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Witherspoon v. City of Waukegan

June 24, 2010

MICHAEL WITHERSPOON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF WAUKEGAN, DEFENDANT.



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

Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown

MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW ON PLAINTIFF'S RETALIATION CLAIM

Defendant City of Waukegan ("Defendant" or "City"), by its counsel, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, and pursuant to Rule 50 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, hereby respectfully submits its Memorandum of Law in Support of Its Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law on Plaintiff Michael Witherspoon's ("Plaintiff") retaliation claim.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff claims that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of race and then subsequently retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant sent him home on August 17, 2005, assigned Plaintiff to menial tasks, gave him inadequate time to secure a commercial driver's license, made Plaintiff wear a uniform, denied Plaintiff's training requests, and revoked his computer access -- all in retaliation for having previously complained of alleged race discrimination.

In fact, the evidence shows that Plaintiff's performance as a Maintenance Worker I was deficient, none of the acts upon which Plaintiff rests his retaliation claim rise to the level necessary to establish a materially adverse action, and Plaintiff failed to identify a single similarly situated employee who received preferential treatment. As a result, Plaintiff failed to establish his prima facie case and Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on this claim.

Moreover, Plaintiff has not established a causal connection between the incidents he identified and filing either his grievance or his charge of discrimination.

For these reasons, there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonably jury to find that Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff, and Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on this claim.

ARGUMENT

I. Judgment As A Matter Of Law

FRCP 50 provides, in pertinent part, that "[i]f during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonably jury to find for that party on that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a); see also Massey v. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois, 226 F.3d 922, 926 (7th Cir. 2000) (affirming district court's order granting the defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law because the evidence was insufficient to establish that the defendant's reasons for terminating the plaintiff were a pretext for racial discrimination); Klunk v. County of St. Joseph, 170 F.3d 772, 775-776 (7th Cir. 1999) (affirming the trial court's entry of judgment as a matter of law in favor of the defendant, and noting that FRCP 50(a) "clearly contemplates that a factual dispute regarding one element of a claim . . . will not bar judgment as a matter of law if there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis to support the other elements of the claim . . ."); Button v. Kibby-Brown, 146 F.3d 526, 531 (7th Cir. 1998) (affirming the trial court's entry of judgment as a matter of law in favor of the defendant).

A district court's entry of judgment as a matter of law under FRCP 50(a) will be affirmed unless it is clear that "enough evidence exists [to] . . . sustain a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party." Hammond Group, Ltd. v. Spalding & Evenflo Companies, Inc., 69 F.3d 845, 848 (7th Cir. 1995) (affirming district court's directed verdict in favor of the defendant); Continental Bank v. Modansky, 997 F.2d 309, 312 (7th Cir. 1993).

II. Defendant Is Entitled To Judgment As A Matter Of Law

On Plaintiff's Retaliation Claim Plaintiff has the initial burden to establish a prima facie case of retaliation by showing that he: (1) engaged in statutorily protected activity; (2) performed his job according to the City's legitimate expectations; (3) despite meeting the City's legitimate expectations, suffered a materially adverse employment action; and (4) was treated less favorably than similarly situated employees who did not engage in statutorily protected activity. Hilt-Dyson v. City of Chicago, 282 F.3d 456, 465 (7th Cir. 2002). If Plaintiff succeeds in proving a prima facie case, he then has ...


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