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Anthony Leon v. Jacobson Transportation Company Inc

April 11, 2012


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


Plaintiff Anthony Leon ("Leon") has filed suit against defendant Jacobson Transportation Company, Inc. ("Jacobson"). In his complaint, Leon alleges that he suffered discrimination, harassment and retaliation on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. 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). 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.

Defendant Jacobson is a third-party logistics and distribution company. From 2003 to May 2007, Jacobson employed plaintiff Leon as a material handler at its warehouse in Chicago Heights, Illinois.

At Jacobson, during the relevant time period, the primary duty of material handlers was to use forklifts to retrieve and put away products in the warehouse. At the beginning of each shift, Jacobson assigned each material handler work orders, also known as "pick sheets." Each pick sheet contained instructions about the products that needed to be retrieved from racks in the warehouse and placed together on a pallet.

For the first year that Jacobson employed Leon, Leon was assigned to the day shift. During the time when Jacobson was working on the day shift, several incidents occurred that Leon was not pleased about. At the time, Jacobson was supervised by Dallas (his last name is not in the record) and Troy Adams ("Adams"). At some point in 2003, someone put graffiti in the bathroom what said either "Tony loves Dallas" or "Dallas loves Tony." Leon told his supervisor about it, but no one investigated. One time in 2004, Dallas pulled out a knife. Another time, when Leon stated that he was an African-American, Dallas told Leon that Leon was an American. At the same time, Adams called Leon an asshole.

After Leon had been working at Jacobson for about a year, he transferred to the night shift, which consisted of about six employees. Leon was the only black employee on the night shift. The night shift was supervised by Paul McKeague ("McKeague").

After Leon had been working on the night shift for about two years, he received a performance evaluation. Among other things, Leon was told he needed to improve his attitude toward his co-workers.

Leon felt that he was treated unfairly a few times at work. For example, once when Leon told a story about one of his friends, McKeague joked, "Tony, you have friends?" Leon felt funny and awkward. After that, Leon felt singled out. Leon was required to park his forklift by his aisle, while Hugo Gil ("Gil") (the supervisor of the night shift) and Dave (whose last name and position are not included in the record) were allowed to park their forklifts near the exit. In addition, Leon was required to have his aisles checked by a supervisor before he could leave while Gil and Dave were allowed to leave without having their aisles checked. Having his aisle checked and parking his forklift sometimes took less than one minute. Leon, who was paid by the hour, was paid for the time it took him to park his forklift and have his aisle checked. In addition, Leon told Troy Adams that he felt that McKeague was riding him. Separately, Leon was once named a temporary lead for his shift, but no one told the crew that Leon was the temporary lead. Leon was also once threatened by an Hispanic material handler.

On April 3, 2007, Leon was involved in a dispute (the details of which are not in the record) with McKeague. McKeague signed a written warning (an "Employee Corrective Session Record" in Jacobson parlance) stating that Leon had become insubordinate during the dispute. After the dispute, Leon complained about the dispute to Gilbert Cruikshank, a black employee who supervised the first shift. When McKeague issued Leon the written warning during a meeting on April 4, 2007, it was Cruikshank, not McKeague, who physically handed the document to Leon. Leon did not think there was any reason for Cruikshank, the day-shift supervisor, to be in the room when Leon was meeting with his supervisors.

Leon complained to Jacobson about the April 3, 2007 incident. Specifically, on April 4, 2007, Leon drafted a complaint letter that he gave to Patty Eberle, the Assistant Operations Manager. In the letter, Leon stated that the April 3, 2007 incident was not his fault and that he should not have been disciplined. Leon asserted that he was subjected to "unfair treatment" and "harassment" by McKeague. Leon's letter did not, however, contain any reference to race or color or any suggestion that race or color played a role in his dispute.

A few weeks later, Jacobson's General Manager met with Leon and the rest of the night-shift staff. The General Manager asked everyone to put the past behind them and work cooperatively. Leon agreed.

On May 16, 2007, Leon was again accused of insubordination. Shortly after the start of the night shift, Leon approached Gil, his supervisor, about his pick sheets. Leon believed he did not have enough time on his shift to complete all of the work on the pick sheets assigned to him. Gil accommodated Leon's concern by taking some of the pick sheets away from Leon. Leon approached Gil again later during the same shift. Leon was again concerned that he would not be able to complete the remaining pick sheets during his shift.

A short time later, Gil called a group meeting of the night shift staff. Gil spoke (although what he said is not in the record). Another employee, Phillip Jacobson, said something to the effect of "yeah, we're supposed to do our work and not supposed to complain." Gil began to speak again. While Gil was speaking, ...

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