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Mitchell v. Yrc Inc.

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

October 20, 2014

AMOS MITCHELL, Plaintiff,
v.
YRC INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Amos Mitchell ("Mitchell") alleges in his two-count complaint (Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl.").) that his former employer, YRC Inc. ("YRC"), violated 42 U.S.C. §1981 by terminating him on the basis of his race, African-American, (Count I) and by retaliating against him because of his complaints about racial discrimination (Count II). Pending before the court is YRC's motion for summary judgment on both counts. (Dkt. No. 34.) Also pending is Mitchell's "Motion to Strike Documents Relied Upon in Defendant's Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts and Referenced in Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Summary Judgment." (Dkt. No. 43.) For the reasons explained below, Mitchell's motion to strike is denied in its entirety and YRC's motion for summary judgment is granted.

BACKGROUND

In December 2004, Mitchell began working for YRC as a truck driver based out of the company's facility in Chicago Heights, Illinois.[1] (Dkt. No. 41 ("Def.'s Resp. Pl.'s SMF") ¶ 5.) In 2007, Mitchell transferred to YRC's Bolingbrook, Illinois facility, where he became a combination truck driver and dock worker. ( Id. ¶ 6.) Mitchell was a member of a union-either Teamsters Local 179 or Teamsters Local 705-throughout the duration of his employment with YRC. ( Id. ¶ 7.)

On June 16, 2008, Mitchell filed a grievance with YRC alleging that he was discriminated against based on his race. ( Id. ¶ 41.) Mitchell complained that he was not allowed to work when his commercial driver's license was suspended, but a white employee was permitted to work even though his commercial driver's license was suspended. ( Id. ) The record does not indicate what action, if any, YRC took to address Mitchell's grievance, but Mitchell's claim of retaliation alleged in Count II of his complaint stems from this June 2008 grievance. (Compl. at 4-5.)

Throughout Mitchell's employment, YRC maintained an absenteeism policy, which was posted in the employee break room of YRC's Bolingbrook facility. (Def.'s Resp. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 14.) This policy read: "A one hour notice must be given (unless mutually agreed to) for day-to-day absenteeism before the start of your shift. All employees must call in daily to report absences." ( Id. ) For violations of this written absenteeism policy, YRC used an unwritten progressive discipline approach that usually included four steps: (1) a warning letter, (2) a second warning letter, (3) suspension, and (4) discharge. ( Id. ¶ 17, 18.) Warning letters and suspensions remained on an employee's record for nine months after they were issued. ( Id. ¶ 19.) While Mitchell was employed at YRC's Bolingbrook facility, Andrew Gerrard ("Gerrard"), the Terminal Manager, was usually the decision maker for suspensions and discharges stemming from violations of the absenteeism policy. ( Id. ¶ 21.)

On February 26, 2009, Mitchell did not appear for his shift and he failed to notify YRC at least one hour before his absence. ( Id. ¶ 26) As a result of Mitchell's violation of the absenteeism policy, YRC issued him a warning letter on March 5, 2009. ( Id. ¶ 26) Mitchell was issued a second warning letter on April 30, 2009, following his violation of the absenteeism policy on April 23, 2009. ( Id. ¶ 17.) After Mitchell violated the absenteeism policy a third time on August 6, 2009, YRC issued him a three-day suspension, which was later reduced to a one-day suspension by agreement. ( Id. ¶ 28.) Mitchell filed a grievance over his suspension, explaining that he "was not able to cover [his] shift due to the fact that [his] babysitter had an emergency as [sic] the last minute, and was not able to watch my daughter who his only seven years old." ( Id. ¶ 30.)

On November 11, 2009, Mitchell again violated YRC's absenteeism policy. ( Id. ¶ 31.) As a result, YRC initially discharged Mitchell. ( Id. ) Mitchell filed a grievance over the discharge, explaining that he missed work due to a doctor's appointment. ( Id. ¶ 34.) While Gerrard would normally "recommend [termination] as soon as [employees] hit the fourth infraction, " he decided to give Mitchell "an extra chance at the apple" and reduced the discharge to a three-day suspension. ( Id. ¶ 32.)

Mitchell violated YRC's absenteeism policy for the fifth time on April 8, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 35.) In response, YRC issued Mitchell a discharge letter on April 15, 2010. ( Id. ) Mitchell filed a grievance over his discharge, arguing that he should not be discharged because his absence should have been excused under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") or considered a vacation day. ( Id. ¶ 37.) On June 28, 2010, Mitchell attended a grievance committee meeting to review his discharge. ( Id. ¶ 38.) The grievance committee was composed of employer and union representatives. ( Id. ¶ 37.) At the meeting, Mitchell did not allege that his discharge was motivated by discrimination or retaliation. ( Id. ¶ 39.) The committee upheld Mitchell's discharge. ( Id. ¶ 38.)

LEGAL STANDARD

A grant of summary judgment is proper "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). "There is no genuine issue of material fact when no reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party." Brewer v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill., 479 F.3d 908, 915 (7th Cir. 2007). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the facts before it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. McCann v. Iroquois Mem'l Hosp., 622 F.3d 745, 752 (7th Cir. 2010). The court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence. McCann v. Iroquois Mem'l Hosp., 622 F.3d 745, 752 (7th Cir. 2010).

ANALYSIS

YRC has moved for summary judgment on Mitchell's claim that YRC terminated him because he is African-American (Count I). YRC also contends that it is entitled to summary judgment on Mitchell's retaliation claim (Count II). The court will address each ...


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