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

March 2, 2011

ERIKA RENEE RILEY-JACKSON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CASINO QUEEN, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DENYING SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION AS TO PLAINTIFF GWENDOLYN JACKSON (DOC. 147)

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.

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 Gwendolyn Jackson ("Jackson") (Doc. 147). CQ seeks summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The motion is fully briefed with supporting memorandum, response, reply, and sur-reply filed (Docs. 147, 206, 337, 349). Analysis begins with an overview of applicable legal standards.

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, via the Sept 9, 2007 original Complaint (Doc. 2) and later amended complaints (Docs. 8, 20, 38, 54, 325), Jackson asserts three counts (Counts 25, 82 and 119) against CQ: (1) that she was subjected to unlawful racial discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII; (2) that she was deprived of her right to the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms and conditions of her employment contract "as are enjoyed by white citizens," in violation of § 1981; and (3) that she was retaliated against for having reported unlawful racial harassment, discrimination and hostile work environment.

Section 1981 claims are subject to a four-year statute of limitations. Jonesv. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 541 U.S. 369, 381-82 (2004); Dandy v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 388 F.3d 263, 269 (7th Cir. 2004). Therefore, any § 1981 claims regarding discriminatory acts that allegedly took place prior to September 4, 2003, are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

To bring an action in federal court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a plaintiff must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). Jackson filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on June 15, 2006. Applying the 300-day rule, the Charge of Discrimination would clearly encompass all events occurring back to August 19, 2005. Jackson's termination clearly falls within the 300-day period.

Acts contributing to the claim that occurred outside of the 300-day period may also be actionable under United States Supreme Court precedent in National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101 (2002). There, the Court held, "[p]rovided that an act contributing to the claim occurs within the filing period, the entire time period of the hostile environment may be considered by a court for the purposes of determining liability." 536 U.S. at 117, 120-21. As a result, Jackson may obtain relief for other ...


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