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Welcher-Butler v. Donahoe

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

February 10, 2015

MICHELLE WELCHER-BUTLER, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK R. DONAHOE, [1] Postmaster General, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

CHARLES RONALD NORGLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michelle Welcher-Butler ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, sues her employer, Defendant Patrick R. Donahoe (now Megan J. Brennan), Postmaster General ("Defendant"), for retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e, et seq. Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Local Rule 56.1

The facts of this case are largely undisputed, in part because Plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of the Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1. The Court notes that Defendant properly served Plaintiff with a Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment, which also explains the procedural rules for summary judgment. See N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.2. As discussed below, the Court accepts as true all material facts submitted by Defendant and not properly disputed by Plaintiff.

"District courts have broad discretion to enforce and require strict compliance with their local rules." Benuzzi v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chi., 647 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Elustra v. Mineo, 595 F.3d 699, 710 (7th Cir. 2010)). "[C]ourts are required to give liberal construction to pro se pleadings... [but] pro se litigants are not excused from compliance with procedural rules." Pearle Vision, Inc. v. Romm, 541 F.3d 751, 758 (7th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted).

Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, a litigant opposing a motion for summary judgment must file "a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). In addition, a litigant opposing a motion for summary judgment must file "a statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, of any additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment, including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C).

Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's statement of facts; nor did she file her own statement of additional facts. Instead, Plaintiff merely filed a twenty-page response memorandum, which, in and of itself, violated the local rule prohibiting the filing of a brief in excess of fifteen pages without first seeking leave of Court. See N.D.Ill. L.R. 7.1. To the extent that Plaintiff attempts to dispute Defendant's facts or submit her own facts through her response memorandum, the Court rejects such proposed facts due to Plaintiff's noncompliance with the local rule. See Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., LLC, 401 F.3d 803, 810 (7th Cir. 2005) (finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ignored facts proposed within the plaintiff's response to the defendant's statement of facts, as opposed to in a separate statement of facts in accordance with Local Rule 56.1).

Because Plaintiff did not respond to Defendant's properly supported statement of material facts, Defendant's facts are deemed admitted. See N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) ("All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party."); see also Jupiter Aluminum Corp. v. Home Ins. Co., 225 F.3d 868, 871, (7th Cir. 2000) ("An answer that does not deny the allegations in the numbered paragraph with citations to supporting evidence in the record constitutes an admission." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

B. Facts

The following facts are undisputed. Plaintiff began working for the postal service in 1986. She began as a mail carrier in Chicago, and, in October of 1998, she was promoted to customer service supervisor. In 2007, Plaintiff was transferred from Chicago to the Oak Forest Post Office, where the worked as a customer service supervisor until her removal on March 28, 2011.

In August of 2008, Plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint against Keith Pugh, a manager in the Chicago District of the Postal Service, and Lorraine Diggs-Brown ("Diggs-Brown"), then-postmaster of the Oak Forest Post Office. The EEO complaint against Diggs-Brown related to a proposed letter of warning that Diggs-Brown issued to Plaintiff for failure to report an on-the-job vehicle accident in which she was involved. The decision to issue the letter of warning was upheld on November 20, 2008.

Diggs-Brown issued Plaintiff another proposed letter of warning in June of 2009, which was upheld on August 26, 2009. This letter cited Plaintiff for misconduct, including an improper entry of overtime hours on behalf of another employee, and various reporting and documentation errors which led to the loss of significant amounts of cash and postage stamp stock from a safe located on the premises. Following this disciplinary action, Plaintiff once again filed an EEO complaint against Diggs-Brown in January of 2010, which was then consolidated with her previous complaint from August of 2008. These complaints were dismissed pursuant to a settlement agreement in August of 2010, whereby Plaintiff received forty hours of sick leave.

On July 31, 2010, Diggs-Brown left the Oak Forest Post Office, and was replaced by the new postmaster, Demetria Charrier ("Charrier"). Upon arriving at the Oak Forest Post Office, Charrier was not personally familiar with Diggs-Brown, Plaintiff, or the EEO complaints. As part of her duties as postmaster of the Oak Forest Post Office, however, Charrier was responsible for authorizing the ...


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