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Lewis v. Marmon Group, LLC

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

September 3, 2014

DEBRA A. LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE MARMON GROUP, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS M. DURKIN, District Judge.

Debra Lewis, pro se, alleges that The Marmon Group, LLC ("Marmon") breached the contract Lewis had with Marmon to assist with Marmon's conversion to an electronic invoicing system when Marmon terminated the contract. R. 47.[1] Lewis also alleges that by terminating the contract Marmon (1) discriminated against her because she is African-American in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, (2) retaliated against her for participating in a fraud investigation in violation of state law, and (3) violated the Illinois Whistle Blower Act. R. 47. Marmon has moved for summary judgment on all of Lewis's claims. R. 91. For the following reasons, Marmon's motion is granted, and Lewis's case is dismissed.

Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The Court considers the entire evidentiary record and must view all of the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from that evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Ball v. Kotter, 723 F.3d 813, 821 (7th Cir. 2013). To defeat summary judgment, a nonmovant must produce more than "a mere scintilla of evidence" and come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Harris N.A. v. Hershey, 711 F.3d 794, 798 (7th Cir. 2013). Ultimately, summary judgment is warranted only if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Background

Lewis was employed by Ajilon-a temporary employment service agency- and assigned to work for Marmon beginning in July 2005. Lewis states that her job responsibilities "included gathering, analyzing and validating requirements for the proposed new e-billing payment system for the Legal department, " and "[p]articipate [sic] and oversee implementation of the new database (Stars)." R. 102 at 12 (¶ 3).[2] Robert Webb, Marmon's general counsel, testified by written deposition that Lewis was "primarily [responsible for] the processing and inputting of data from paper-based invoices received from law firms and other legal vendors for Asbestos-related claims, while the Legal Department was developing and transitioning to an e-billing system. Lewis's services also included transferring historical billing to the e-billing system." R. 110-1 at 45-46 (¶ 3).

In October 2007, Lewis informed Marmon that she would be moving to Mississippi and no longer working for Ajilon. Webb states in an affidavit that "[b]ecause the services [Lewis] was performing were still needed, [he] agreed for Lewis to continue performing them under a consulting contract directly with Marmon." R. 110-1 at 57 (¶ 8). On April 23, 2008, Lewis signed a contract with Marmon. See R. 93-1. The contract provided that Lewis would be paid $36.30 per hour. R. 93-1 ¶ 3. The contract also provided that it would "continue until terminated by either party, " and Marmon could "at any time direct [Lewis] to stop working immediately on any project." Id. ¶ 5.

The contract did not specify the services Lewis was to perform, but provided that Lewis was "to furnish information and advice to [Marmon] with respect to such projects or assignments as may be agreed to by the parties." R. 93-1 ¶ 1. Lewis states that her "job responsibilities [under the contract] included working with [two] other third-party technology companies to implement [sic] Marmon's current bill payment system over to CS Stars." R. 102 at 13 (¶ 7). Lewis has submitted emails in which she communicated with Webb regarding the "software charges" necessary to implement "electronic invoicing." R. 102 at 23-24. Webb testified, however, that "Lewis did not work on developing or implementing the e-billing system, but primarily on processing and inputting data from paper-based invoices until all retained law firms and legal vendors for Asbestos-related legal claims began submitting electronic invoices, " R. 110-1 at 47 (¶ 11), and that he hired Lewis to "continue to process and input data from paper-based invoices until the law firms and legal vendors for Asbestos-related legal claims were transitioned to submitting their invoices in electronic format." R. 110-1 at 46 (¶ 3). Lewis's invoices for her compensation from January 2010 show that she spent most of her time running reports and entering invoices into the new system. See R. 102 at 37-38.

Lewis alleges that "[w]hite contractors were paid [two and a half] times the rate per hour then [sic] African American contractors for billing system conversion projects. Contractors paid [two and a half] times were Darlene Scarbarski [sic] and possibly other unknown white contractors." R. 47 at 6 (¶ 1). Darlene Sarbiewski was an employee of a consulting company called Integration Technologies. R. 110-1 at 59 (¶ 15); R. 93-8 at 4 (28:7-14). Lewis also alleges, "White Contractors who [sic] contracts were renewed were Prescient and possibly other unknown white contracts." R. 47 at 6 (¶ 3). Prescient was another consulting company Marmon hired. R. 110-1 at 59 (¶ 16); R. 93-8 at 11 (46:2-10). Lewis admits that she "has no knowledge of the rate of compensation Marmon paid to other contractors between April 2008 and March 2, 2010, the time frame for which Lewis was an independent contractor at Marmon." R. 107 ¶ 32.

During the course of her work for Marmon, Lewis became suspicious that her direct supervisor, Laura Narvez, was involved in a scheme to defraud Marmon. R. 102 at 14 (¶ 10). Lewis states that she initially became suspicious due to invoices Narvez sent to her to process for a case that had already concluded. R. 102 at 16 (¶ 17). Several months later, in January 2009, Lewis and Narvez had a dispute about proper procedures for handling documents, which led to Lewis having a conversation with Webb. R. 102 at 17-18 (¶¶ 22-23). During this conversation Lewis told Webb about the questionable invoices. R. 102 at 17 (¶ 23). According to Lewis, Webb dismissed her concerns and expressed his full support of Narvez, describing her as his "Pit Bull." Id.

Several months later, on November 13, 2009, Lewis had another meeting with Webb. R. 102 at 19 (¶ 24); R. 110-1 at 61 (¶ 20). The parties agree that at this meeting Webb told Lewis that her contract would be terminated as of January 31, 2010. R. 102 at 19 (¶ 24); R. 110-1 at 61 (¶ 20). The parties disagree about the reason for Webb's decision to terminate Lewis's contract. Lewis alleges that "the e-billing project was not complete and that [she] had not even started developing certain important add-ons, " R. 102 at 19 (¶ 24), and that she "never got the opportunity to start the setup for the electronic invoicing." Id. (¶ 36). Webb states, to the contrary, that he terminated Lewis's contract because Marmon expected all their "legal vendors working on asbestos claims.... to permanently go to electronic invoicing in January 2010, which would eliminate the need for Lewis's processing of paper-based invoices." R. 110-1 at 60 (¶ 19). Webb's assertion that electronic invoicing was ready to begin in January 2010 is corroborated by emails Lewis submitted from July 2009 in which she told Webb that they were "getting started with the setup of Electronic Invoicing, " R. 102 at 24, and in which Narvez told Webb that "we are good to go" on electronic invoicing. Id. at 23.

Lewis contends that Webb's explanation is pretextual because when she asked Webb why he was terminating her contract even though her project was not complete, they had the following exchange:

Webb: "You know there has been a theft. I thought I had a guard dog in place, but sometimes no matter what you put in place, some people can find their way around it. You people want to be treated fair, but just don't get it, they give you [an] inch and you just want the ...

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