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Chapman v. Simplex, Inc.

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

January 30, 2017

MELVIN K. CHAPMAN, SR., Plaintiff,
SIMPLEX, INC., Defendant.



         Plaintiff Melvin K. Chapman, Sr., filed a two-count Complaint asserting that his employer, Simplex, Inc., discriminated based on race by denying him economic opportunities in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count II).

         Pending before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         It is allowed.


         Melvin K. Chapman (“the Plaintiff” or “Chapman”) is an adult black male. Simplex, Inc. (“the Defendant” or “Simplex”) is located within this judicial district and is engaged in the business of manufacturing load banks and fuel supply systems that work in conjunction with backup power control and delivery.

         On January 12, 2006, the Plaintiff applied for an auto Computer Assisted Drawing (“CAD”) technician position that Simplex advertised in the State Journal-Register. The Defendant's president testified he does not know if there is a job description for CAD technician positions.

         The Plaintiff did not possess a bachelor's degree or an associate's degree. Although Chapman's application materials provided that he had completed numerous CAD courses, he did not have a certificate of completion in computer-aided drafting or any experience. Chapman still had one additional class to complete in blue print reading before he could obtain a certificate of completion as a CAD technician. Therefore, Chapman had no degree, no job experience and no certificate of completion as an auto CAD technician when he applied at Simplex for the auto CAD position.

         The cover letter and resume did reveal that Chapman had extensive welding and fabrication experience. Chapman admits he had 30 years of experience as a welder when he applied at Simplex and was much more qualified as a welder than a CAD technician. Simplex hired Chapman at the age of 62 to work as a welder. Chapman may have been the only African-American working in the mechanical engineering department at Simplex.

         On July 2, 2007, the Defendant promoted the Plaintiff to a CAD technician. Chapman claims Simplex discriminated against him based on race when Simplex hired him as a welder, instead of a CAD technician, because Simplex hired Aaron Antonacci in 2008 with no more experience or credentials than Chapman had when he applied at Simplex to be a CAD technician. After hearing Antonacci discuss his education and his experience in the break room at Simplex in 2008, Chapman concluded he had been the victim of discriminatory hiring practices in 2006. However, Chapman never reported his beliefs or perception to his supervisor or management. Chapman also did not file a complaint with any administrative agency or initiate litigation.

         By the time of his promotion to CAD technician, the Plaintiff had a CAD certificate. During or before his employment with Simplex, Chapman had applied only at a “temp” agency to become a CAD technician.

         On or about March 15, 2011, Chapman said he saw a noose hanging from the side of a file cabinet at co-worker Jeff Strawn's desk while Chapman was getting some documents or blueprints. Chapman said he asked Strawn if that was a fisherman's knot. Strawn stated that if Chapman found the knot offensive, he would take it down. Chapman replied he found the knot offensive and Strawn immediately took the knot down. It was well over three years before Chapman mentioned the noose to Simplex officials-in September 2014. Chapman did not report the incident to a supervisor or management or raise the allegation at the fact-finding conference.

         In January 2010, following the earthquake in Haiti, the Plaintiff reported that Jeff Strawn stated that the people on the news the previous night looked “like fu****g monkeys.” Chapman admitted he did not report the comment to his supervisor or management. Chapman did not say anything to Strawn at that time. Moreover, Chapman did not bring it up at the fact-finding conference before the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Chapman did not complain about Strawn's comment for over four years.


         In July 2007, the Plaintiff's first performance appraisal as a draftsman rated his “overall rating” as below expectations. The accuracy, clarity, consistency, and thoroughness of work, as well as the quality control and attention to detail were below expectations. Chapman's ability to meet productivity goals/standards, and his ability to effectively handle pressure and stress were below expectations as well. The appraisal also stated that Chapman “needs to pay closer attention to details. Drafting skills require further refinement to move on to more complicated tasks. Pace of work must be improved without compromising accuracy.”

         On June 1, 2008, the Defendant hired Aaron Antonacci through a “CAD Technician Internship.” Simplex employed Antonacci as an intern as part of a CAD certificate program at Lincoln Land Community College (“LLCC), where Antonacci had a grade point average of 3.5 out of 4.0. Simplex received 50% reimbursement of Antonacci's student's salary during the cooperative work study experience for that semester according to Mary Beth Ray, the Director of Career Development for LLCC.

         The Plaintiff received his next job performance appraisal in July of 2008. Chapman was again rated below expectations in “quantity of work” and “quality of work.” Comments on the July 2008 Performance Appraisal include “details and accuracy on DWG features require continuous diligence. Pace of work has continued. Continued improvement is expected.” The overall rating was meets expectations. Areas needing attention and improvement were identified as “pace of work and attention to detail requires continuous diligence for improvement. Double check flat patterns for accurate and complete feature placement.”

         The August 2008 Performance Appraisal for Aaron Antonacci had no below expectation marks and included several exceeds expectations ratings. The overall rating for Antonacci was meets expectations and the appraiser's comments stated, “Aaron has done a good job of learning our products and procedures and needs to gain a deeper understanding of our product design.”

         The Plaintiff's next performance appraisal in July 2009 did not include any below expectation notations. Comments in the performance appraisal included an assessment that Chapman's “work quality and pace has improved. Continued improvement expected.” Chapman's next performance appraisal in July 2010 had an overall rating of “meets expectations.” Areas needing attention and improvement included “continued improvement of pace of work and attention to detail is expected.”

         Aaron Antonacci's August 2010 performance appraisal did not include an overall rating but did include 12 areas where he exceeded expectations. Comments included in the area of improvement and major accomplishments in Antonacci's appraisal stated “Aaron does not have an electrical background, but has done a very good job of learning the basics.” The appraiser's comments also stated “Aaron is able to take basic instructions (start from WOXXXXX and change these things) and produce accurate drawings. This ability increases the throughput in engineering.”

         The Plaintiff's July 2011 Performance Appraisal did not include any substandard performance categories, but did include the following comments for areas to improve upon: “encourage renewed commitment to accurate speedy completion of projects.”

         Aaron Antonacci's August 2011 Performance Appraisal included five areas of exceeds expectations and additional appraisal comments stating: “Aaron does an excellent job. Works very efficiently. Very few errors. Able to work with minimal guidance.”

         In January 2012, the Defendant promoted Aaron Hashman from a welder position to a CAD technician and paid Hashman $14.10 an hour. Hashman, a Caucasian, had worked as a welder at Simplex from May 19, 2008, until he was promoted to CAD technician in January 2012. It took Hashman almost four years to be promoted to CAD technician, as compared to Chapman's year and-a-half. Chapman had been getting paid thirty cents ($.30) more per hour than Hashman at the time of Hashman's promotion to a draftsman, making $14.40 an hour since July 27, 2011, compared to the $14.10 per hour Hashman was paid.

         The Plaintiff's July 2012 Performance Appraisal once again included comments under his “areas to improve upon” which stated “improvement of accuracy, pace of work and attention to detail are always expected.”

         Aaron Antonacci's August 2012 Performance Appraisal included five “exceeds” ratings and stated the following, “Aaron is our ‘go to' guy in drafting. He gets all the difficult projects and does an excellent job.”

         In April 2012, four months after Aaron Hashman had become a drafter in the electrical engineering department, his performance appraisal included two substandard ratings because Hashman was still learning the products and not familiar with end users. Hashman's appraisal also stated under management comments that “we will have Aaron spend some time in wiring, assembly, and testing to become more familiar with our products. He has expressed an interest in attending an electrical class at LLC.”

         In September 2012, Simplex employee Ernie Poani received a performance appraisal in which he was rated adequate in all performance measures, but which included additional comments stating his “work speed needs to increase.”

         On August 23, 2012, Simplex completed its last performance appraisal on the Plaintiff the morning of his termination from employment, which again included comments under “Areas to Improve Upon” stating: “Attention to detail, increased pace of work and improved accuracies always expected.” Garland Stevens, Chapman's immediate supervisor, testified that he did not know Chapman was going to be terminated in the afternoon when he completed Chapman's performance appraisal that morning. However, Stevens reiterated that Chapman needed to improve the pace of his work and also be more accurate in the work that he performed. Simplex President Thomas Debrey ...

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