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McMahon v. Dunlap Community Unit School District No. 323

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

April 6, 2017

BRETT MCMAHON, Plaintiff,
v.
DUNLAP COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 323, JAY MARINO, former Superintendent, in his individual Capacity, and LISA PARKER, then Assistant Superintendent of Schools, in her induvial capacity. Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          JAMES E. SHADID CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion [13] for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion [13] is GRANTED.

         Background

         The District

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are not in dispute. Defendant Dunlap Community Unit School District No. 323 (the “District”) operates a school district in Peoria County, Illinois. At all times relevant to this dispute, Defendant Jay Marino was the District's Superintendent. Defendant Lisa Parker was the District's Assistant Superintendent from 2008 to 2014. Thereafter, she served as Interim Superintendent until she was named Superintendent in January 2015. As Assistant Superintendent, Defendant Parker oversaw the operations of the District. The directors of the various departments, including the Buildings and Grounds Department, reported to Parker. Jim Everett was the Director of Buildings and Grounds in 2013, where he supervised custodial and maintenance employees including Plaintiff Brett McMahon, Phyllis Skinner, and Nancy Riekena. Parker had the primary authority for employment decisions for the departments within her purview, upon the advice of the department directors. However, Parker did not interview candidates; rather, the department directors hired their own staff and reported to Parker for approval. If Parker approved a candidate, she would speak with Superintendent Marino and submit the decision to the District's Board of Education for final approval. Doc. 13, SOF ¶¶ 1-8.

         The Plaintiff

         Brett McMahon began working for the District in the summer of 2011. His position is currently groundskeeper, which is a part-time, seasonal position done exclusively-or at least largely-outside.[1] The parties dispute whether McMahon ever asked about being hired as a fulltime. However, McMahon never submitted a written request for, and had never met with or asked Parker about, a full time position prior to July 2013. McMahon has never spoken to Superintendent Marino. Doc. 13, SOF ¶¶ 9-15.

         The Custodians

         The basis of this dispute arises out of the District's decision to reclassify Nancy Riekena and Phyllis Skinner from part-time to full-time custodians. Nancy Riekena was hired as a part-time custodian in July 2008, where she worked seven hours per day at the grade school building doing cleaning and maintenance. She also worked many events for which she was paid overtime. Prior to 2013, Riekena applied for full time positions three different times and was rejected each time. Phyllis Skinner, or “PJ, ” was hired as a part-time custodian and assigned to the high school in 2010. She started out working three hours per night, which increased to five hours once she took over the District's mail route. She also worked various events to increase her hours, and by June 2013, she was averaging between 35-45 hours per week. Like Riekena, Skinner has previously applied for a full time position for which she was turned down. McMahon admitted that he had no issues with Riekena or Skinner's job performance or qualifications, nor did Director Everett take issue with their ability to perform custodial work. Id. at ¶¶ 16-21.

         The District's Policy Change

         In 2013, the District enacted a policy change limiting part-time employees to working 29 hours or fewer per week. The District's reason for the change was to avoid the expense of providing health insurance to part-time employees, which it anticipated it would be required to provide to employees working more than 29 hours each week. Thus, at a meeting in June of 2013, the District's Human Resources Director, Erik Christian, informed part-time Buildings and Grounds employees that they would no longer be permitted to work more than 29 hours. Fulltime employees were not affected by the change. Id. at ¶¶ 21-23.

         Shortly after the meeting, Riekena and Skinner were informed that, effective July 1, 2013, they would be reclassified from their positions as part-time employees to full-time employees. Both Riekena and Skinner had been working 37 to 38 hours per week prior to the reclassification, whereas other part-time custodians were working around 30 hours. Everett specifically told Riekena and Skinner that they were being reclassified because they had been doing full-time work and were working full-time hours. Riekena and Skinner each testified that they would not be able to complete their job responsibilities at 29 hours a week. If Riekena and Skinner were not promoted to full-time, each of their jobs would have had to been separated into two part-time positions. The Parties dispute whether Riekena and Skinner's change in status from part-time to full-time constituted a new position or opening, or whether it was simply a reclassification. However, Plaintiff does not dispute that McMahon was not similarly reclassified because the groundskeeper position was a part-time position and the District did not believe it was necessary to make the groundskeeper position full-time. Id. at ¶¶ 23-29.

         Parker's Alleged Discrimination

         Plaintiff alleges that Parker's decision to make Riekena and Skinner full-time employees, and not McMahon, amounts to gender-based discrimination. The District's motion states, and Plaintiff does not dispute, the following facts in support of their argument that there is no evidence of discrimination: (1) Everett testified that Parker treats everyone fairly and does not treat employees differently based upon their sex, and has no reason to believe that sex played any role in Riekena or Skinner receiving a full-time position; (2) Neither Everett nor Plaintiff ever heard Parker making sexist comments; (3) Parker's affidavit states that the decision to reclassify Skinner and Riekena as full-time employees was not motivated by their sex; (4) McMahon admitted that he does not believe any other individual besides Parker took any action against him because of his sex; (5) McMahon admitted that he did not know if Parker's decision was motivated by sex; and (6) the only person McMahon could identify to support his claim that “men's positions were eliminated” at the District resigned and was replaced by another male. Plaintiff disputes Defendants' assertion that the only evidence he provided to support his discrimination claim is his belief that Parker is “partial to women, ” because “there is evidence that he had superior qualifications and was not considered for the job.” Plaintiff also disputes counsel's characterization of McMahon's testimony regarding whether Riekena and Skinner's interactions with Parker while delivering mail influenced Parker's decision. Id. at ¶¶ 30-37.

         Plaintiff's Additional Facts

         Plaintiff states the following as additional material facts, which are based almost entirely on McMahon's own deposition testimony and largely disputed by Defendants. McMahon had been involved in construction for a long time, and built and renovated many homes. When a custodian called in sick, McMahon would leave his grounds post to fill in at the school doing janitorial work, and he allegedly had superior “all around skills” compared to the other employees. Plaintiff also alleges that Everett and Peterson told McMahon when he was hired in 2011 that the position would ultimately be full time. According to McMahon, Everett thought he would be a good replacement for him, but when McMahon submitted an application for Buildings and Grounds Director in 2014 (after Riekena and Skinner were promoted to full-time) he never heard back from anyone. After learning that Riekena and Skinner were given full-time positions, McMahon complained to Everett that he was not given an opportunity to apply. Everett and Principal Welsh allegedly gave no reason for the decision to McMahon, and Skinner allegedly told McMahon “I know you have a greater skill set, Bret [sic]. I know you do, but they fucked you. I am sorry about this.” Doc. 19, ¶¶ 1-11.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the movant shows, through “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations … admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” 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. In resolving a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994).

         In order to withstand a motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). When presented with a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the record “in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and avoid[] the temptation to decide which party's version of the facts is more likely true.” Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). If the evidence, however, is “merely colorable, or is not significantly probative or merely raises ‘some metaphysical doubt as the material facts, ' summary judgment may be granted.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50. Thus, in order to overcome the undisputed facts set forth in a defendants' motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff cannot rest on the allegations in his complaint but must point to affidavits, depositions or other evidence of an admissible sort that a genuine dispute of material fact exists between parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2); Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309 (1996).

         Analysis

         (A) Compliance with Local Rule 7.1(D)

         Before addressing the merits of Defendants' motion, the Court will briefly address Plaintiff's argument regarding the inefficiency of summary judgment motions and limited role of the courts in deciding them. The Court agrees that summary judgment is a strong remedy, and recognizes that its role is not to weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. Indeed, “[t]he court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). However, the parties “bear a concomitant burden to identify evidence that will facilitate this assessment.” Id. The Court's Local Rules are designed to facilitate the parties by “making their respective summary judgment obligations explicit.” Id. at 921.

         Local Rule 7.1(D)(2)(b) provides that responses to motions for summary judgment must state, in separate subsections: undisputed material facts, disputed material facts, disputed immaterial facts, undisputed immaterial facts, and additional material facts. Local Rule 7.1(D)(2)(b)(6) cautions that “[a] failure to respond to any numbered fact will be deemed an admission of the fact.” Id. This rule consistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provide that when a party who fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may, inter alia, “consider the fact undisputed for the purposes of the motion.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(e)(2). Here, Plaintiff's fails to comply with the formatting requirements of Local Rule 7.1(D)(2) because his response does not distinguish between material and immaterial facts.

         Additionally, some of Plaintiff's responses in his “Disputed Facts” do not actually dispute the Defendants' asserted fact. For example, Defendant's SOF 11 states that as a groundskeeper Plaintiffs work is done exclusively outside, custodians work exclusively inside, and they two are completely different jobs. Plaintiff's response states that this fact is disputed because Plaintiff's job was reclassified from custodial to groundskeeper the day before the deposition. However, that response does not dispute the Defendants' primary assertion-that Plaintiff has always worked outside and his job has always been different than that of the custodians. The same goes for Defendants' S O F 12, which states that Plaintiff never asked Everett about being hired as a custodian. Plaintiff's response disputes this fact, stating that Everett told him his employment would ultimately lead to a full time position. Again, that response does not dispute (a) whether Plaintiff asked Everett about being hired (b) as a custodian.

         Similarly, Defendants' S O F 13 states that Plaintiff never submitted a request in writing for a full time position. Plaintiff's response disputes that fact because “appointments were made and McMahon was never given an opportunity to apply.” That response does not actually dispute that McMahon never submitted a request in writing, it just argues that his failure to apply is not relevant. In other words, the response is more appropriately designated as an undisputed immaterial fact. Argumentative responses that simultaneously deny the veracity of a defendant's proposed material fact and present separate, additional facts ...


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