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Leslie Mclaurin v. John E. Potter

April 26, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George M. Marovich


Plaintiff Leslie McLaurin ("McLaurin") filed suit against defendant John E. Potter ("Potter"), Postmaster General of the U.S. Postal Service. In her complaint, McLaurin alleged that she was discharged on the basis of her color, race and sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and on the basis of her alleged disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. Defendant moves for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

Before the Court discusses the facts, it reiterates the importance of complying with Local Rule 56.1. Local Rule 56.1 outlines the requirements for the introduction of facts parties would like considered in connection with a motion for summary judgment. As the Court notes on its website, the Court enforces Local Rule 56.1 strictly. Facts that are argued but do not conform with the rule are not considered by the Court. In addition, where one party supports a fact with admissible evidence and the other party denies the fact without citation to admissible evidence, the Court deems the fact admitted. See Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-818 (7th Cir. 2004). For example, with respect to ¶¶ 16 and 17 of defendant's statement of facts, plaintiff denied the reasons for her termination, but she failed to cite any record evidence. Accordingly, those facts are deemed admitted. Asserted "facts" not supported by deposition testimony, documents, affidavits or other evidence admissible for summary judgment purposes are not considered by the Court.

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

Plaintiff McLaurin worked for the Postal Service at the Moraine Valley facility from March 15, 2008 until she was discharged on or about June 13, 2008. During the nearly three months that she worked for the Postal Service, McLaurin served as a transitional employee ("TE"), which, according to the terms of the relevant collective bargaining agreement, meant her position was a temporary position that could not last more than 360 days. A TE serves a probationary period for the first 90 work days (or the first 120 calendar days) of employment, and during that time, a TE is not entitled to use the union grievance policy or to rely on the progressive discipline policy.

When McLaurin started her employment with the Postal Service, the Postal Service trained her with respect to its rules and procedures. Among other things, McLaurin was told that she was not allowed to use a cell phone while delivering mail unless she was calling the station or there was an emergency. (She was allowed to use a cell phone on breaks.) The Postal Service also trained McLaurin with respect to its park-and-loop delivery technique. The Postal Service requires carriers to park their delivery truck at the end of a street, deliver mail on foot up one side and back down the other side of the street, return to the vehicle and drive to the next street. The park-and-loop method is more efficient than the hopping-and-dropping method, where a carrier hops off the truck at each house to carry mail to the door and then hops back on the truck to drive a few feet to the next house.

During her brief time working for the Postal Service, McLaurin reported directly to supervisor Debra Mondie ("Mondie"). The supervisors (including Mondie), in turn, reported to James Fuscaldo ("Fuscaldo"), who scheduled work assignments and managed the first-level supervisors. During the relevant time period, Fuscaldo reported to Jayne Duewerth ("Duewerth), the Officer in Charge/Acting Postmaster at the Moraine Valley facility.

While she worked for the Postal Service, McLaurin heard a few comments related to sex or race. McLaurin twice overheard Fuscaldo refer to her as the "black girl." Another time, Fuscaldo and McLaurin had a conversation about a route with tall mailboxes. Fuscaldo told McLaurin it was a man's route and that she could not reach the mailboxes.

Until June 2008, McLaurin was never written up or reprimanded for her performance at the Postal Service. Duewerth, who occasionally checked the progress of carriers, once witnessed McLaurin talking on her cellphone while delivering mail and twice saw McLaurin hopping and dropping (i.e., driving her vehicle to every house instead of leaving it at the end of the street and walking from house to house). Duewerth did not discuss these problems with McLaurin.

The events that led to McLaurin's discharge began on June 11, 2008. That morning, McLaurin told her supervisor (Mondie) that she did not feel well and needed help with her route. Mondie told her to deliver as much as she could. When Mondie checked on McLaurin on the street at 12:30 p.m., McLaurin told Mondie she was experiencing sharp leg pains and wanted help with her route. Mondie told McLaurin to continue with her route.

At about 3:45 that afternoon, McLaurin returned to the Moraine Valley facility without having delivered two hours of her mail route. McLaurin had injured her knee during the route. When she tried to phone the facility, no one answered the phone. After she returned to the Moraine Valley facility, McLaurin spoke to Fuscaldo about her knee. Fuscaldo told her to go home and call in the next day to report on whether her knee was getting better and whether she was able to work. The next morning (June 12), McLaurin told Fuscaldo by telephone that her knee was more swollen and that she was going to the hospital.

Separately but also on June 12, a Postal customer arrived at the Moraine Valley facility and complained about McLaurin to Duewerth. The customer complained that McLaurin was hopping and dropping and talking on her cell phone while delivering mail. The customer also complained that McLaurin had misdelivered mail and that when the customer brought that fact to McLaurin's attention, McLaurin displayed a bad attitude.

The next day, June 13, McLaurin arrived at Fuscaldo's office and presented a doctor's note. The note said McLaurin could not do any prolonged standing or walking for one week. Fuscaldo read the note and told McLaurin that she should go home for the day. Fuscaldo also told McLaurin that he had hired her to carry mail on walking routes and that he did not have any alternative "light duty" work ...

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