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Agravante v. Potter

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

May 5, 2015

JUN P. AGRAVANTE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GEORGE M. MAROVICH, District Judge.

After his employment was terminated, plaintiff Jun P. Agravante ("Agravante") filed suit against defendant John E. Potter, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service ("defendant"). Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

Local Rule 56.1 outlines the requirements for the introduction of facts parties would like considered in connection with a motion for summary judgment. The Court enforces Local Rule 56.1 strictly. Facts that are argued but do not conform with the rule are not considered by the Court. For example, facts included in a party's brief but not in its statement of facts are not considered by the Court because to do so would rob the other party of the opportunity to show that such facts are disputed. Where one party supports a fact with admissible evidence and the other party fails to controvert the fact with citation to admissible evidence, the Court deems the fact admitted. See Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-818 (7th Cir. 2004). This does not, however, absolve the party putting forth the fact of its duty to support the fact with admissible evidence. See Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880 (7th Cir. 2012). Asserted "facts" not supported by specific pages of deposition testimony, documents, affidavits or other evidence admissible for summary judgment purposes are not considered by the Court.

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

Plaintiff Agravante, an Asian man, began his second term of employment with the postal service in 1989, when the postal service hired him as a letter carrier in Wheeling, Illinois. His first term of employment began in 1986, but he was soon discharged for poor performance. After he filed a complaint, the postal service allowed him to resign, which meant he could apply again in the future for employment. He did.

In 1993, Agravante transferred to the Wood Dale Post Office. By 2005, Agravante's supervisor at Wood Dale was Kusum Puri ("Puri"). Prior to 2010, Puri never disciplined Agravante. The events that lead to this lawsuit began in late 2009.

In October 2009, James Bailey ("Bailey") filed an internal EEO complaint. Bailey alleged that Puri had discriminated against him on the basis of his race and sex. Agravante participated in Bailey's EEO complaint by providing a written statement in support of Bailey's claim.

About a year later, Agravante began having performance problems. In September 2010, Puri issued Agravante a letter of warning. The reason for the letter of warning was that Agravante had failed to scan mail at five locations and that he failed to take responsibility for his mistakes. A few months later, in January 2011, Puri suspended Agravante for seven days, because he delivered a piece of express mail to the wrong address. The postal service discovered the problem when it was notified by the customer who received the mail.

In June 2011, Marcus Collins (who was, by this time, a supervisor) suspended Agravante for 14 days. Collins signed the notice of suspension as the supervisor, and Puri, who had become the Officer-in-Charge of the Wood Dale Post Office, signed the notice as the "Reviewing and Concurring Official." The reason for the suspension was that the postal service discovered that a package Agravante scanned and certified as delivered was still at the Wood Dale Post Office. Agravante's supervisors were not satisfied with Agravante's explanation, which was that he had accidentally scanned it and then forgot to deliver it.

Agravante, displeased with his fourteen-day suspension, filed an internal EEO complaint. Agravante's complaint was mediated on July 28, 2011. Agravante has put forth evidence (which defendant disputes) that, at the mediation, Puri stated that she was upset with Agravante because he had "turned his back on her" by providing written support for Bailey's EEO claim (back in October 2009) and had been ungrateful to her. At the mediation, the parties agreed to reduce the suspension from fourteen days to seven days.

Agravante was in trouble again in February 2012, when Collins suspended him for fourteen days. This time, Collins charged Agravante with failing to deliver a tub of priority mail before departing for a week of annual leave. Collins, as supervisor, signed the notice of suspension. Dawn Ellison, who was the Officer-in-Charge of the Wood Dale Post Office at the time, signed as the "Reviewing and Concurring Official."

In May 2012, Agravante and Puri had a conversation about headphones, but they disagree about the content of the conversation. The parties agree that, generally, the postal service allowed employees to use their headphones to listen to music while they worked. Agravante has put forth disputed evidence that on May 12, 2012, Puri told him that he could not listen to his headphones at work, because he was not listening to her service talks. Defendant has put forth evidence that Puri told Agravante he could not use his headphones during her service talks. At the time of the conversation, Agravante could see a white employee wearing headphones. Two days later, Puri raised her voice to Agravante and accused him of failing to deliver a piece of certified mail.

On June 19, 2012, Collins issued Agravante a notice of removal (i.e., discharge). Collins, as Agravante's supervisor, signed the notice of removal. Puri, as Officer-in-Charge of the Wood Dale Post Office, also signed the notice as the reviewing and concurring officer. The reason for the notice of removal was discarding for destruction mail marked "return to sender." Neither Puri nor Collins witnessed Agravante put ...


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