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Curtis v. Costco Wholesale Corporation

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

September 24, 2014

KEITH CURTIS, Plaintiff,
v.
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendant Costco Wholesale Corporation's (Costco) and Defendant Gail Hinds' (Hinds) motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion for summary judgment is granted in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

In 2011, Plaintiff Keith Curtis (Curtis) worked for Costco in an Optical Manager position. Hinds was Costco's General Warehouse Manager and the supervisor of Curtis. In September 2011, Curtis took a six-week leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., due to alleged work-related stress and anxiety. After returning to work, Curtis was repeatedly counseled and coached for poor work performance and violation of workplace rules. Such performance issues included complaints from customers who were members at Costco about Curtis' conduct. In April 2012, Curtis was placed on a ninety-day performance improvement plan (PIP) for his alleged performance issues. In May 2012, Jan Jalowiec (Jalowiec) an employee whom Curtis supervised, came forward and informed Costco management that based on a conversation she had with Curtis, she believed that Curtis was going to commit fraud on Costco by taking a medical leave of absence in order to prevent a demotion and to maintain his managerial pay status. Costco determined that such conduct by Curtis violated Costco's ethical policies and demoted Curtis to a cashier position in May 2012. Two days later, Curtis requested another medical leave based on alleged "work-related stress, " (Compl. Par. 22), and the leave request was granted. Curtis also then filed a disability claim with Costco's insurance company claiming that he was unable to perform the duties for a cashier position, which was denied. After a seven-month absence Curtis returned to work, and Costco placed Curtis in a warehouse where Hinds was not a supervisor. Costco, after discussing with Curtis potential accommodations, was able to place Curtis in a full-time position again at a warehouse where Hinds does not work. It is undisputed that Curtis remains employed in that position to this day.

Curtis brought the instant action and includes in his complaint a claim alleging discrimination because of an alleged disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Count I), an ADA failure-to-accommodate claim (Count I), a FMLA retaliation claim (Count II), and a FMLA interference claim (Count II). Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). A "genuine issue" of material fact in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the record as a whole, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I. Local Rule 56.1

Curtis repeatedly fails to comply with Local Rule 56.1 in responding to Defendants' statement of material facts. Curtis improperly provides legal arguments and citations to case law in his responses to Defendants' statement of material facts. Such responses fail to comply with Local Rule 56.1 See Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 585 (N.D. Ill. 2000)(explaining that "[t]he purpose of the 56.1 statement is to identify for the Court the evidence supporting a party's factual assertions in an organized manner: it is not intended as a forum for factual or legal argument").

Curtis also makes a variety of improper objections instead of citing to portions of the record to support his denial of facts. For example, Defendants assert in Paragraph 20 of their statement of material facts (Paragraph 20) that "[i]n the spring of 2011, Hinds started receiving many member complaints about customer service problems in the Optical Department." (SF Par. 20). Curtis fails to admit or deny such facts and instead objects that the facts are "vague and ambiguous." (R SF Par. 20). Such facts are entirely relevant to the issue of whether Curtis was meeting his employer's legitimate expectations. Any complaints by members of Costco about Curtis' dealings with such members would be relevant evidence in assessing Curtis' job performance as manager of the optical department, and whether disciplinary actions are warranted. Nor is there anything vague about the facts in Paragraph 20. The facts are straightforward and clear and should have been directly responded to by Curtis. Curtis' evidentiary objections are thus entirely without merit.

Curtis also repeatedly fails to cite to specific evidence in the record to support his denial of facts and instead refers the court to other paragraphs or other responses to the Defendants' statements of facts, or to other briefs filed by Curtis. Local Rule 56.1 does not provide that a party's responses can simply direct the court to other documents and responses in the record. LR 56.1. Curtis repeatedly offers such evasive answers in his Local Rule 56.1 responses, often referring the court to multiple other paragraphs of facts or responses. For example, in response to Paragraph 25 of Defendants' statement of material facts, Curtis states nothing more than "Deny" and then refers to the court to seven other "Pars." or paragraphs. (R SF Par. 25). It is not entirely clear whether Curtis intends to refer to paragraphs of his responses to Defendants' statements of facts or to paragraphs of Curtis' statement of additional facts. At times in his responses Curtis makes references to paragraphs "below" and to paragraphs "above." (R SF Par. 23, 25). Often the reference to numbered paragraphs "below" in the document filed by Curtis could cover both his response to that numbered paragraph of Defendants' statement of facts and to that same numbered paragraph of Curtis' statement of additional facts, which are in that same document. See, e.g. (R SF Par. 7). To add to the confusion, at times Curtis makes references to other paragraphs by using the symbol "¶" and at other times refers the court to other paragraphs by using the term "Pars." (R SF Par. 7, 25).

Another example of Curtis' failure to properly dispute facts is in response to Paragraph 53 of Defendants' statement of material facts (Paragraph 53). In response, Curtis provides no specific citation to portions of evidence in the record to support his denial of the facts in Paragraph 53. (R SF Par. 53). Instead, Curtis refers the court to his entire "Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Costco's motion for summary judgment field [sic] concurrently herewith." (R SF Par. 53). Such ambiguous and evasive responses that require the court to sift through a series of cross-indexed responses and other portions of the record does not comply with Local Rule 56.1. See Roger Whitmore's Auto. Services, Inc. v. Lake County, Illinois, 424 F.3d 659, 664 ...


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