The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Joseph Madonia filed a two-count complaint alleging that Defendant BP Products North America, Inc. ("BP") violated Title VII by discriminating against him on the basis of his race (Caucasian) and retaliating against him for engaging in protected activity. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on both claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment .
A. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Facts
It is the function of the Court to review carefully statements of material facts and to eliminate from consideration any argument, conclusions, and assertions that are unsupported by the documented evidence of record offered in support of the statement. See, e.g., Sullivan v. Henry Smid Plumbing & Heating Co., Inc., 2006 WL 980740, *2 n.2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 10, 2006); Tibbetts v. RadioShack Corp., 2004 WL 2203418, at *16 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 29, 2004); Rosado v. Taylor, 324 F. Supp. 2d 917, 920 n.1 (N.D. Ind. 2004). "Pleadings that do not conform with the local rules may be stricken at the discretion of the court." Id. at 640 (citing Bell, Boyd & Lloyd v. Tapy, 896 F.2d 1101, 1103 (7th Cir. 1990)); Pfeil v. Rogers, 757 F.2d 850, 858 (7th Cir. 1985);
Graham v. Security Sav. & Loan, 125 F.R.D. 687, 688-89 (N.D. Ind. 1989), aff'd, 914 F.2d 909 (7th Cir. 1990)). The Court's scrutiny of material statements of facts applies equally to the party seeking summary judgment and the party opposing it.
Plaintiff's LR 56.1 response ("Pl.'s 56.1 Resp.") admits some facts as set forth by Defendant, and therefore those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the summary judgment motion. For a number of additional allegations, Plaintiff objections to the fact, but does so without citing to any evidence to refute such facts. Such "objections," as Plaintiff styles them, with no evidentiary support are not sufficient to defeat summary judgment; rather, a non-movant must support each denial with specific citations to the record or to supporting materials or affidavits that support their denial. See, e.g., Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 527-29 (7th Cir. 2000) (affirming summary judgment when district judge struck plaintiff's entire LR 12 (now LR 56.1) statement); McGuire v. UPS, 152 F.3d 673, 675 (7th Cir. 1998) ("An answer that does not deny the allegations in the numbered paragraphs with citations to supporting evidence in the record constitutes an admission.") (internal citations omitted); Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584 (N.D. Ill. 2000) ("[A] general denial is insufficient to rebut a movant's factual allegations; the non-movant must cite specific evidentiary materials justifying the denial."). As the Seventh Circuit has stressed, it is not the role of the Court to parse the parties' exhibits to construct the facts. Judges are not "like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs." United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir.1991). "Nor are they archaeologists searching for treasure." Jeralds ex rel. Jeralds v. Astrue, 2010 WL 4942161, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 8, 2010) (citing DiLeonardi, 181 F.3d 865, 867 (7th Cir. 1999)). It simply is not the court's job to sift through the record to find evidence to support a party's claim. Davis v. Carter, 452 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2006). Rather, it is "[a]n advocate's job * * * to make it easy for the court to rule in his client's favor * * *." Dal Pozzo v. Basic Machinery Co., Inc., 463 F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 2006).
In sum, any statements or responses by either party that contain legal conclusions or argument, are evasive, contain hearsay or are not based on personal knowledge, are irrelevant, or are not supported by evidence in the record will not be considered by the Court in ruling on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Any paragraph or fact that is not supported by record evidence will be disregarded. Indeed, the Court has not relied on any evidence as to which the admissibility is disputed in its disposition of Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff Joseph Madonia worked for BP from 2001 to 2009. In 2001, he began working at BP in a temporary position. On November 1, 2002,BP hired Plaintiff for the permanent position of tax and compliance analyst, a position that he held until 2004. Between 2004 and 2007, Plaintiff served asa financial settlements purchasing analyst. Plaintiff's supervisors were Tom Kijowski (Caucasian), ReneeMcCubbin (Caucasian), and Maria Jones-Sumner (Hispanic).
On December 9, 2005, while working as a financial settlements purchasing analyst, Plaintiff received a written warning from his team leader, Maria Jones-Sumner. The warning indicates that BP employees in other departments had complained about Plaintiff's rude behavior and notes that Plaintiff had been counseled on three prior occasions by his supervisors (Kijowski, McCubbin, and/or Jones-Sumner) about his interpersonal skills. Specifically, the December 2005 warning stated, "On three previous occasions either I or Renee McCubbin or Tom Kijowski has spoken to you about inappropriate interactions you've had with business colleagues. As we have previously discussed, I have received complaints from other departments that your behavior has been rude toward them." Def.'s Ex. G.The warning also referenced an incident in November 2005, during which Plaintiff acted in a discourteous manner to his co-worker after the team leader had delegated a task to the co-worker. The warning noted that Plaintiff had apologized to the co-worker. The warning also referenced an incident on December 7, 2005, in which Plaintiff had sent an e-mail questioning his team leader's assignment of tasks and her means of assigning work. The warning advised Plaintiff that this was "a second incident of unacceptable behavior because you questioned my decision to delegate a task to another team member." The warning further advised Plaintiff about the need to "stay positive," "consider the impact of his words" and "keep the lines of communication open." Plaintiff was informed that further behavior of this nature would result in placement on a Performance Improvement Plan and could result in termination.
In Plaintiff's 2005 year-end review, McCubbin noted that Plaintiff needed to continue working to improve his communication with team members:
I would like for Joe to continue focusing his attention on his relationships within the team and improvement of interpersonal skills. Joe can exhibit a likeable personality and get along very well with others, but when under stress he tends to let it get the best of him. He has committed himself to working on those issues and I would like to see him improve greatly in this area, as he has a lot to offer any team that he could be a member of.
Def.'s Ex. H. at 8. On the 2005 review, Plaintiff attributed his performance problems to a change in team leaders:
This past year has been very difficult for my personal development and accomplishing my individual needs. With the addition of two new Team Leads this past year * * * the adjustment and transition has been tough to deal with. I haven't had the opportunity to develop or reach my personal needs because of these changes within our group. It's been hard to develop when the new TL needs time to transition and learn what it is I'm doing within the group.
Id. at 7. Plaintiff did not receive a merit (or salary) increase in 2006 due to Plaintiff's 2005 communications issues. Plaintiff acknowledged that his "interaction with one or two individuals may not have been so great," but he believed that he was nevertheless entitled to a merit increase based on his overall performance.
On December 5, 2006, Plaintiff applied for a position on the Demurrage team. The dayto-day responsibilities of the Demurrage team included the handling of claims and negotiations over billings for expenses accrued through routine delays in the transportation of petroleum products, especially delays in shipping. These negotiations occur between BP and its customers and other internal and external clients, and both parties agree that strong communication and customer service skills are essential to the job. Darwin Norals, an African-American male, who served as team leader for both Demurrage and Chemical Operations, interviewed and hired Plaintiff. Plaintiff began working as a Demurrage specialist on Norals' team in March 2007. Throughout Plaintiff's employment as a Demurrage specialist, the Demurrage team was part of BP Oil America's Operations Group, lead by the Operations Manager, Timothy Harms (Caucasian). At all relevant times, Harms was Norals' immediate supervisor and also was the immediate supervisor of all other team leaders within the Oil America's Operations Group. With the exception of Norals, all of the team leaders in the Operations Group during calendar year 2008 were Caucasian. In total, as of year end 2008, Norals' team consisted of nine employees, including six (6) Demurrage specialists (Gregory Canino, William Lang, Anthony Orona, Lowell Rupp, John Kingry and Plaintiff) and three Schedulers (Dawn Bryant, Sandra Fencl, and Nicholas Horbenko). Eight of the nine team members were Caucasian.
During Plaintiff's first year as Demurrage specialist, Norals volunteered to be a mentor to Plaintiff. With Norals as his direct supervisor, Plaintiff received a performance rating of "performing" for 2007. Plaintiff wrote on his 2007 review, "Would also like to note that Darwin has been extremely helpful in my transition into Demurrage. The door has always been open for discussion/questions/ideas and I look forward to the coaching/mentoring in 2008." As of February 7, 2008, the date on which he signed the 2007 year-end performance review, Plaintiff believed he had had been treated fairly by Norals.
However, in 2008, Plaintiff and Norals began to have documented problems. On March 17, 2008, Norals instructed Plaintiff to keep him advised when Plaintiff planned to be out of the office. Norals sent a follow-up e-mail the same day, which encouraged Plaintiff to maintain a consistent attendance record in order to help him achieve his future goals and offering assistance in the short-term and long-term:
Joe -- as discussed, continue to keep me informed in advance when you plan to be out of the office. Remember to use this time while in the Demurrage team to work on broadening your IST ops knowledge, developing advanced Demurrage technical skills, and maintaining a consistent attendance and performance level that allows you to achieve your future goals. I'm here to assist you achieve these goals, and let me know if I can assist now and in the future.
On August 19, 2008, Plaintiff was reminded to inform Norals in advance when he planned to be out of the office after he failed to do so.
On May 29, 2008, a representative of one of BP's clients sent an e-mail to Norals and Plaintiff, asserting that Plaintiff had failed to process and pay outstanding invoices for the company despite 10 requests since December 2007. Plaintiff maintained that BP had not received copies of the invoices, but the client maintained that Plaintiff had e-mailed asking for copies of the invoices on April 8, 2008, that she had provided the requested invoices, and that Plaintiff had subsequently advised the client on two occasions that the claims were being processed. The client asked for Norals' help in rectifying the issue and apologized for having to escalate the issue to Norals' level. In response, Plaintiff sent an e-mail to Norals stating, "This is ridiculous what [client] is complaining about and frankly, it's pissing me off * * * they have such an ass backward process in place and they need to fix it or we WILL continue to have issues like this."
During 2008, Plaintiff also was counseled about the need to respond in a timely fashion to requests from the Chemical bench, based on reports that Plaintiff failed to provide ad hoc reports requested by a chemical trader. Plaintiff does not deny that the reports were requested or that he failed to provide the reports. ...