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Akinyemi v. Pepsico, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 16, 2013

YETUNDE AKINYEMI, Plaintiff,
v.
PEPSICO, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES P. KOCORAS, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment of Defendant Quaker Sales & Distribution, Inc. ("Quaker") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.[1]

BACKGROUND

I. Facts

The following facts are derived from the parties' respective statements and exhibits filed pursuant to Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1. The Court reviews each Local Rule 56.1 statement and disregards any argument, conclusion, or assertion unsupported by the evidence in the record. Plaintiff Yetunde Akinyemi ("Akinyemi") is a black female of Nigerian descent. On September 8, 2005, Akinyemi commenced her employment with Quaker, a division of Pepsico, Inc. ("Pepsico") as a full-time accountant. Akinyemi worked in Quaker's Corporate Finance Department until January 28, 2007, when she received a promotion to the position of Financial Analyst II in Quaker's Supply Chain Finance Group. In late 2007, Akinyemi was again promoted; while she remained in the position of Financial Analyst II, her level was raised from Level 6 to Level 7, thus resulting in a salary increase.

Akinyemi's responsibilities included financial reporting for Quaker's nationwide warehouse managers and inputting data to explain reported financial figures. In early 2008, Akinyemi accepted a lateral move to the position of Financial Analyst II in Quaker's Snacks Division. Her supervisors were Valerie Cooper ("Cooper") (African-American) and Marina Nechiporenko ("Nechiporenko") (Caucasian), both of whom prepared Performance Development Reviews ("PDRs") which evaluated Akinyemi's performance. Akinyemi respected both Cooper and Nechiporenko and considered them to be fair supervisors. Most comments on the PDRs were positive, but one PDR pointed out that Akinyemi could improve upon her analytical and proofreading skills.

In March 2009, Nechiporenko left Quaker's Chicago office for a position in a Pepsico office in New York. Imelda Munoz ("Munoz") became Akinyemi's new supervisor on April 6, 2009. Senior Manager Linda Bonata ("Bonata") supervised Munoz, and Director Cindy Thul ("Thul") supervised Bonata. On March 13, 2009, a few weeks prior to becoming Akinyemi's supervisor, Munoz had commented at a company function that Akinyemi had been "kissing [Nechiporenko's] ass." Munoz also had known Akinyemi from her time as Akinyemi's mentor at Quaker in 2006.

Munoz and Akinyemi were not a cohesive working duo. Munoz frequently summoned Akinyemi to her office for work-related meetings. Munoz often expressed displeasure with Akinyemi's work product. Akinyemi failed to attend three meetings at which Munoz had expected her attendance. Akinyemi also failed to complete assignments on time according to the deadlines set by Munoz. Finally, Akinyemi incorrectly inputted data in that she mixed up positive and negative signs when reporting figures.

Munoz met with Bonata and Human Resources employee Valerie Henderson ("Henderson"), an African-American employee of Quaker. Munoz is Hispanic, and Thul and Bonata are Caucasian. It was determined that Akinyemi would be placed on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP"), and Akinyemi was informed that she would be terminated if her performance did not ameliorate. The PIP began on August 3 and concluded on October 5 when Akinyemi was terminated.

Meanwhile, friction between Akinyemi and Munoz persisted. On July 22, 2009 Akinyemi requested a laptop computer. Bonata testified that laptops usually arrive approximately two to three months after they are ordered. Munoz, however, did not approve the request until September 1, 2009, and the laptop did not arrive until after Akinyemi's termination.

Aside from the ongoing strife between Akinyemi and Munoz, another pattern recurred-Akinyemi's performance errors. For instance, on one report, she erroneously inputted an overage of $290, 000, but there was a shortage in that amount. In other words, Akinyemi once again mistook a positive sign for a negative one. She also continued not to submit work by the deadlines that Munoz had prescribed. Akinyemi did not receive Munoz's e-mails with assignments promptly because she did not check her e-mail regularly. She explained to Munoz that she found it "distracting" to do so and suggested that Munoz should communicate deadlines to her orally.

Akinyemi was not keen on having been placed on the PIP. She refused to sign her PDR, and she lodged charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on August 11, 2009. Things finally came to a head that October. Munoz met with Bonata, Henderson and Thul, and they all agreed that Akinyemi should be terminated. The termination occurred on October 5, 2009. Akinyemi was replaced by Matthew McKenna ("McKenna"), a Caucasian male. II. Procedural History

On April 24, 2012, the EEOC issued to Akinyemi a Notice of Right to Sue letter following an investigation of her charges of racial discrimination and retaliation. On September 5, 2012, Akinyemi filed a five count first amended complaint alleging racial discrimination with respect to: (i) her not being promoted; (ii) her termination; and (iii) the disparate manner in which she had been treated at Quaker, all in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §1981 ("Section 1981") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Akinyemi also alleged a hostile work environment in violation of Section 1981 and Title VII, and she finally alleged that her termination constituted retaliation for her ...


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