Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Smith v. Potter

March 26, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elaine E. Bucklo United States District Judge


Plaintiff Nathaniel O. Smith ("Smith"), a postal worker, filed a seventeen count pro se complaint against his current employer, the United States Postal Service ("USPS"), alleging discrimination based on race, sex, color, age, and disability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq. (the "Rehabilitation Act"). The complaint also includes several counts of retaliation premised on plaintiff's 2003 Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") activity. For the following reasons, summary judgment is granted.


Plaintiff is an African-American male, employed by USPS in Maywood, Illinois.*fn1 Plaintiff started work in 1984 as a letter carrier. In 1986, he suffered a job-related injury (herniated disc, lower back), that resulted in permanent medical restrictions on the type of work he could perform. To date, there has been no improvement in plaintiff's medical condition. After the injury, plaintiff was unable to perform the core duties of a letter carrier and was given light-duty assignments.

In March 1996, USPS offered plaintiff a "modified rehabilitation" assignment, which he accepted. The assignment entailed "administrative and installation of labels into carrier cases" and "computer processes and updating of DPS software for carrier routes." Those duties were performed with the following limitations: "no lifting greater than 10 lbs. occasionally and lifting a negligible amount of weight frequently"; "no casing"; "no overhead lifting"; and "no prolonged standing." The described tasks were usually performed by clerk craft employees as opposed to letter carriers.

Sometime later, plaintiff was given a fitness for duty examination during which he self-reported a history of severe headaches, loss of hearing, neck stiffness, frequent colds, chest pain, shortness of breath, a heart abnormality, leg cramps, painful or swollen joints, and a lower back disorder. In February 1999, plaintiff was presented with another modified job offer for the same clerical work, with additional tasks and restrictions: "answer telephone and convey messages as needed"; "hand stamping return mail"; "additional administrative duties (within your medical restrictions)"; "no driving." Plaintiff accepted the offer.

After additional medical exams, in April 2000, USPS offered yet another modified work assignment. Again, the job duties were similarly clerical (e.g., "installation of labels into carrier case", "sedentary hand stamping and proper handling of individual CMU/Nixie mail pieces at desk") but included more physical restrictions (e.g., "no kneeling, bending/stooping, twisting, pulling/pushing, [or] driving"). This time plaintiff refused the offer because USPS wanted to re-classify him into the clerk craft. Although he agreed to do the stated clerical work, he wanted to remain a letter carrier. USPS deemed plaintiff's refusal invalid because he could no longer perform the duties of a letter carrier and on March 24, 2001, he was involuntarily assigned to the clerk craft.*fn2 About a year later, USPS notified plaintiff that his current position was "excess" to the needs of his office and reassigned him as a labor custodian. He uses a device to pick up trash, and performs minimal cleaning and dusting, within the limits of his physical restrictions.

In August 2003, plaintiff filed an EEO complaint alleging race discrimination regarding a daily log-in sheet. About a month later, he filed another EEO complaint alleging that Yolanda Ramey, a female, light-skinned, African-American, with some physical limitations, was performing clerk duties but was still in the letter carrier craft, while plaintiff had been involuntarily assigned to the clerk craft in 2001. The record is silent as to how these two matters progressed or were resolved.

Then, in 2005, plaintiff filed three more EEO complaints -- two on April 5, 2005, and a third on August 17, 2005.*fn3 The April 5, 2005 complaints alleged retaliation and discrimination (race, color, sex, disability, and age) in connection with USPS's denial of plaintiff's requests for overtime work, and four instances when higher-level detail positions were given to younger, female, light-skinned African-American employees but not offered to plaintiff. The August 2005 complaint charged retaliation and discrimination based on the denial of plaintiff's June 15, 2005 request to transfer from custodian to letter carrier. At some point, these three complaints were consolidated and were considered by the EEOC together. (See Def.'s SOF Exs. 21, 22.) Plaintiff's federal complaint alleges discrimination and retaliation in connection with the same three employment actions.

During the EEO investigation, plaintiff identified several employees he believed were more favorably treated because they got higher level detail assignments and were allowed to remain letter carriers despite some physical limitations: Yolanda Ramey, Hernetha Jordan, Aviva Douse, and Shawn Dorsey. These women were all light-or limited-duty letter carriers, described as light-skinned, black, non-disabled, "younger" females (age unknown). The record does not explain what tasks or responsibilities the "higher-level" positions required, but the parties seem to at least agree that they were supervisor positions. With regard to the overtime issue, plaintiff explained that a younger, non-disabled, white co-worker was allowed overtime to clean floors (one of that employee's regular job responsibilities), but when plaintiff asked to do overtime work, his requests were denied.


Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Once the moving party shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden of proof shifts to the non-moving party to designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

Summary judgment is appropriate, however, when the non-moving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. "A genuine issue of material fact arises only if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to permit a jury to return a verdict for that party." Brummett v. Sinclair Broad. Group, Inc., 414 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2005). Further, if the facts asserted by a party are merely self-serving in a conclusory way or mere hearsay, then those assertions cannot serve as the basis for supporting or defeating an otherwise proper motion for summary ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.