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Trela v. United Parcel Service

February 10, 2010

KATHLEEN M. TRELA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Kathleen M. Trela brought this suit against her former employer, United Parcel Service, Inc. ("UPS") alleging that her supervisor at UPS sexually harassed her and that another UPS superior terminated her in retaliation for her complaint of harassment, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (2006). UPS moves for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, UPS's motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

UPS initially moves to strike plaintiff's counter-statement of material facts as insufficiently concise and supported by improperly broad citations to the record. Local Rule 56(b)(3) requires that a party opposing summary judgment file, inter alia, a statement "of short numbered paragraphs, of any additional facts . . . including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." L.R. 56(b)(3). This court's standing order further states that citations "must be specific. For example, a reference to a transcript that does not include the page and line numbers is not a 'specific' reference. The court will not search a multi‐page document nor guess as to which language in a document the party relies upon." (Standing Order 3 (emphasis in original).)

UPS's assessment of the deficiencies of Trela's counter-statement of facts is accurate. The individual statements range up to 11 sentences apiece, often with only one citation to a broad range of deposition transcript to support the entire statement. Each of the offending citations includes references to several page numbers, and no citation includes references to line numbers. Lumping discrete facts together under one generalized citation may suffice in a memorandum of law, but it is unsatisfactory for a statement of facts. The requirement of specific citations helps the parties and the court focus on asserted disputed issues of fact, a required task in considering motions for summary judgment, but a task made impossible when facts are blurred together as they are here. It is within the court's discretion to strike statements of fact that are insufficiently supported by citations to the record. See Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-18 (7th Cir. 2004) (affirming striking of facts with citations to whole exhibits, noting that it is not the district court's duty to "scour the record to make the case of a party"); see also Ross v. St. Eve, No. 05 C 2797, 2009 WL 2382529, at *2 (N.D. Ill. July 31, 2009). In Ross, this court, recognizing its duty to treat pro se plaintiffs leniently, nevertheless struck certain responses to a statement of facts; here, Trela is represented by counsel and so is entitled to no such leniency. Trela's counter-statements 1, 4, 7, and 8--the most egregious offenders--are stricken.

UPS employed Trela from June 9, 2008 to August 18, 2008 as a part-time package loader in an outbound dock in its facility in Hodgkins, Illinois. (Plaintiff's Answer to Defendant's Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts ("Pl.'s Resp.") ¶ 3.)*fn1 Trela, who was responsible for loading packages into a trailer, was supervised by Tim Vickers, whose manager was Shifuana Greer. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.)

UPS gives each new employee a Cornerstone Training Book, which documents, inter alia, the employee's performance and contacts with supervisors. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) Loaders like Trela are measured in part by a metric known as pieces-per-hour ("pph"). (Id. ¶ 9.) After each shift, Trela spoke with Vickers about her pph performance; Vickers told Trela her pph figure was good, then recorded it in her Book. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) He never told Trela her performance was unacceptable, criticized her pph, wrote her up, or disciplined her. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.)

The Book was not limited to employee performance, but included personal information about the employee in question, apparently in an attempt by UPS to get to know its employees. Under the guise of the Book, Vickers asked Trela personal questions which made Trela uncomfortable, and once he asked Trela to go to out drinking. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶¶ 14, 15; see also United Parcel Service, Inc.'s Response to Plaintiff's Counter-Statement of Material Facts ("Def.'s Resp.") ¶ 2.) After the first day, though, Vickers never asked Trela to socialize with him. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 18.) On other occasions, Vickers told other UPS employees that they were "not pretty like she is." (Id. ¶ 17; see also Def.'s Resp. ¶ 3.) Trela found Vickers's actions unwelcoming, but she never reported harassment, and she never made any written complaint of harassment or discrimination. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶¶ 23, 24, 33.) Trela once complained verbally to supervisor Jason Sloma that she did not like Vickers asking her personal questions or asking her to go out drinking, id. ¶ 29; Sloma did not pass this complaint along to Vickers. (Id. ¶ 31.)*fn2

No one else at UPS said or did anything that Trela considered to be sexual harassment. (Id. ¶ 19.) There is no evidence that Vickers was aware of any complaint of sexual harassment by Trela. (Id. ¶ 32.)*fn3

Trela testified that Vickers lost her Book on two separate occasions, and then made up Trela's pph figures for the missing days, in her opinion occasionally giving her more credit than she was due for those days. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) In any case, Trela was never disciplined in any way for her pph performance. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 22.) Even so, Trela complained to a training supervisor named Bryan Gray about issues regarding her Book. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 28.) On another occasion, Trela complained to Gray that Vickers "picked" on her and did not like her "because she was a girl." (Id. ¶ 27.) Later, according to Trela, Vickers told her, "[I]f you don't understand anything, come to me and I will explain it. Don't tell people I'm making up numbers for you." (Id. ¶ 26.)

On August 7, 2008, Trela and other new hires, having completed their training period, met with a training manager to discuss employment-related issues; while in the meeting, Trela said nothing about harassment or unfair treatment. (Id. ¶ 35.) However, at the end of the meeting, interviewer Lenis Davidson saw Trela crying and asked her if she would like to speak privately. (Id. ¶ 36.) The two met privately, and Trela complained that Vickers picked on her, lost her Book, made up pph numbers, screamed at her, and made her cry. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 36.) Davidson promised she would monitor Vickers and get back to Trela. (Id.) Davidson did not speak to Vickers about the meeting with Trela, of which Vickers was unaware. (Id. ¶ 37.)

One day after Trela's meeting with Davidson, Trela was loading packages, receiving assistance from a driver, when Vickers, supervising, said that Trela was experienced enough that she could work on her own. (Id. ¶ 38.) Trela became upset by Vickers's comments and walked off the job to go find Davidson. (Id.) On the way, Trela crossed paths with manager Greer and with Marcus Rodriguez, who also works in a supervisory role. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 41.)*fn4 Rodriguez stopped Trela and asked her if he and Greer could help her. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 39.) Trela declined Rodriguez's offer of help, saying that she did not want others to know her business, but agreed to go home and collect herself, and to meet with Rodriguez and Greer the following Monday, August 11. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 41.)*fn5 However, Trela did not report to work on August 11 because, according to Trela, her daughter was sick. (Id. ¶ 41; Def.'s Resp. ¶ 6.) She averred that she tried to contact UPS but did not know the correct number. (Def.'s Resp. ¶ 6.)

Trela returned to work August 12, at which point Rodriguez and Greer met with her. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶¶ 44-47.) When it became clear that Vickers was the subject of the meeting, Greer asked Trela if Vickers could join the meeting, and Trela agreed. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) A union representative had previously told Trela that he would not attend the meeting unless asked by management, and Trela did not ask Greer if she could have a representative present. (Id. ¶¶ 43, 50.) Once Vickers arrived, Greer asked Trela what her concern was, and Trela stated that Vickers had lost her Book and made up her pph, a charge that Vickers denied. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 51.) In response to Vickers's denial, Trela got up, stated "You won, Tim," and walked out of the meeting. (Id. ¶ 52.) Trela did not mention sexual harassment in the meeting, which lasted less than two minutes. (Id. ¶¶ 52, 56.) Greer and Vickers understood that Trela was quitting and walking off the job, at least in part because Greer heard Trela say, "I quit," a statement which Greer relayed to Trela's union representative. (Id. ¶¶ 53-54; see also Def.'s Resp. ¶ 16.)

Despite not being told she was fired, Pl.'s Resp.¶ 58, Trela walked from the meeting out of the building. (Id. ¶ 55.) Trela testified that, as she was leaving, she heard Rodriguez, who was conversing with the union representative, tell her to "keep walking," and testified that Rodriguez "wouldn't let me stop." (Def.'s Resp. ¶ 9.) Believing that Trela had just quit, Greer instructed another supervisor to ...


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