United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. LEE, United States District Judge
Johnson (“Johnson”), a pro se plaintiff,
has sued the Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”)
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), and
42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that CTA discriminated
against him on the basis of his gender and retaliated against
him for engaging in statutorily protected activity. CTA has
moved for summary judgment as to these claims. For the
reasons stated herein, CTA's motion  is granted.
a municipal corporation that provides public transportation.
Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 4, ECF No. 90. In
February 2009, CTA hired Johnson as an administrative manager
in its Bus Operations Department. Id. ¶ 5. In
spring 2013, bus operators at Johnson's work location had
to “re-pick their runs” as a result of an error
that Johnson made. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10-11.
Because his error caused this “re-pick, ” Johnson
was suspended from work for three days as of May 1, 2013.
Id. ¶¶ 8-12.
was suspended by his male supervisor, Adrian Lewis.
Id. ¶ 12. According to Johnson, however, Lewis
suspended him only because Lewis's female supervisor,
Mersija Besic, instructed him to do so. Pl.'s LR
56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 12. Johnson believes he was
suspended because Besic and another female employee, Monica
McMillan-Robinson, thought Johnson had insulted them in
meetings and therefore disliked him. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3)
Stmt. ¶ 15.
2, 2013, the day after he was suspended, Johnson sent a
letter to then-CTA President Forrest Claypool. Id.
¶ 17. In his letter, Johnson stated that his suspension
was the result of the “personal feelings” that
Besic felt toward him. Id. ¶ 20. The letter did
not claim that Johnson had been suspended because of his
gender. Id. ¶ 22. Nor did it advance any
allegations of discrimination. Id. ¶ 19.
21, 2013, several weeks after his suspension, Johnson filed a
complaint with Bethany Drucker, an employee in CTA's
Equal Employment Opportunity Unit. Id. ¶¶
25-26. The parties disagree as to whether Johnson's
complaint to Drucker involved allegations of discrimination
in violation of Title VII. Id. ¶ 27; Pl.'s
LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt. ¶ 27.
September 11, 2013, CTA's Board of Directors passed an
ordinance abolishing dozens of positions within CTA's
workforce. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 32,
34; id., Ex. 12, at 1. Among other positions, the
ordinance approved the abolishment of “[u]p to 7”
positions with the title “Manager, Administration -
Bus.” Id., Ex. 12, at 3. That same day, CTA
notified all employees holding “Manager,
Administration” positions within the Bus Operations
Department-including Johnson-that their positions had been
abolished. Id. ¶ 36.
Johnson was notified that his position would be abolished, he
applied for other CTA jobs at the encouragement of
McMillan-Robinson-one of the same women who, according to
Johnson, had played a role in Johnson's suspension
several months prior. Def.'s LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶
40. Johnson applied for the positions of Senior Manager and
General Manager, but he was not hired. Id.
¶¶ 41, 43. Johnson's employment at CTA was
therefore terminated on December 31, 2013. Id.
court shall grant summary judgment 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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Shell v. Smith, 789
F.3d 715, 717 (7th Cir. 2015). To survive summary judgment,
the nonmoving party must “do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,
” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and instead must
“establish some genuine issue for trial such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict in her favor.”
Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674 F.3d 769, 772-73
(7th Cir. 2012).
reviewing a motion for summary judgment, courts “must
construe all facts and reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party.” Dorsey, 507 F.3d at 627. But
“[i]nferences that are supported by only speculation or
conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment motion.”
Id. (quoting McDonald v. Vill. of Winnetka,
371 F.3d 992, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). “[S]aying so doesn't make it so; summary
judgment may only be defeated by pointing to admissible
evidence in the summary judgment record that creates a
genuine issue of material fact.” United States v.
5443 Suffield Terrace, Skokie, Ill., 607 F.3d 504,
510-11 (7th Cir. 2010).
Gender Discrimination Under Title VII and §
Johnson claims that CTA discriminated against him on the
basis of his gender in violation of Title VII and § 1983
by suspending him for three days in May 2013 and later
terminating his employment. Employment discrimination claims
brought under Title VII and § 1983 are governed by the
same legal standards. Steinhauer v. DeGolier, 359
F.3d 481, 483 (7th Cir. 2004); Hildebrandt v. Ill.
Dep't of Nat. Res., 347 F.3d 1014, 1036 (7th Cir.
2003). Thus, to avoid summary judgment on his discrimination
claims, Johnson must show that the evidence, considered as a
whole, would permit a reasonable fact finder to conclude that
his gender caused his suspension or termination. Ortiz v.
Werner Enters., Inc., 834 F.3d 760, 765 (7th Cir. 2016);
Steinhauer, 359 F.3d at 483.
the ways-though not the exclusive way-that Johnson can make
this showing is by using the burden-shifting framework set
forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S.
792 (1973). See David v. Bd. of Trustees of Cmty. Coll.
Dist. No. 508, 846 F.3d 216, 224 (7th Cir. 2017). In a
“reverse discrimination” case such as the present
one, McDonnell Douglas asks the plaintiff to make a
prima facie case of discrimination by establishing
that: “(1) background circumstances exist to show an
inference that the employer has reason or inclination to
discriminate invidiously against whites [or men, ] or
evidence that there is something ‘fishy' about the
facts at hand; (2) he was meeting his employer's
legitimate performance expectations; (3) he suffered an
adverse employment action; and (4) he was treated less
favorably than similarly situated individuals who are not
members of his protected class.” Formella v.
Brennan, 817 F.3d 503, 511 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Ballance v. City of Springfield, 424 F.3d 614, 617
(7th Cir. 2005)) (internal quotation marks omitted);
accord Gore v. Indiana Univ., 416 F.3d 590, 592 (7th
Cir. 2005). If the plaintiff establishes these prima
facie elements, the burden shifts to the defendant to
provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the
adverse employment action. Formella, 817 F.3d at
511. In turn, if the defendant meets this burden, the burden
shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the defendant's
asserted nondiscriminatory reason is mere pretext for
reasons explained below, with or without the McDonnell
Douglas framework, no reasonable fact finder considering
the evidence as a whole could conclude that CTA discriminated
against Johnson on the basis of his gender. CTA is therefore
entitled to summary judgment in its favor as to Johnson's