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Johnson v. Johnson & Johnson

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

September 17, 2014

BRUCE D. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,

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For Bruce D Johnson, Plaintiff: Keith L. Spence, Law Office of Keith L. Spence, Chicago, IL.

For Johnson & Johnson, doing business as Janssen Biotech, Defendant: Alan Sterling King, LEAD ATTORNEY, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Chicago, IL; Kathryn H. Levering, PRO HAC VICE, Drinker, Biddle & Reath Llp, Philadelphia, PA.

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REBECCA R. PALLMEYER, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Bruce Johnson, an African-American man, worked for Johnson & Johnson d/b/a/ Janssen Biotech, Inc. (" JBI" ) for several years as a field sales representative. In this action, Johnson claims that JBI discriminated against him on the basis of his race in denying him tuition reimbursement. He contends, as well, that JBI discriminated on the basis of his race and retaliated against him by given him a poor performance evaluation, a limited bonus, and " below-standards field coaching reports" and by placing him on a performance improvement plan. Finally, Mr. Johnson contends JBI violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring him to take disability leave rather than receiving workers' compensation, which resulted in use of his vacation time and reduced income. JBI seeks summary judgment on all of these claims and, as explained here, the motion is granted.


Defendant JBI filed a statement of undisputed material facts, supported by record materials, as called for by our court's Local Rule 56.1. Because Mr. Johnson's attorney ceased representing him after the initial status conference, JBI served Plaintiff with the Local Rule 56.2 notice required when summary judgment is sought against an unrepresented party. Mr. Johnson did not comply with the requirements of Rule 56.1, offering instead only an e-mail message setting forth his own

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version of events. In light of Mr. Johnson's unrepresented status, the court has reviewed his submission generously. The court has also reviewed all of the materials that appear in the record, including all available pages of Plaintiff's deposition, whether or not cited by Defendant. Where Defendant's statement of facts is properly supported and otherwise unrebutted, the court adopts it.

Plaintiff, an African American man, began working for JBI (then known as Centocor, Inc.) in November 2006. (Def.'s 56.1 Statement [23] ¶ ¶ 3, 7.) Initially, Plaintiff reported to Shirley Walker, an African-American woman who held the title of Senior District Manager for what Defendant refers to as the " Dermatology franchise in the Central Region." ( Id. ¶ 8.) After Ms. Walker left JBI in September 2010, Plaintiff reported to interim managers and then, beginning in June 2011, to Chad Lueck. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 9, 10, 40.) Beginning in April 2008, David Gelfuso was Regional Business Director for the Central Region--a position that, the court infers, made Gelfuso a supervisor of Plaintiff's managers. ( Id. ¶ 11.)

Tuition Reimbursement

At the time Plaintiff was hired in 2006, he recalls, Shirley Walker told him that JBI would reimburse him for his tuition for an Executive MBA program at Notre Dame. ( Id. at ¶ 12.) Plaintiff's offer letter made no mention of tuition reimbursement, however; instead, it included language advising Plaintiff that the letter constituted a " complete offer package," and that any written or oral promises " not contained in this letter are . . . not binding" on JBI. ( Id. ¶ 13, citing Oct. 26, 2006 letter, Exhibit C to Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.; Johnson Deposition, Exhibit A to Def.'s 56.1 Stmt., at 142.) Though she had assured Plaintiff that JBI would pay his tuition, Plaintiff testified that just months after he enrolled in the program in January 2008, Ms. Walker told him he would have to quit school if he wanted to keep his job. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt ¶ 14; Johnson Dep. at 134.) Plaintiff did drop out of the program. ( Id.) JBI's tuition reimbursement policy has been limited, since 2009, to managers or directors, and Plaintiff admits that he did not have that status. ( Id. ¶ 16; Johnson Dep. at 143.) Plaintiff claims that some time in 2009 or 2010, Mr. Gelfuso nevertheless promised that if Plaintiff were to re-enroll in the program, Gelfuso would " take care of" Plaintiff's tuition. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 16, 17; Johnson Dep. at 146, 149-50.) Plaintiff did not in fact re-enroll in the program and never submitted a request for tuition reimbursement. (Johnson Dep. at 150-51.) Three years after dropping out, in August 2011, he filed an EEOC charge in which he alleged that he had been denied tuition reimbursement on the basis of his race. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 15.)

LaGrange Account

Early in 2010, Dermatology Associates of LaGrange was within the sales territory assigned to Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 19.) After the departure of another sales representative reporting to Ms. Walker, however, accounts were re-assigned, and the LaGrange account was assigned to another sales team member, Sheree Ramsey, also African American. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 20, 21.) Plaintiff believes that Mr. Gelfuso approved the decision, so he asked Gelfuso about it in a November 9, 2010 e-mail. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 22, 23; Nov. 9, 2010 e-mail exchange, Exhibit F to Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.) Mr. Gelfuso responded that the change was part of an effort to " balance the workloads," but that he would consider whether " it makes sense to move LaGrange back into [Plaintiff's] territory, . . . ." (Nov. 9, 2010 e-mail exchange; Johnson Dep. at 301.) Effective on January 1, 2011, the LaGrange account was returned to Plaintiff. (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.

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¶ 25.) As a result of the brief transfer of the LaGrange account, Plaintiff suffered what he referred to as a " low bonus payout" and loss of " compensation for his accounts in his territories," but he acknowledged the effect of the LaGrange account transfer on his 2010 bonus was " nominal." ( Id. ¶ 26, citing First Amended Complaint ¶ ¶ 7(b), (c); Johnson Dep. at 169.)

Low Performance Evaluation

For the year 2010, Plaintiff received a performance rating of " 5" on JBI's 1-9 scale, a rating that signifies the employee " meets and sometimes exceeds expectations." (Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ ¶ 27, 20.) Pursuant to JBI policy, that rating was based 60% on Plaintiff's sales performance and 40% on leadership, but Plaintiff believed a complaint he had made against Ms. Walker in 2010 had a negative effect on his rating. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 29, 30, 34.) Specifically, Plaintiff told Ms. Walker in June 2010 that he was unwilling to continue assisting her in some of her duties as Senior District Manager because they were outside the scope of his job. ( Id. ¶ 31.) In fact, however, a leadership score that Ms. Walker had given Plaintiff boosted his rating; based on sales results alone, Plaintiff earned only a " 4" rating. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 33, 34.) Beginning in late September 2010, Ms. Walker took a leave of absence from JBI and never returned to work. ( Id. ¶ 32.) Mr. Gelfuso assumed responsibility for completing 2010 performance reviews for the sales representatives who had reported to Ms. Walker, including Plaintiff. ( Id.) Plaintiff ...

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