, May 3, 2007). Johnson was first made aware of Hobbs' EEO proceedings by an e-mail he received on January 12, 2007. (Id., Ex. 5, Johnson Aff. ¶ 16.) Albert Bonk and Michael Damon are Caucasian males who work for the Postal Service alongside Hobbs and are supervised by Johnson at the Bulk Mail Center. (Id., Ex. 1, Hobbs Dep. 35:7-15.) Greg Terkovitz is a Caucasian male who works for the Postal Service at the Bulk Mail Center but is supervised by someone other than Johnson. (Id. at 35:9-36:6.)

On November 15, 16 and 17, 2006, Hobbs was absent from his job at the Chicago Bulk Mail Center. (Id. at 20:1-5.) Johnson told Hobbs that he would be required to provide medical documentation of his absences in order to be approved for paid sick leave. (Id. at 26:21-24.) Johnson required Hobbs' Caucasian co-workers to submit medical documentation in order to obtain sick leave. (Id., Ex. 5, Johnson Aff. ¶¶ 4, 10 and 11.) Hobbs did not provide medical documentation in connection with his November 15-17, 2006 absences but submitted a note from his wife about his illness to Johnson. (Id., Ex. 1, Hobbs Dep. 30:1-15.) Johnson did not accept Hobbs' wife's letter as medical documentation, denied Hobbs' sick leave request and instead granted him paid annual leave for his absences. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 5.) Hobbs objected to this classification of his absences, and on November 28, 2006, Hobbs requested a meeting with an EEO dispute resolution specialist. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. 4, EEO Pre-Compl. Form, 1.) Hobbs indicated to Johnson that if he could not get his missed time counted as paid sick leave, he would prefer to be given leave without pay instead of paid annual leave. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 6.) Accordingly, on December 2, 2006, Johnson signed a pay adjustment form regarding Hobbs' November 15-17, 2006 absences that requested a change from paid annual leave to leave without pay. (Id.)

In an effort to have his absences classified as paid sick leave, Hobbs filed a grievance with the Postal Workers' Union stating that his supervisor Johnson had counted his time as paid annual leave instead of paid sick leave. (Id.) On December 7, 2006, the grievance was settled, and Hobbs' absences on November 15-17, 2006 were changed from paid annual leave to paid sick leave. (Id. ¶ 7.)

On December 11, 2006, Hobbs filed an EEO pre-complaint counseling form claiming that he had been discriminated against on the basis of race when Johnson asked for medical documentation to substantiate his November 15-17, 2006 absences and subsequently denied his request for sick leave. (Id. ¶ 9.) On December 20, 2006, Johnson held a pre-disciplinary hearing with Hobbs in order to determine if he had provided false documents in his initial union grievance regarding his November 15-17, 2006 absences. (Id. ¶ 10.) This pre-disciplinary hearing was for the purpose of discovery only and no charge of fraud was ever made against Hobbs and no notice of removal was provided. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. 5, Johnson Aff. ¶ 16.)

Hobbs contends that in December 2006, he was prevented from taking a full week of vacation because three of his paid annual leave days were initially used to cover his work absences on November 15-17, 2006. (Id., Ex. 1, Hobbs Dep. 66:4-11; Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 3.) Defendant argues that Hobbs was able to take a vacation in December 2006, but the cited portion of the record does not support that Hobbs was able to take his full vacation. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 12.) The issue regarding defendant's categorizing these absences as annual leave was resolved in January 2007 when Hobbs' paid sick leave was officially granted and he was credited with three annual leave days. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., Ex. 1, Hobbs Dep. 25:20-25.)

In late January 2007, Hobbs received a "Letter of Demand" from the payroll department of the U.S. Postal Service asking to be reimbursed for overpaid wages. (Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ΒΆ 11.) This letter of demand was not signed by Johnson, no payments of any kind were ever collected from Hobbs by the Postal Service and the letter of demand was rescinded by the payroll department within twenty-four hours of its issuance. (Id.) In response to this letter of ...


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