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Samuel Sledge v. Bellwood School District 88

February 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment [101] and Plaintiff's motions for a motion for direct verdict [96], motion for directed verdict [98], motion to dismiss [99], and motion to dismiss Defendant's summary judgment motion [105]. Plaintiff, who is pro se, filed this lawsuit in July of 2009 [1] and filed an amended complaint [9] on September 15, 2009. Plaintiff was formerly employed as a school bus driver with Defendant, and this lawsuit arises out of his employment with and termination from employment with Defendant. Construing Plaintiff's amended complaint liberally, the Court interpreted the amended complaint as asserting eight separate claims. (See [32] at 1). On April 20, 2010, the Court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims except his Title VII claims of race-based discrimination and retaliation on res judicata grounds. Id. at 9-10. On June 17, 2011, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [83], and again reminded Plaintiff that the Pro Se Help Desk could assist Plaintiff in preparing his motion and helping to ensure that his filings were in conformance with court rules and procedures.

Plaintiff then filed a motion for direct verdict [96], a motion for directed verdict [98] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50, and a motion to dismiss [99]. Defendant responded by filing a motion for summary judgment [101], and Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss summary judgment [105]. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion [101] is granted and Plaintiff's motions [96, 98, 99, 105] are respectfully denied.

I. Background

The following facts are undisputed or have been deemed admitted pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(b).*fn1 Defendant Bellwood School District 88 ("Bellwood") is a kindergarten through eighth grade school district located in Illinois. Plaintiff Samuel Sledge, who is African American, was hired by Bellwood as a bus driver on August 29, 2005. During the 2005-2006 school year, a job opened up for the Evening Building and Grounds Coordinator after Ray Zaabel retired. The job description listed the position's essential duties and responsibilities, which included fifteen job duties related to custodial and building maintenance functions.

On January 20, 2006, Plaintiff submitted an application for the position, and included his resume, high school diploma, and other documents in his application. Plaintiff's resume did not indicate any prior experience performing custodial or building maintenance functions or any prior employers. Sledge listed his skills related to the job as "Communicating with the appropriate chain of command, assuring daily all codes regulation & sanitations are in compliance and repaired. Diploma St. Phillips High School." He listed his work experience and education as, "Mystique Barber Schools, Molar Beauty and Winslow Beauty supplies and Institutional Administrator, Coyne Institute of Trade, Institutional Administrative Certification from the U.S. Dept. of Education." Previously, on January 9, 2006, Joe Crowell submitted an application for the evening grounds coordinator position, including a cover letter and resume. Crowell, who is also an African American male, had been a custodian at the Bellwood Building and Grounds Department for six years. He also had previous building maintenance experience from 1983 to 1994.

Janiece Jackson, the Bellwood Human Resources Director at the time, interviewed all of the candidates for the evening coordinator position, including both Plaintiff and Crowell. After the interviews, Jackson decided that Crowell was qualified for the position and Plaintiff was not. She offered Crowell the job, which he started in May 2006. According to Jackson, who is also African American, race was not a factor in selecting the new evening coordinator. On May 4, 2006, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Bellwood in the Circuit Court of Cook County to compel arbitration on the basis of the denial of his union rights.

On June 2, 2006, Plaintiff and his bus assistant, Rhonda Rhodes, were suspended without pay pending a disciplinary hearing regarding an allegation that they left a sleeping student on the school bus after completing the afternoon route. Four days later Plaintiff received a disciplinary hearing at which he was allowed to submit evidence and provide testimony. On June 26, 2006, a summary of the hearing was presented to the Board of Education, and the Board authorized Plaintiff's termination effective June 30, 2006. In his complaint, Plaintiff argues that he was fired in retaliation for filing a complaint in the circuit court after he was not given the evening coordinator job in violation of union rules.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (a). In determining whether there is a genuine issue of fact, the Court "must construe the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Foley v. City of Lafayette, Ind.,359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004). To avoid summary judgment, the opposing party must go beyond the pleadings and "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Summary judgment is proper against "a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-movant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

III. Analysis

A. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendant argues that it is entitled summary judgment because Plaintiff has failed to establish any genuine dispute as to the material facts that Defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., when Plaintiff was not offered a job as the evening coordinator and his job was terminated in ...

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