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Gray v. Keystone Steel and Wire Co.

May 7, 2010

JAMES GRAY III, PLAINTIFF
v.
KEYSTONE STEEL AND WIRE CO., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Gorman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER AND OPINION

The parties have consented to have this case heard to judgment by a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and the District Judge has referred the case to me. Now before the court are the Defendant's motion for summary judgment (#31); the defendant's motion to strike (#40); and the defendant's motion for leave to file under seal (#44). As explained herein, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED. The motion to strike is DENIED. The motion for leave to file under seal is GRANTED.

MOTION TO STRIKE

The Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. His response to the motion for summary judgment is not in the format required by the Local Rules of this Court. Specifically, where he has indicated that he disputes facts put forward by Defendant, he has not provided specific reference to any evidentiary support as required by CDIL LR 7.1D.

Even a pro se plaintiff has obligations to comply with the requirements of the Federal Rules and with the local rules of the various courts. As the Supreme Court has held, "[I]n the long run, experience teaches that strict adherence to the procedural requirements specified by the legislature is the best guarantee of evenhanded administration of the law." Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 826 (1980). See also, McMasters v. U.S., 260 F.3d 814, 817 (7th Cir. 2001); Myles v. U.S., 416 F.3d 551, 552 (7th Cir. 2005).

In Greer v. Bd. of Education, 267 F.3d 723 (7th Cir. 2001), the Court upheld entry of summary judgment against a pro se plaintiff who had utterly failed to comply with the local rule requiring a non-movant to admit or deny each factual statement proffered by the movant and to designate material facts in dispute. (*4). In response to plaintiff's argument about liberal construction of pro se pleadings, the court quoted Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d 859, 964 (7th Cir. 1998): "The essence of liberal construction is to give a pro se plaintiff a break when, although he stumbles on a technicality, his pleading is otherwise understandable." The Greer court went on to comment that a lawsuit is not "a game of hunt the peanut. . . [N]either appellate courts nor district courts are obliged in our adversary system to scour the record looking for factual disputes." See also, Salvadori v. Franklin Sch. Dist., 293 F.3d 989, 992 (7th Cir.2002); Hedrich v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis. Sys., 274 F.3d 1174, 1178 (7th Cir.2001); Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 922 (7th Cir.1994); Ziliak v. AstraZeneca LP, 324 F.3d 518, 520 (7th Cir.2003).

It is clear that the Response filed by Mr. Gray does not comport with Local Rule 7.1D. The Court certainly would be justified in striking the Response. Nonetheless, this case does not have an extensive record. The evidence submitted by the two parties was easily perused in one morning. The facts are not overly complex. Although it could, therefore, the Court elects not to strike the response.

This is not to say that the Court is pleased with Mr. Gray's failure to follow the Rule. He is clearly capable of presenting his side of this case and he should have done so in a manner consistent with the Rules of this Court. In the interests of judicial economy and general efficiency, however, the Court chooses to rule on the merits. The motion to strike is DENIED.

UNDISPUTED FACTS

The following statement of facts is taken from the parties' statements of fact, the responses thereto, and the evidence submitted in support.

Mr. Gray was employed at Keystone on March 7, 2007, he was charged with a disciplinary infraction, namely falsifying his time card. Falsification of a timecard is a violation of the Keystone General Plant Conduct Rules and Regulations (Exh. E) and it is grounds for immediate termination.

The charge was based on statements given by two of Gray's foremen at the plant, both of whom stated that they had been watching for Gray to punch in from 2:18 to 2:45 p.m. on March 7. They did not, according to their statements, see him punch his time card during that time period. Their statements indicate that they received a call at 2:30 or so, informing them that Gray was elsewhere in the plant, talking to his union committeeman*fn1 . He arrived at his workstation at 2:45 or so, immediately going to work without first punching in. Gray's time card for this date, however, showed a punch at 2:22.

Keystone's Director of Labor Relations, Ernie Matthews, reviewed the documents submitted by the supervisors and reviewed the March 7 time cards. He interviewed witnesses. A disciplinary hearing was held in which Plaintiff was allowed to present evidence and testify. Following the hearing, the panel evaluated the evidence that had been presented and concluded that Gray had someone (the company never identified who that person was) punch his time card, a clear violation of the work rule. Over his protestations that he had in fact punched in (and that the supervisors could not have seen the time clock from the office where they were watching), Gray was discharged. He filed a grievance. The union and the employer came to an agreement nearly 2 years later that Gray would be re-hired. The agreement contained no provision for lost wages or benefits.

Mr. Gray, who was not happy with the agreement, did not personally sign the agreement. He came back to work at his old job, however, and he remains employed at Keystone. During the period when he was unemployed, he sought employment in factory, automotive and carpentry fields.

Prior to the disputed discharge, Gray had had two surgeries for torn rotator cuffs, one on each shoulder. The first surgery was on September 1, 2004, the second on March 9, 2007. Beginning in 2001 and continuing through the date of his second surgery, Gray had complained verbally to his supervisors and to co-workers on numerous occasions about his shoulder pain. On a number of occasions following a complaint, he was sent to a company doctor who returned him to the floor to work without restrictions. His supervisors pushed him to meet or exceed production quotas, even though they knew about his pain. Each surgery generated a worker's compensation claim, and each ultimately resulted in Gray's release to return to work without restriction following recovery from the surgery. While Gray complains that his range of motion has been somewhat compromised by the surgeries, he also agrees that he can perform all of the functions of his job without restriction, including meeting all production quotas, and that he never requested an accommodation. Although he has some pain in his shoulders, he is able to control it with over-the-counter pain medications; he takes no prescription medication for pain.

Gray believed that his termination was related to his shoulder injuries.*fn2 He filed this lawsuit, alleging that Keystone discharged him because of his disability or in retaliation for his complaints of pain. Defendant has ...


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