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Tamez v. Donahoe

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

September 10, 2014

LUIS R. TAMEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK R. DONAHOE, Postmaster General, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

Luis Tamez has sued the United States Postal Service pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1), 2000e-3(a). He alleges that he was terminated from his position as a mail carrier at the Mount Prospect Post Office in retaliation for filing an internal complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of race and national origin. The Postal Service has moved for summary judgment on all of Tamez's claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the Postal Service's motion.

Background

Luis Tamez began working as a mail carrier at the Mount Prospect Post Office in May 2001. Before this lawsuit, Tamez filed two internal equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaints against his supervisors. Tamez initiated the first complaint on December 30, 2007 against Michael Naranjo and Jim Carlson, the postmaster and delivery supervisor of the Mount Prospect Post Office. Tamez contested disciplinary action taken against him for violating the Postal Service's vehicle safety policies. The parties entered into a settlement agreement after mediation. Tamez initiated his second EEO complaint on March 19, 2008, also against Naranjo and Carlson. Tamez claimed reprisal and a hostile work environment, alleging that his supervisors retaliated against him for filing the previous EEO complaint and for taking medical leave when his wife suffered from complications during her pregnancy. See Pl.'s Mem. in Opp. to Mot. for Summ. J., Tamez Aff., Ex. 10 (dkt.no. 44-1). The hostile work environment claim was dismissed, and the reprisal claim resulted in what Tamez refers to as a "merit resolution, " although he does not explain what that means.[1]

The current lawsuit stems from Tamez's termination in 2010 based on allegations of sexual harassment. Hazel Lee, a mail carrier employed at the Mount Prospect Post Office, alleged that Tamez exposed his genitalia to her in the doorway of the men's locker room in September 2009. Although management did not become aware of those allegations until February 2010, Lee informed her union steward, Brian Gavin, immediately after the incident allegedly occurred. Gavin arranged a meeting between Tamez and Lee. At that meeting, Tamez denied the allegations but apologized to Lee for anything she might have witnessed while passing the men's locker room. No further action was taken in 2009.

During a sexual harassment training session on February 5, 2010, Lee approached her supervisor, Joey Arcilla, and told him that Tamez had exposed himself to her in 2009. Arcilla informed Naranjo, who immediately placed Tamez on emergency leave without pay at the direction of human resources manager Phyllis Lingenfelser. Naranjo interviewed Tamez, who denied the allegations. The following week, Naranjo conducted an investigation during which he obtained statements from two other female employees who alleged sexual harassment by Tamez. Debbie Flanagan alleged that Tamez discussed oral sex with her in September 2009. Alicia McCray alleged that Tamez made a sexually offensive statement to her eighteen months prior to the interview. On February 19, 2010, Tamez was issued a notice of removal for "Conduct Unbecoming a Postal Employee - Violation of the Workplace Harassment Policy." Tamez pursued relief through the union's grievance process, denying that he engaged in sexually offensive or unwelcome conduct. An arbitrator found that management had insufficient evidence of harassment to support a finding of just cause to terminate Tamez. Tamez was reinstated to his job in September 2010.

On March 24, 2010, while the grievance regarding his removal was pending, Tamez filed another EEO complaint against Naranjo, alleging that his February suspension and termination were in retaliation for the EEO complaint that he filed against Naranjo in 2008. The Postal Service issued an agency decision in August 2012 dismissing Tamez's complaint. Tamez then filed the present suit.

Discussion

A party is entitled to summary judgment if it shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the record in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Trinity Homes LLC v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 629 F.3d 653, 656 (7th Cir. 2010).

A. Discrimination claims

As indicated earlier, Tamez included in his complaint claims of discrimination based on race and national origin. He has abandoned these claims because he did not respond to the Postal Service's arguments in favor of summary judgment on the claims. When a plaintiff fails to address a claim in a summary judgment brief, that claim is forfeited. Palmer v. Marion Cnty., 327 F.3d 588, 597-98 (7th Cir. 2003). Further, Tamez has not presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that that Naranjo or any other supervisor discriminated against him on the basis of race or national origin. The Court therefore grants summary judgment for the Postal Service on Tamez's discrimination claims.

B. Retaliation claims

Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee "because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Retaliation under Title VII can be ...


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