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Craig Warner v. Usf Holland Inc.

January 25, 2012

CRAIG WARNER
v.
USF HOLLAND INC.



Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge John A. Nordberg than Assigned Judge

CASE TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT

Defendant's motion for summary judgment [31] is granted.

O[ For further details see text below.] Docketing to mail notices.

*Mail AO 450 form.

STATEMENT

Introduction. This is a Title VII same-sex harassment case. Plaintiff Craig Warner was a truck driver for USF Holland Inc. He alleges that Steve Chymka, his immediate supervisor, made sexual comments to him for over 18 months. Plaintiff believes Chymka was bisexual and that these comments were implied sexual overtures. Then, in May 2007, plaintiff complained to a supervisor that he did not appreciate the comments. In June 2007, according to plaintiff, Chymka made an explicit sexual proposition in the men's bathroom. Plaintiff was fired three months later. He believes the firing was in retaliation for his complaint in May 2007. Defendant Holland asserts that plaintiff's firing was a valid business decision not motivated by a discriminatory animus toward men. Holland alleges that plaintiff had a long history of violating company rules over his 10-year career and that he was fired in August 2007 after a surveillance team showed that he submitted a false driver's manifest covering up, among other things, a two-hour lunch. The firing was upheld by an independent grievance committee. As explained below, Holland's motion for summary judgment is granted.

Factual Background. Craig Warner was hired by Holland in 1996. He worked as a pick-up and delivery driver in the Chicago area. During the ensuing ten years, he was cited numerous times for violating company rules. He claims the violations were unfounded.

On August 13, 2007, plaintiff came to work and was told that the company had conducted a surveillance of his driving on August 9th and had concluded his driver's manifest was false. The manifest is a daily log Holland drivers must fill out while driving. Although plaintiff's manifest contained several false entries, according to Holland, the most prominent was a failure to disclose he had taken a two-hour lunch. Plaintiff was asked to explain the discrepancies and said he couldn't remember what happened and also that he didn't want to respond to the accusations until he spoke with his Union agent, Ed Urbaniak, who was on vacation. The company then fired plaintiff for "proven dishonesty," an offense which the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") entered into between the Union and the company defines as first-time fireable offense.

Plaintiff then appealed the decision through a comprehensive grievance procedure mandated by the CBA. The first step was an informal meeting with the company (referred to as the "Local"), which took place on August 28th. At the Local, plaintiff and Urbaniak explained that he had a family crisis on August 9th. Plaintiff's 11-year old daughter, who had problems with violence, was apparently hitting plaintiff's mother-in-law who was baby-sitting her. Plaintiff called his wife and a policeman friend who plaintiff asked to go over and talk to his daughter. After listening to the presentation, Neal London (the company's labor relations manager) was unconvinced: "If it was anybody but Craig Warner, I'd believe it." (Pl. Dep. 169; Dep. Ex. 40).

The next step was a hearing before the Grievance Committee. As required by the CBA, the Committee consisted of three Union representatives and three industry representatives none whom could be Holland employees. This hearing took place on August 31st at a Holiday Inn in Willowbrook. Urbaniak explained again how plaintiff was dealing with a family crisis that afternoon. At one point a Committee member asked about a different entry on the manifest indicating plaintiff spent only three minutes making a delivery to Unisource, an assertion the member thought was impossible. (Ex. 40 at 5.) According to plaintiff's later deposition testimony, he and Urbaniak had a disagreement about how to respond. Here is plaintiff's description of what happened:

So they made a big issue [about the Unisource error] and I tried to explain that to Ed Urbaniak, that, you know, they're discharging me for dishonesty and I want to set the record straight and be honest with them about my defense. And he told me to keep my mouth shut, that he would handle it all and don't say nothing about anything in the manifest.

(Pl. Dep. 170.) After deliberating for a short period, the Committee upheld the company's decision.

Thereafter, plaintiff pursued a claim with his Union alleging that Urbaniak failed to properly represent him. On October 26, 2007, plaintiff wrote a long letter to the Union president, James Hoffa, complaining that Urbaniak wouldn't let plaintiff speak at the hearing. (Ex. 39.) Plaintiff also explained that he didn't mention the family crisis excuse when first confronted on August 13th because his supervisor, Steve Chymka, was in the meeting and plaintiff was afraid Chymka "would have told everyone my situation." (Id.) Plaintiff added: "I had disagreements with [Chymka] in the past with another company when we ...


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