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Hood v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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

October 28, 2014

JONATHAN R. HOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, Defendant

Page 889

For Jonathon R. Hood, Plaintiff: David T. Rallo, LEAD ATTORNEY Chicago, IL; William Martin Walsh, Law Office of William M. Walsh, Chicago, IL.

For National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Defendant: Ross Harlan Friedman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Emily Anne Glunz, Mary Ellen Vales, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius Llp, Chicago, IL.

For Jesse Nunez, Defendant: Robert J. Drummond, LEAD ATTORNEY, Drummond Law Firm, Chicago, IL.

Page 890

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, United States District Court Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation's (Amtrak) motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part, the claims brought against Defendant Jesse Nunez (Nunez) under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Section 1981) are dismissed, and the remaining state law claims are dismissed without prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Jonathan R. Hood (Hood) allegedly began working for Amtrak in January 2010 as a mechanic at the Amtrak yard in Chicago (Chicago Yard). Nunez was allegedly another mechanic working at the Chicago Yard. Hood contends that he is " a white Caucasian-American," and that Nunez is " of Hispanic origin and descent." (A Compl. Par. 1, 3). According to Hood, prior to his being hired, Nunez and other Hispanic mechanics put pressure on Amtrak to hire a Hispanic contractor who was a friend of Nunez. Amtrak allegedly decided instead to hire Hood. Hood claims that he was harassed by Hispanic co-workers at the Chicago Yard who allegedly referred to him by names such as " gringo." Hood also claims that Hispanic co-workers stated that they would try to get him fired. Hood contends that he reported the harassment and that Amtrak did not address the problem. In 2010, Hood's employment was terminated (First Termination) during his probationary period by a Caucasian Superintendent due to his poor attitude at work. Hood allegedly appealed his termination to the Dispute Resolution Office and was reinstated.

Hood contends that he continued to suffer harassment at work. In 2011, Hood was involved in a physical altercation with Nunez (Nunez Altercation), resulting in disciplinary charges against Hood and Nunez. In March 2013, after Hood was again involved in a physical altercation at work, this time with Frank Zeimetz (Zeimetz), a Caucasian co-worker (Zeimetz Altercation),

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Hood was again charged with disciplinary violations. Hood was also provided with a disciplinary hearing and was found guilty of the charges. In addition, Zeimetz brought criminal charges against Hood, resulting in Hood's arrest. Hood was then terminated for a second time (Second Termination).

Hood includes in his amended complaint a hostile work environment claim brought against Amtrak under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I), a Title VII race discrimination claim brought against Amtrak (Count II), a Title VII retaliation claim brought against Amtrak (Count III), a Section 1981 race discrimination claim brought against Amtrak (Count IV), a Section 1981 retaliation claim brought against Amtrak (Count V), a Section 1981 discrimination claim brought against Nunez (Count VI), state law intentional infliction of emotional distress claims brought against Amtrak and Nunez (Count VII), state law assault and battery claims brought against Amtrak and Nunez (Count VIII), and a state law tortious interference with employment expectations claim brought against Nunez (Count IX). Amtrak now moves for summary judgment on all claims brought against it. Nunez has not filed a dispositive motion.

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, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (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. Objections to Statement of Additional Facts

Amtrak presents various objections to portions of Hood's statement of additional facts. Amtrak contends that Hood has presented too many facts, that certain facts are supported by inadmissible evidence, and that Hood has not properly cited to the record. Although Amtrak is correct that Hood has not complied with Local Rule 56.1, the resulting portions of Hood's statement of additional facts that could be stricken are immaterial to the ultimate outcome in this case. Thus, Amtrak's objections are moot.

II. Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim (Count I)

Amtrak moves for summary judgment on the Title VII hostile work environment claim. In order to defeat a defendant's motion for summary judgment on a Title VII hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must establish: (1) " that the work environment was both subjectively and objectively offensive," (2) " that the

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harassment was based on membership in a protected class," (3) " that the conduct was severe or pervasive," and (4) " that there is a basis for employer liability." Nichols v. Michigan City Plant Planning Dept., 755 F.3d 594, 600 (7th Cir. 2014)(internal quotations omitted)(quoting Alexander v. Casino Queen, Inc., 739 F.3d 972, 982 (7th Cir. 2014))(stating that " [t]he key inquiry is whether the conduct was so severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of the employment relationship" ).

A. Allegations Relating to African-American Co-workers

Amtrak correctly points out that in response to the instant motion Hood improperly attempts to support his hostile work environment claim by citing to alleged statements made by African-American co-workers. Under this new theory in the case, Hood contends that Hispanic and African-American co-workers created a hostile work environment for Hood. In addition, the statements allegedly made by African-American co-workers are different than those that Hood was previously asserting in regard to Hispanic Co-workers. For example, Hood claims in his amended complaint that the Hispanic co-workers were calling Hood names such as " Gringo," whereas he now contends that African-American co-workers made statements to Hood, such as that " Irish people were slavers." (A Comp. Par. 25); (Ans. SJ 4-5). However, Hood's amended complaint makes clear that his hostile work environment claim is premised on alleged harassment by Hispanic co-workers, and their dissatisfaction because Hood was hired in place of a Hispanic individual. Hood asserts in his amended complaint that he " was constantly subjected to severe and pervasive harassment by his Hispanic co-workers, including Nunez and some or all of the other Hispanic Mechanics." (A Compl. Par. 16). Hood also alleges that " the Hispanic employees, including Nunez, engaged in this harassment in order to affect adversely Plaintiff's job performance, and thereby cause the termination of Plaintiff's employment." (A Compl. Par. 17). Hood also alleges that " [s]everal of the Hispanic Mechanics . . . made recommendations to, and placed pressure upon, Amtrak management to hire the Hispanic Contractor," but that Hood was hired instead. (A Compl. Par. 13-14). Hood points to no references in his amended complaint to similar statements made by African-American co-workers.

The alleged statements by African-American co-workers that Hood now seeks to introduce were allegedly made directly to Hood. Hood thus should not have required any discovery to present a theory in this case that included alleged harassment by African-American co-workers. Hood contends that his charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) only generally referenced harassment based on his race. (Ans. SJ 4 n.1). However, Hood's EEOC charge does not determine the scope of his claims in the instant action. In bringing the instant action, Hood specifically chose in his amended complaint to limit the scope of his claims to alleged harassment by Hispanic co-workers. The court also notes that Hood has already been allowed to amend his complaint once in this case and has still failed to include the new theory that he now seeks to introduce. Nor has Hood sought leave to amend his complaint to address the new theory in this case. Thus, it is improper for Hood to rely upon the alleged statements made by African-American co-workers in responding to Amtrak's motion for summary judgment. The court also notes that even if such alleged statements by African-American co-workers were considered, Hood has failed to

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point to sufficient evidence to support his hostile work ...


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