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Rodriguez v. Johnson

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

June 2, 2015

Martin Rodriguez, Plaintiff,
v.
Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MANISH S. SHAH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This suit arises under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Plaintiff, a former Transportation Security Administration employee, claims his supervisor discriminated against him on the basis of race by maintaining a hostile work environment. Defendant, the former employer, denies this claim and moves for summary judgment. For the following reasons, defendant’s motion is granted.

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate 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. Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “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 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

II. Background

From 2009 to 2012, plaintiff Martin Rodriguez, who is Hispanic, worked as a security manager with the Transportation Security Administration at O’Hare International Airport. [62] ¶¶ 2, 36. Art Bell, who is white, supervised plaintiff throughout this time. Id. ¶¶ 3–4. Plaintiff claims Bell created a work environment that was hostile to him as a Hispanic person, and, in support of this claim, points to a series of incidents that took place over the three years in question.

Harriet Pease Incident

In August 2009, plaintiff recommended that an employee named Harriet Pease be terminated after she allowed a traveler, who had set off the metal detector, to leave the area without further screening. Id. ¶ 6. When Bell learned of plaintiff’s recommendation, he called plaintiff and screamed expletives at him. Id. ¶ 7. He yelled things like, “I can’t believe you’re going to fire this fucking employee.” Id. ¶ 7. Bell made these comments in front of Pease and someone named Marlene Brunson, who later approached plaintiff, asked if he was okay, and said Bell should not have done that to him. Id. ¶ 8. Bell and plaintiff subsequently met near Terminal 3 to talk about the incident. Id. ¶ 9. Bell once more yelled at plaintiff, this time in front of passengers as well as employees. Id.

Pease was eventually fired for either sleeping on the job or having her back turned to an exit she was supposed to be monitoring. Id. ¶ 10. This termination came upon the recommendation of Brunson, who is white. Id. Bell immediately agreed with Brunson. Id.

Beverage Incident

In August or September 2009, plaintiff and a co-worker named Ruben Chacon were walking near Terminal 3. Id. ¶ 11. Chacon was holding a drink in his hand. Id. Bell approached the two and said to Chacon, “What the fuck is this? You know, that looks like shit. Get that out of your hands. Get that out of your fucking hands.” Id. Bill Kane, another TSA manager, testified that he has seen employees and managers walking through the terminals with drinks in their hands, but he has never seen anyone be verbally disciplined for it. Id. ¶ 12.

Weekly Meetings

Managers and supervisors held weekly meetings. Id. ¶ 13. Bell would sometimes single out plaintiff and demean him in front of the others. Id. It would not happen at every meeting, but it happened enough for the others to take notice. Id. Bell would belittle plaintiff by cutting him off, refusing to take ...


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