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Damptz v. Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp.

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

September 5, 2017



          John J. Tharp, Jr., United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Michael Damptz claims he was discriminated against based on two disabilities and retaliated against twice over the course of more than seven years by his employer. His employer, Metra, has moved for summary judgment on all claims. Because Damptz has failed to demonstrate that several of his claims are timely, that he could continue to perform his job with reasonable accommodation, or that his employer had any retaliatory intent, the motion for summary judgment is granted in its entirety.


         1. Plaintiff's Non-compliance with Local Rule 56.1

         Before the Court can give the necessary background on this case, it must consider Plaintiff's compliance with Local Rule 56.1(b)(3). This rule requires a “concise response to the movant's statement” that must include specific references to the record in the event of a dispute and a short statement of numbered paragraphs that similarly reference the relevant record. Failure to comply with this rule results in the movant's factual allegations being deemed admitted. Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584 (N.D. Ill. 2000). Purely argumentative denials or meaningless facts (that is, those that do not require denial of summary judgment) are inappropriate in a response. Id. “[L]engthy recitations of additional facts” in responses to the movant's facts do not comply with L.R. 56.1(b)(3). Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 644 (7th Cir. 2008). The Court is entitled to require strict compliance with this rule. Flint v. City of Belvidere, 791 F.3d 764, 767 (7th Cir. 2015).

         Like the nonmovant in Ciomber, Plaintiff's response contained “several extremely long, argumentative paragraphs” in which he denied Metra's “proposed material facts and presented additional facts of his own.” Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 644. For example, Plaintiff's response to Metra's fact ¶ 7 (that Plaintiff was a member of a collective bargaining unit and subject to the CBA) runs almost three pages even though it is “undisputed as to the language” (whatever that means). See Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Facts (“PSOF”) ¶ 7, ECF No. 138. The response includes a discussion of 13 sections of the CBA, the job duties of Metra's Senior Director of EEO/Diversity Initiatives, and whether Damptz requested an accommodation. None of which, obviously, are relevant to whether Plaintiff was subject to the CBA or in a collective bargaining unit.

         Similarly, in response to Metra's fact ¶ 12 (that by August 2010, Plaintiff was the only Machinist Helper at Metra and Metra was in dire need of Machinists), Plaintiff disputed only the wore “dire” but then went on to discuss how Plaintiff felt about losing his seniority, job tasks Plaintiff could perform despite his disability, and the impact of Plaintiff's loss of seniority. See Id. at ¶ 12. Several of the facts alleged in this paragraph also lack citation to the record. Plaintiff's response to Metra's ¶ 13 similarly goes on for almost three pages and his response to ¶ 31 runs almost four pages. Plaintiff merely gave general denials and then referenced his rambling response to ¶ 7 in response to Metra's ¶ 25 and ¶ 26. Many of Plaintiff's responses include a citation to “RDF-PAG ___ ” (emphasis in original), which the Court takes to be an incomplete citation to an unknown and otherwise unidentified document. See Id. at ¶¶ 36, 37, 38, 39, 47, 48.

         Plaintiff's statement of additional facts also violates the Local Rule's requirement that such additional facts be confined to those “that require the denial of summary judgment.” L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(c). For example, one of Plaintiff's additional facts is “Arthur Olsen is Manager Mechanical Department Olsen first met Damptz in 2001.” Pl.'s Statement of Additional Facts (“PSAF”) ¶ 9. However, Olsen is not mentioned anywhere in Plaintiff's brief other than a vague reference to him among a list of employees whose depositions Metra did not rely upon. See Pl.'s Resp. at 6 (“Including Neir's significant testimony about Damptz as a qualified individual with a disability, Metra excludes the testimony of its employees: Countess Cary, Vol. II; Dubin; David May; Kevin Neir; Olsen; and Noelle Rodriguez.”). Similarly, ¶ 23 includes an irrelevant anecdote in which a supervisor once allegedly told Plaintiff to perform oral sex in exchange for a promotion. PSAF ¶ 23. Two of Plaintiff's “facts” simply state the content of attachments. See Id. at ¶¶ 25-26.

         The foregoing examples are merely illustrative but should suffice to explain why the Court chooses to strictly enforce L.R. 56.1 (which is essential to the Court's ability to determine whether disputes of material fact exist). Accordingly, the Court finds the following facts admitted.

         2. Relevant Facts

         Plaintiff Michael Damptz is an Illinois resident who has worked for many years for Metra (legally known as the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation). See Def.'s Statement of Facts (“DSOF) ¶¶ 1, 6. Plaintiff was hired by Metra as a Coach Cleaner in May 1988 and was promoted to Machinist Helper in October 1988. Id. at ¶ 6. In August 2010, Metra needed Machinists, so Plaintiff was promoted to Machinist (receiving a higher rate of pay and a new seniority date) and the Machinist Helper position was eliminated. Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13, 22.

         Machinists “inspect and repair running and dead trains, and rehab locomotives.” Id. at ¶ 15. Essential duties include using equipment such as air tools, impact guns, hammers, sledges, adjustable height ladders, and scissor lifts. Id. at ¶ 16. According to the Department of Labor, Machinists must frequently lift five pounds and occasionally lift up to 50 pounds, as well as frequently grasping, ambulating, finely manipulating, and reaching out. Id. at ¶ 17. At Metra, Machinists inspect locomotive engines, which can require climbing a ladder on the side of the engine, lifting over 20 pounds, using vibrating tools, grasping tools and parts, and lifting and working above the shoulder level. Id. at ¶ 20.

         Plaintiff was on medical leave from his job at Metra from June 2003 through June 23, 2004 and September 2005 to September 2008. DSOF ¶ 28. Plaintiff discovered he had hearing loss in 2007, which he blamed on his work at Metra. Id. at ¶ 30. In January 2009, Metra began requiring employees to wear hearing protection, but Plaintiff did not do so because he stated it interfered with his hearing aids. Id. at ¶¶ 31-32. Metra removed Plaintiff from work in February 2009 because he would not wear the hearing protection, but he was reinstated in June 2009, when he returned and agreed to wear hearing protection. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34. Also in June 2009, Plaintiff sued Metra under the Federal Employers' Liability Act for his hearing loss; that suit later settled. Id. at ¶ 35. At his deposition, Plaintiff stated he was satisfied with Metra's hearing protection and had not asked for different hearing protection or other protections. Id. at ¶ 36.

         On July 5, 2013 (almost three years after being promoted to Machinist), Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that his seniority date had been reset when he became a Machinist in retaliation for requesting an accommodation for his hearing loss. See Compl. Ex. 1. He also submitted an internal “protest letter” to the Chief Mechanical Officer regarding his seniority date on April 18, 2014. DSOF ¶ 38. Plaintiff continued to work ...

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