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Erika Renee Riley-Jackson, et al v. Casino Queen

March 1, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge:


A. Introduction and Procedural Overview

On September 4, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a three-count employment discrimination action against Casino Queen, Inc., under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., as amended, the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-109, et seq., and state common law (the latter claims based on this Court's pendent jurisdiction). Additional Plaintiffs joined the suit via a November 12, 2007 Second Amended Complaint. Three other amended complaints followed.

Plaintiffs, African-American employees and former employees of the Casino Queen, allege that they were subjected to unlawful racial discrimination, harassment and a hostile work environment as a result of the Casino Queen's unlawful conduct. Plaintiffs seek an award of compensatory damages for past and future pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses, as well as punitive damages.

Now before the Court is Defendant Casino Queen (CQ)'s motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff E'Twon Meadows (Doc. 151). CQ seeks summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Plaintiff Meadows has filed a specific response in opposition (Doc. 209). Defendant CQ otherwise rests on its Master Reply (Doc. 331), and Plaintiff rests on her Master Surreply (Doc. 353).

B. Analysis

Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, discovery materials, and any affidavits show that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Turner v. The Saloon, Ltd., 595 F.3d 679, 683 (7th Cir. 2010); Durable Mfg. Co. v. U.S. Department of Labor, 578 F.3d 497, 501 (7th Cir. 2009), citing FED.R.CIV.P.56(c). AccordAlabama v. North Carolina, -- U.S. --, 130 S. Ct. 2295, 2308 (2010); Levy v. Minnesota Life Ins. Co., 517 F.3d 519 (7th Cir. 2008); Breneisen v. Motorola, Inc., 512 F.3d 972 (7th Cir. 2008), citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the district court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to, draw all legitimate inferences in favor of, and resolve all doubts in favor of the non-moving party. National Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008). Accord Reget v. City of La Crosse, 595 F.3d 691 (7th Cir. 2010); TAS Distributing Co., Inc. v. Cummins Engine Co., Inc., 491 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2007).

What the undersigned may not do in deciding a summary judgment motion is evaluate the weight of the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses or determine the truth of the matter. The court's only role is to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. National Athletic, 528 F.3d at 512, citing Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994).

A factual dispute is genuine "only if a reasonable jury could find for either party," and disputed facts must be outcome-determinative to be "material" and preclude summary judgment. Montgomery v. American Airlines, Inc., 626 F.3d 382, 389 (7th Cir. 2010). See also Van Antwerp v. City of Peoria, Illinois, 627 F.3d 295, 297 (7th Cir. 2010). But, as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reiterated just days ago, in assessing the record before him, the undersigned Judge bears in mind that "the party opposing the motion gets the benefit of all facts that a reasonable jury might find." Loudermilk v. Best Pallet Co., LLC., -- F.3d --, 2011 WL 563765, *2 (7th Cir. Feb. 18, 2011).

In the instant case, Plaintiff E'Twon Meadows claims racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)-3, as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Doc. 325, pp. 94-95, 214-216 (Fifth Amended Complaint, Counts 34 and 94)). Plaintiff commenced working for CQ in 1993 as a cocktail waitress, and she continues to work in that capacity, now at the top of the seniority ladder. At all relevant times, Plaintiff Meadows was supervised by Food and Beverage Manager Kelley Carey and Food and Beverage Department Director Dominic Gramaglia. Meadows does not specify the date(s) of discrimination, but according to her EEOC complaint and deposition testimony, she generally alleges that since Gramaglia and Carey took over her department, CQ has discriminated against her and other African American employees, favoring white employees. Plaintiff contends she was disciplined unfairly, was not offered the opportunity to become a cocktail waitress trainer or to work special events, which would have enabled her to make more money. Plaintiff also alleges that she has been subjected to pervasive racial hostility at work. Plaintiff filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC on June 15, 2006 (Doc. 209-1), and the Notice of Right to Sue was transmitted on June 4, 2007. Plaintiff Meadows was among the original plaintiffs who filed suit on September 4, 2007 (Doc. 2).

CQ maintains that summary judgment is appropriate because: (1) Plaintiff's Section 1981 claims regarding acts prior to October 3, 2004, are barred by the four year statute of limitations; (2) Plaintiff failed to file a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC relative to her Title VII claims for discrete acts falling outside the 300 day window between August 19, 2005, and June 15, 2006; (3) Plaintiff's Title VII and Section 1981 claims fail under the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting model; (4) Plaintiff has filed to establish a claim for a racially hostile environment; and (5) CQ qualifies for the Faragher-Ellerth affirmative defense, because it has an anti-harassment policy with clear reporting procedures, which plaintiff unreasonably failed to utilize.

1. The Statute of Limitations

Plaintiff Meadows essentially concedes CQ's argument regarding the statute of limitations period, except that Plaintiff correctly points out that September 4, 2003, is the proper cutoff date for the applicable four year statute of ...

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