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Sims v. Trinity Services, Inc.

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

June 26, 2014

RODERICK SIMS, Plaintiff,
v.
TRINITY SERVICES, INC.; ELLIS CRAFT; ERICA POZZIN; STEPHANIE PERKINS; and JENNIFER HODGES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Roderick Sims, proceeding pro se, filed suit against Defendants Trinity Services, Inc. ("Trinity"); Ellis Craft; Erica Pozzin; Stephanie Perkins; and Jennifer Hodges (the "Individual Defendants"), alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Counts I and II, respectively); sexual harassment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count III); age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623 et seq. (Count IV); discrimination in job promotion (Count V); retaliation (Count VI); and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VII).

On June 26, 2013, this Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in part and dismissed the Individual Defendants as to all Counts. The Court denied the Motion to Dismiss with respect to Counts I through V against Trinity. Sims was granted leave to amend his claims within thirty days but failed to do so. Trinity has now moved for summary judgment on the remaining Counts I through V, and Sims has failed to file a response. For the reasons set forth below, Trinity's Motion [39] is granted.

LOCAL RULE 56.1

Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the party contends there is no genuine issue for trial." Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004). Local Rule 56.1(b)(3) requires the non-moving party to admit or deny every factual statement proffered by the moving party and to concisely designate any material facts that establish a genuine dispute for trial. See Schrott v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 403 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir. 2005). Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C), the nonmovant may submit additional statements of material facts that "require the denial of summary judgment." Local Rule 56.2 requires "[a]ny party moving for summary judgment against a party proceeding pro se shall serve and file as a separate document, together with the papers in support of the motion, a Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment' in the form indicated below." N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.2. The Notice "explains the nature of a summary judgment motion and tells the pro se litigant what she must do to prevent summary judgment." Id.

District courts must liberally construe the pleadings of pro se litigants. Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir. 1998). This liberal construction requirement "give[s] a pro se plaintiff a break" when his or her pleadings fail on a technicality but are otherwise understandable. Id. However, pro se litigants "are not excused from compliance with procedural rules." Pearle Vision, Inc. v. Romm, 541 F.3d 751, 758 (7th Cir. 2008). The Seventh Circuit has "repeatedly held that district judges are entitled to insist on strict compliance with local rules designed to promote the clarity of summary judgment filings." Stevo v. Frasor, 662 F.3d 880, 886-87 (7th Cir. 2011). Indeed, district courts may "rigorously enforce" the requirements of Local Rule 56.1. Sistrunk v. Khan, 931 F.Supp.2d 849, 853 (N.D. Ill. 2013).

A litigant's failure to respond to a Rule 56.1 statement means those uncontroverted statements are deemed admitted. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003). However, the Seventh Circuit has stated, "a nonmovant's... failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1, does not... automatically result in judgment for the movant." Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). Rather, the movant must still bear the burden of persuading the court that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

Sims has failed to comply with Rule 56.1(b)(3) because he did not file a response to Trinity's Rule 56.1 statement. Trinity served Sims with a "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment, " ( see Docket No. 43), together with its Motion for Summary Judgment. Sims was thus put on notice of Trinity's Motion for Summary Judgment; in fact, he asked for an extension of time to respond, which this Court granted on March 20, 2014. Despite receiving an extension of time, Sims did not file a response brief or Rue 56.1(b)(3) statement opposing Trinity's Motion. Accordingly, Trinity's uncontroverted statements are admitted as true, and Trinity bears the burden of persuasion that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Rule 56.1 statement of undisputed facts filed by Trinity (referred to herein as "SMF"). Sims is an African-American man and a resident of Chicago. (SMF ¶ 1.) At the time his employment was terminated, Sims was forty-four-years old. ( Id. ) Trinity is an Illinois non-profit organization that serves the physically and mentally disabled. ( Id. ¶ 2.) This Court has federal jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). ( Id. ¶¶ 3-4.)

Sims worked as an Independent Living Counselor ("ILC") for Trinity from November 29, 2011 until he was terminated on May 9, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 5.) Sims was initially assigned to a house at 6244 North Sacramento in Chicago. ( Id. ¶ 10.) Approximately two weeks after he was hired, Sims requested a transfer to another house because he was having problems getting along with other Trinity employees at the Sacramento house. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Sims was reassigned to a house on 6215 North Mozart Street. ( Id. ¶ 12.) At the time that Sims transferred, Jamie Meus was the house manager of the Mozart house. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Sims never applied for any Trinity position other than the ILC position for which he was hired. ( Id. ¶ 7.) When Sims was hired, there were no house manager positions open. ( Id. ¶ 8.)

Sims's Discrimination and Harassment Claims

In his Complaint, Sims claims that he suffered race discrimination, age discrimination and sexual harassment. When asked about his allegations of racial discrimination at his deposition, Sims testified that his supervisor, Jennifer Hodges, made the following comments to him: "If you don't do this, you'll be taken off the schedule to work"; "You cannot leave because I don't have coverage"; "You better..."; and "Do you hear me?" (Trinity's SMF ¶ 28.) When asked about age-based comments, Sims testified in his deposition that co-worker Giovany Rouge commented that Sims's teeth were so perfect and said, "When I get to be your age I'm going to need to take Viagra." (Trinity's SMF ¶ 56.) Sims further testified that co-worker Yoshio Trinidad said that Sims's teeth were fake and phony. ( Id. ) Sims claimed that he brought these comments to the attention of two supervisors, Ellis Craft and Meus, but he did not remember the time or date. ( Id. ¶ 57.) Both Craft and Meus submitted declarations denying that Sims informed them of the alleged harassment. ( Id. )

In his deposition, Sims also testified that he was sexually harassed by two co-workers, Adrian Wechta and Trinidad. ( Id. ¶ 29.) Neither Wechta nor Trinidad had the authority to hire, fire, transfer, discipline or promote Sims. ( Id. ¶¶ 31, 42.) Sims claimed that Wechta touched him on his stomach and back on two separate occasions. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Sims told Wechta to "stop touching me, " and Wechta then stopped touching him. ( Id. ¶ 34.) Sims claimed that three people witnessed Wechta touch Sims: Tiffany Henry, Qianna Oliver, and Taysha Johnson. ( Id. ¶ 37.) Both Henry and Oliver have submitted declarations denying they saw Wechta touch or harass Sims in any fashion. ( Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) Sims also claimed ...


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