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Maria Elena Hernandez-Martinez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill

July 9, 2012

MARIA ELENA HERNANDEZ-MARTINEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHIPOTLE MEXICAN GRILL, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George W. Lindberg

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is defendant Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Defendant's Motion to Strike

The court begins by considering defendant's motion to strike plaintiff's response to defendant's statement of material facts, plaintiff's statement of additional facts, and plaintiff's exhibits. A party opposing a motion for summary judgment must file "a concise response to the movant's statement [of material facts] that shall contain . . . a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." LR 56.1(b)(3)(B). If the non-movant seeks to offer any additional facts requiring the denial of summary judgment, he or she must present those facts in the form of "a statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, . . .including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." LR 56.1(b)(3)(C). The non-movant is limited to asserting forty statements of additional fact, absent leave of court to assert more. See id. Local Rule 56.1 "provides the only acceptable means of disputing the other party's facts and of presenting additional facts to the district court." Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1317 (7th Cir. 1995).

"Employment discrimination cases are extremely fact-intensive," and the court is not "obliged in our adversary system to scour the record looking for factual disputes." See Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001). The procedure prescribed in Local Rule 56.1 serves the important purpose of promoting efficiency and "ensuring that the adversary system functions as it should." See Minemyer v. B-Roc Representatives, Inc., 695 F. Supp. 2d 797, 801-02 (N.D. Ill. 2009). For example, a non-movant's presentation of additional facts in a statement of additional facts, as required by Local Rule 56.1, gives the movant the opportunity to admit or deny the facts, and allows the court to readily and fairly determine which of those additional facts are in dispute. Accordingly, the court is "entitled to expect strict compliance" with Local Rule 56.1. See Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643 (7th Cir. 2008).

As defendant argues, plaintiff's filings fail to comply with Local Rule 56.1 in many ways. Although plaintiff filed a statement of additional facts, she also asserted many other additional facts in her brief and in her responses to defendant's statements of fact. For example, although plaintiff admits defendant's statement of fact in paragraph 39, she follows the admission with two pages of additional facts and argument. She also fails to support many of her denials of defendant's statements with citations to the record. The court notes that plaintiff is represented by counsel, and that the court granted plaintiff's counsel two extensions of time to respond to defendant's motion for summary judgment, permitted her to file an amended response to defendant's motion for summary judgment, and granted her leave to file a response brief in excess of fifteen pages.

The court deems admitted defendant's statements of fact for which plaintiff's denial does not "fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted" or is not supported by a citation to the record. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3); Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 528-29 (7th Cir. 2000), see also Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584 (N.D. Ill. 2000). The court disregards legal arguments presented in plaintiff's responses to defendant's statement of facts. See Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 585. The court also disregards additional facts presented in plaintiff's brief or in her responses to defendant's statement of facts, rather than in a Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement of additional facts. See id. at 584; see also Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 643-44. The court disregards statements that are not supported by citations to the record, or that are only supported by citations to the complaint. See LR 56.1(b)(3)(C); Tages v. Univision Television Group, Inc., No. 04 C 3738, 2005 WL 2736997, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 20, 2005) ("It is axiomatic that pleadings are not facts, and that allegations in a complaint do not create a material issue of fact"). The court also disregards hearsay, which is inadmissible in summary judgment proceedings. See Eisenstadt v. Centel Corp., 113 F.3d 738, 742 (7th Cir. 1997).

Plaintiff's violations of Local Rule 56.1 are egregious. However, the court declines to strike her filings in their entirety, as defendant urges. To the extent that plaintiff has presented evidence in compliance with Local Rule 56.1, the court will consider it. The motion to strike is granted in part and denied in part.

II. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff was born in Mexico on August 18, 1964. Defendant hired plaintiff as a crew member in one of its Mexican "fast casual" restaurants in 2000. Crew members are hourly, at-will employees, and are responsible for preparing and cooking ingredients, assembling customer food orders, cleaning and maintaining the restaurant, serving customers, and other similar tasks. In January 2010, plaintiff transferred to defendant's restaurant at 2302 West 95th Street in Chicago, and was supervised by Joseph Brown beginning shortly thereafter.

Plaintiff claims that Brown, who is African-American, favored younger African-American employees, and treated older Hispanic employees poorly. As defendant relates in its statement of material facts, plaintiff testified or stated in her interrogatory responses that Brown:

* described Spanish-language music as "some ugly music";

* told plaintiff that she could not speak Spanish with her co-workers;

* made Hispanic employees unload food trucks and wash dishes alone more often than other employees;

* spoke to non-African American employees "in a harsh tone and manner";

* allowed African American employees to refuse to do certain jobs and to ...


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