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Makeda-Phillips v. White

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

May 29, 2015

MARION MAKEDA-PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS SECRETARY OF STATE, JESSE WHITE, DENISE WESTNEDGE, and MISTY CASKEY, Defendants.

OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, District Judge.

On November 7, 2014, pro se Plaintiff Marion Makeda-Phillips filed her Fourth Amended Complaint against Defendants Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Denise Westnedge, and Misty Caskey (d/e 62). Now pending are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 77), Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 81), and Defendants' Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Declaration (d/e 86).

The Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Declaration is GRANTED because the Declaration is neither an affidavit nor signed under penalty of perjury and the statements therein contradict Plaintiff's deposition testimony. Moreover, because Plaintiff has failed to produce evidence upon which a jury could find in her favor, Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED as to the federal claims, and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED. The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims, and those claims are dismissed without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff began working in the Illinois Secretary of State's Office in 1988. In 2009, Plaintiff began working as an Operations Associate in the Administrative Hearings Department of the Secretary of State's office. Defendant Westnedge was Plaintiff's supervisor. Defendant Caskey was Westnedge's assistant and also functioned as one of Plaintiff's supervisors. Defendant White is the Illinois Secretary of State.

Plaintiff indicates in her Motion for Summary Judgment that she is bringing her Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim only against her employer, Defendant White. She brings her remaining claims against Defendants Westnedge and Caskey in their individual capacities and Defendant White in his official capacity for prospective relief only. At the time of Plaintiff's deposition on December 17, 2014, Plaintiff was on sick leave but still employed by the Secretary of State's Office.

Plaintiff originally filed suit in November 2012. Plaintiff has several times requested the Court appoint her counsel. See d/e 3, 6, 14. The Court initially denied those requests. However, on September 3, 2014, United States Magistrate Judge Tom Schanzle-Haskins sua sponte reconsidered Plaintiff's motions requesting counsel and appointed counsel to represent Plaintiff. On September 17, 2014, counsel moved to withdraw on the basis that Plaintiff stated she did not want counsel. On September 30, 2014, following a hearing, this Court granted the motion to withdraw.

On November 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Fourth Amended Complaint. Plaintiff raises numerous claims purportedly pursuant to Title VI, the ADA, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Fourth Am. Compl. (d/e 62).[1] Plaintiff's allegations can be summarized as follows.

In Count I, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to intervene to protect Plaintiff from violations of her civil rights and conspired together to violate her civil rights. Plaintiff alleges she was suspended twice, once for "not being fast enough to complete mail" and once for making too "many mistakes and not completing other duties as assigned." Fourth Am. Compl. (d/e 62, p. 5 of 20). Plaintiff alleges she performed her duties in a competent and satisfactory manner but that she was suspended and refused a transfer on account of her race and because of her "Americans with Disability" claims. Id . (d/e 62, p. 6 of 20).

In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to intervene to protect Plaintiff from violations of her civil rights, conspired together to violate her civil rights, and breached a written contract by violating Secretary of State policies regarding oral and written warnings and suspensions. Plaintiff alleges she helped others with their job duties, but Plaintiff never received help.

In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to intervene to protect Plaintiff from violations of her civil rights, conspired together to violate Plaintiff's civil rights, and retaliated against Plaintiff when she asked for a transfer to a different department because Plaintiff went to the "human rights and equal employment office." See Id . (d/e 62, p. 9 of 20). The retaliation also included the two job suspensions.

In Count IV, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to intervene to protect Plaintiff from violations of her civil rights, failed to provide Plaintiff with necessary medical care, and conspired together to violate one or more of Plaintiff's civil rights. Plaintiff also alleges Defendant White knew about the civil rights violations and ignored them. According to Plaintiff, Defendant White received numerous e-mails and a visit from union stewardess Pam Fernandez concerning Plaintiff's civil rights being violated and he ignored everything.

In Count V, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to intervene to protect Plaintiff from violations of her civil rights, failed to provide Plaintiff with necessary medical care, and conspired together to violate one or more of Plaintiff's civil rights. Plaintiff asked to be transferred to Chicago, but these requests were allegedly denied due to her race and disability. Plaintiff claims that Mary Tumulty received the Chicago position even though Plaintiff had more "years" and experience.

In Count VI, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to intervene to protect Plaintiff from violations of her civil rights and conspired together to violate one or more of Plaintiff's civil rights. Plaintiff asked for help processing the mail, but she was denied help several times. Plaintiff had to assist other job workers with their job duties. Plaintiff was threatened with discipline on December 1, 2010. Plaintiff also wrote in her Fourth Amended Complaint: "Discriminatory Workplace Harassment." Fourth Am. Compl. (d/e 62, p. 15 of 20). Plaintiff asserts she was threatened with discipline by "[D]efendant" on December 1, 2010 and that "Defendant instructed Plaintiff to put aside her job duties to help others with their job duties." See Fourth Am. Compl. (d/e 62, p. 16 of 20).

On October 14, 2014, Judge Schanzle-Haskins extended discovery to January 28, 2015 and extended the dispositive motion deadline to February 13, 2015. On December 17, 2014, Defendants deposed Plaintiff. When questioned about her claims, what happened, and what evidence she had, Plaintiff responded that she did not recall or did not remember. In fact, throughout the deposition, Plaintiff answered that she did not know, did not recall, or did not remember over 170 times.

One week later, on December 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. She supports her Motion with various documents, including unsworn statements, her suspension letters, e-mails, documents filed in the Illinois Human Rights Commission, earlier versions of Plaintiff's complaints, Plaintiff's request for a transfer and reasonable accommodation, and documents filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), such as the Charge of Discrimination and the Dismissal and Notice of Rights. Plaintiff also filed a Declaration (d/e 84).

On February 4, 2015, Defendants filed their response to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and their Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 81). Defendants also filed a Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Declaration (d/e 86). Defendants seek summary judgment on the basis that Plaintiff has no evidence supporting any of the claims she makes against Defendants. Defendants also argue they are entitled to qualified immunity as to the § 1983 claims.[2]

Defendants attached to their Motion the affidavits of Defendants Westnedge and Caskey, which provide the following information.

Westnedge holds the position of "Executive II" with the Illinois Secretary of State's Administrative Hearings Department. Westnedge Aff. ¶ 1, Defs.' Cross-Motion, Exhibit 2 (d/e 82-2). Westnedge supervised Plaintiff from 2009 through 2012. Id . ¶¶ 6, 8. Over the course of several years up until the time Plaintiff took leave, Plaintiff's work performance was consistently deficient. Id . ¶ 7.

Plaintiff's job duties included handling incoming mail, which involved opening envelopes, date-stamping correspondence, and sorting and distributing the mail to the correct individual or section. Id . ¶ 9. Plaintiff had difficulty completing those tasks on a daily basis, distinguishing between the various forms used by the Department, and determining to which person or Department the form should be delivered. Id . ¶ 10. Plaintiff's mistakes were discussed with her personally with no improvement in her performance. Id . ¶ 15. Plaintiff also received several counseling sessions for her work deficiencies. Id . ¶ 20.

On May 2, 2011, Plaintiff was orally warned as a form of discipline with respect to her deficiencies. Id . ¶ 21. On July 28, 2011, Plaintiff received a written warning. Id . ¶ 23. In June 2012, Plaintiff was suspended from June 25, 2012 through July 4, 2012. Id.

Westnedge asserts that Plaintiff's performance issues significantly impaired the efficient functioning of the office, resulting in delayed work and time taken away from supervisors and other employees' duties. Id . ¶ 25. Westnedge asserts that Plaintiff's job performance reflected that Plaintiff was not qualified to perform the tasks required of an "operations assistant" in the office. Id . ¶ 26. In Westnedge's nearly 20 years of experience in the Department, "one person has been able to satisfactorily perform in one day the tasks assigned to" Plaintiff. Id . ¶ 25.

Defendant Caskey is a supervisor of the support services section of the Administrative Hearings Department. Caskey Aff. ¶¶ 1, 2, Defs.' Cross-Motion, Exhibit 3 (d/e 82-2). Caskey began working with Plaintiff in 2009. Id . ¶ 5. She functioned as one of Plaintiff's supervisors. Id . ¶ 6.

Caskey worked with Westnedge to try to help Plaintiff address her performance issues. Id . ¶ 7. The entire time Caskey worked with Plaintiff, Plaintiff had problems handling incoming mail, date-stamping correspondence, and sorting and distributing the mail to the correct individual or section. Id . ¶ 8. After Plaintiff took medical leave in December 2012, Plaintiff's job duties were assigned to another employee in the Department. Id . ¶ 9. That employee was able to perform Plaintiff's job in addition to her own job by the close of business each day. Id . Subsequently, another employee was given the job of handling the daily mail, and she, too, has been able to complete those duties in addition to other assigned duties. Id.

After Defendants filed their Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court sent Plaintiff a notice that the motion had been filed and gave Plaintiff the following admonition:

When a motion for summary judgment is made and properly supported, you must not simply rely upon the allegations made in your complaint. Rather, you must respond by affidavit(s) or as otherwise provided in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a copy of which is attached. Your response must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. If you do not submit affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting ...

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