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Armani v. Kraft Foods Groups, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 4, 2014

LEONARDO ARMANI, Plaintiff,
v.
KRAFT FOODS GROUPS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GARY FEINERMAN, District Judge.

Leonardo Armani brought this pro se suit against Kraft Foods Group, Inc., alleging race and national origin discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Doc. 25. (Armani initially named other defendants, Docs. 1, 14, but dropped them in the second amended complaint, Doc. 25.) Kraft has moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 for summary judgment. Doc. 33. The motion is granted.

Background

Consistent with the local rules, Kraft filed a Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement of undisputed facts along with its summary judgment motion. Doc. 35. Each factual assertion in the Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement cites evidentiary material in the record and is supported by the cited material. See N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.1(a) ("The statement referred to in (3) shall consist of short numbered paragraphs, including within each paragraph specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon to support the facts set forth in that paragraph."). Also consistent with the local rules, Kraft filed and served on Armani a Local Rule 56.2 Notice, which explains in detail the requirements of Local Rule 56.1. Doc. 37. Although Armani responded to the summary judgment motion, Doc. 40, he failed to file a Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) response to Kraft's Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement or a Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement of additional facts.

"[A] district court is entitled to decide [a summary judgment] motion based on the factual record outlined in the [parties'] Local Rule 56.1 statements." Koszola v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chi., 385 F.3d 1104, 1109 (7th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted); see also Stevo v. Frasor, 662 F.3d 880, 886-87 (7th Cir. 2011) ("Because of the high volume of summary judgment motions and the benefits of clear presentation of relevant evidence and law, we have repeatedly held that district judges are entitled to insist on strict compliance with local rules designed to promote the clarity of summary judgment filings."); Patterson v. Ind. Newspapers, Inc., 589 F.3d 357, 360 (7th Cir. 2009) ("[w]e have repeatedly held that the district court is within its discretion to strictly enforce compliance with its local rules regarding summary-judgment motions"); Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., 401 F.3d 803, 809 (7th Cir. 2005) ("we have... repeatedly held that a district court is entitled to expect strict compliance with Rule 56.1") (alteration omitted). Armani's status as a pro se litigant does not excuse him from complying with Local Rule 56.1. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) ("we have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel") (citations omitted); Coleman v. Goodwill Indus. of Se. Wis., Inc., 423 F.Appx. 642, 643 (7th Cir. 2011) ("[t]hough courts are solicitous of pro se litigants, they may nonetheless require strict compliance with local rules"); Wilson v. Kautex, Inc., 371 F.Appx. 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2010) ("strictly enforcing Local Rule 56.1 was well within the district court's discretion, even though Wilson is a pro se litigant") (citations omitted); Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006) ("even pro se litigants must follow rules of civil procedure").

Accordingly, the court will accept as true the facts set forth in Kraft's statement, viewing those facts and inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to Armani. See N.D.Ill. L.R. 56. 1(b)(3)(C) ("All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party."); Parra v. Neal, 614 F.3d 635, 636 (7th Cir. 2010); Rao v. BP Prods. N. Am., Inc., 589 F.3d 389, 393 (7th Cir. 2009) ("In accordance with a local rule, the district court justifiably deemed the factual assertions in BP's Rule 56.1(a) Statement in support of its motion for summary judgment admitted because Rao did not respond to the statement."); Cady, 467 F.3d at 1061; Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006); Schrott v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 403 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir. 2005); Koszola, 385 F.3d at 1108-09; Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 682-83 (7th Cir. 2003). That said, the court is mindful that "a nonmovant's failure to... comply with Local Rule 56.1, does not, of course, automatically result in judgment for the movant. The ultimate burden of persuasion remains with [the movant] to show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Raymond, 442 F.3d at 608 (internal citation omitted). The court therefore will recite the uncontroverted material facts in Kraft's Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) statement and then proceed to determine whether, on those facts, Kraft is entitled to summary judgment.

Kraft uses temporary contract workers to supplement its regular employee workforce on an as-needed basis. Doc. 35 at ¶ 7. At all relevant times, Kraft used ContingentSolutions for recruiting, screening, and coordinating logistics for contract workers placed in temporary positions. Ibid. Through its arrangement with ContingentSolutions, Kraft did not contact temporary staffing companies or applicants directly; rather, ContingentSolutions communicated with temporary staffing companies to recruit temporary contract workers for Kraft's temporary positions, and the temporary staffing companies communicated with the potential hires. Id. at ¶ 8. Abacus Services Corporation was one of the temporary staffing companies that submitted candidates to ContingentSolutions to be considered for Kraft's temporary positions. Id. at ¶ 14.

In July 2012, Mike Onderwater, a senior buyer in Kraft's packaging procurement division, placed orders for two temporary positions in his division with Lauren Sweers, a vendor management specialist for ContingentSolutions. Id. at ¶ 10. ContingentSolutions assigned a unique order number, with the prefix "KFTJP" followed by a series of numbers, to each temporary position Kraft sought to fill. Id. at ¶ 9. Sweers created an online job posting for each of the two positions that included the order number, position title, job position details, requested bill rate, and maximum bill rate, in response to which temporary staffing companies submitted applicants' resumes. Id. at ¶ 11. Order KFTJP00000906 ("KFTJP-906") was for a buyer position, a mid-level supply chain role, while Order KFTJP00000930 ("KFTJP-930") was for a procurement analyst position, a low-level supply chain role. Id. at ¶ 12. Both positions had expected durations of approximately five months. Ibid. Through ContingentSolutions, Onderwater scheduled interviews of applicants for both positions in late July 2012 with Renee Desbles and Dana Welder, senior managers in Kraft's packaging procurement division. Id. at ¶ 26.

In July 2012, Armani applied to Abacus for a temporary position with Kraft by submitting his name, email, phone number, and resume in response to a posting on the CareerBuilder website. Id. at ¶ 13. On July 18, 2012, Marilyn Vimmi, a recruiter for Abacus, called Armani for a telephone screening. Id. at ¶ 15. Armani understood that while he would be performing services at Kraft, he would be employed by Abacus, which would pay Armani and bill Kraft for Armani's services. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. Following her call with Armani, Vimmi emailed Armani the job description for the KFTJP-930 analyst position and asked him to confirm his interest in applying for that position and to supply additional information, including his expected pay rate. Id. at ¶ 16. Armani confirmed that he wanted to apply for the position and that he expected a pay rate of $50 per hour. Id. at ¶ 17. After Vimmi explained that $50 per hour was too high for Abacus to make any profit, Armani agreed to $40 per hour. Ibid.

Later that day, Vimmi submitted Armani's resume for the KFTJP-906 buyer position rather than for the KFTJP-930 analyst position that Vimmi and Armani had discussed. Id. at ¶ 20. Vimmi also sent Armani an email with the subject line "Abacus Confirmation Email- KFTJP00000906 Buyer with Kraft Foods" confirming that Abacus had submitted Armani's resume for the KFTJP-906 buyer position at an agreed-upon pay rate of $40 per hour. Id. at ¶ 21. Armani recognized that Abacus had submitted him for a different position (KFTJP-906) than the one he had discussed with Vimmi (KFTJP-930), and that the KFTJP-906 position required a higher skill level than the KFTJP-930 position. Id. at ¶ 22. Armani believed he was overqualified for both positions. Id. at ¶ 23. On July 19, 2012, Vimmi emailed Armani to inform him that his resume had been "short-listed, " and the next day, another Abacus recruiter emailed Armani that he had been selected to interview for the KFTJP-906 buyer position. Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.

On July 26, 2012, Desbles and Welder interviewed Armani for the KFTJP-906 buyer position. Id. at ¶ 28. Before the interview, Onderwater's wife gave birth to their child, and he went on paid time off to be with his newborn and family. Id. at ¶ 27. Desbles and Welder explained to Armani that Onderwater was in charge of filling the position but was not available to attend Armani's interview, so Desbles and Welder were going to make recommendations for Onderwater to consider. Id. at ¶ 29. During the interview, Desbles, Welder, and Armani discussed Armani's resume, pertinent work experience, proficiency with Systems Applications Products ("SAP") software and Excel, and educational background, including his four master's degrees in human resources, business administration, project management, and information systems. Id. at ¶¶ 30, 32. Armani had worked as a senior buyer, commodity manager, and SAP consultant for over fifteen years prior to applying to Kraft, and he believed that any position below the level of commodity manager was something he had done and knew how to do. Id. at ¶ 31.

Desbles and Welder were impressed by Armani's experience and education, and Welder specifically noted on her copy of Armani's resume that she thought he had a "Great Resume" and "Great SAP Skills, " among other positive notes. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34. However, Welder also questioned why Armani wanted a temporary position and whether he was overqualified based on his four master's degrees. Id. at ¶ 34. Armani testified that Desbles and Welder told him during the interview that they thought he was a good candidate, but that they were not sure where they could place him because there were a number of different temporary positions to fill and they were not yet sure how they would be placing temporary workers. Id. at ¶ 36. Armani's bill rate was not discussed during the interview. Id. at ¶ 35.

Armani has articulated four slightly different versions of a conversation that occurred during or shortly after his interview. Id. at ¶¶ 37-41. First, Armani testified during his deposition that Desbles, Weber, and Armani had a "little talk" after the interview and before Armani left the interview room, during which Desbles conversationally asked, "Are you from Italian descent, like your name is catchy, Leonardo Armani?" Id. at ¶ 37. Armani responded no, Desbles and Weber asked where he was from, and Armani said he was from Jordan. Ibid. The three then shook hands and Armani departed. Ibid. Second, Armani testified during his deposition that Desbles asked one of two questions-"is Leonardo Armani Italian" or "are you Italian"-and he responded no. Id. at ¶ 38. She then asked "where are you from" or "what's your ethnic background, " Armani responded that he was from Jordan, and Desbles responded, "oh, okay." Ibid. Third, Armani testified during his deposition that Desbles asked him at the interview about "[t]he accent, about the Italian background or are you Italian or if your accent is Italian or something in that regard." Id. at ¶ 40. Fourth, Armani submitted a written statement asserting that Desbles "concluded her interview with her curiosity to what accent am I speaking? Or if I was from an Italian De[s]cent?" Id. at ¶ 39. Armani testified that the written account is "what really happened, " and that he believes that Kraft withdrew its offer to him because of his national origin. Id. at ¶¶ 41, 43.

On July 30, 2012, Onderwater returned from paid time off and met with Desbles and Welder to discuss the applicants they had interviewed for the buyer and analyst positions. Id. at ¶ 46. Desbles and Welder recommended Armani for the KFTJP-906 buyer position and Veronica Garcia for the KFTJP-930 analyst position. Id. at ¶ 47. Later that day, Onderwater contacted Sweers and authorized her to extend offers to Armani and Garcia for those positions. Id. at ¶ 49. Onderwater did not know Armani's national origin when he authorized Sweers to extend Armani an offer, and Onderwater had no direct communications with Abacus or any other temporary staffing company, or with Armani or any other applicant, regarding the two positions. Id. at ¶¶ 50, 55. Sweers emailed Melissa Fregonara of Abacus that day to communicate Kraft's offer to Armani, and Fregonara forwarded the email to Krystin Guerriero, an Abacus account manager who oversaw Abacus's submissions of candidates for Kraft's temporary positions. Id. at ¶ 51. The same day, Guerriero emailed Armani to communicate Kraft's offer and ask him to complete the onboarding process, which included an Abacus employment application and a Kraft temporary employee acknowledgment. Id. at ¶ 52. In an effort to obtain a higher pay rate, Armani bluffed that he already had a competing job offer that would pay him more, and he and Guerriero ultimately agreed on a $43 per hour pay rate, with the understanding that Abacus ...


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