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Eyiowuawi v. County of Cook

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

September 19, 2017

COUNTY OF COOK, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Gbolahan R. A. Eyiowuawi brings suit against his former employer, Defendant Cook County, for allegedly discriminating against him on the basis of his sex and national origin and retaliating against him for filing discrimination complaints and an earlier lawsuit, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. Currently before the Court is Defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment [83]. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment [83]. As a housekeeping matter, Plaintiffs motion for leave to file a supplemental memorandum in response to Defendant's motion for summary judgment and Plaintiffs request to continue as pro se [86] is stricken as moot, as it is duplicative of Plaintiff's motion [89], which the Court granted in part and denied in part [91].[1] The Court will issue final judgment and close the case.

         I. Background

         The following facts are drawn primarily from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements of facts [57], [61], and [65].

         A. Plaintiff Applies for the Position of Home Transportation Supervisor

         Plaintiff Gbolahan R.A. Eyiowuawi is a male of Nigerian descent. [57, at ¶ 2.] Plaintiff worked for Defendant Cook County from April 1998 until his termination on June 29, 2005. [Id.] Between May 22, 2000 and June 7, 2005, Plaintiff worked in the Cook County Health and Hospitals (“CCHHS”) as a Scheduler Dispatcher in the Home Transportation Department within the Ambulatory and Community Health Network of Cook County (“ACHN”). [Id., at ¶ 4.] The Home Transportation Department was physically located at the far southeast corner of John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital. [Id.] Plaintiff was responsible for scheduling transportation for patients to and from CCHHS, including John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital or clinics. [Id., at ¶ 5.]

         Dennis Chevalier worked as the Director of Social Work for ACHN from approximately 2003 until approximately 2008. [Id., at ¶ 6.] His responsibilities included managing the staff of the Home Transportation Department. [Id.] In 2000, Chevalier interviewed and made the decision to hire Plaintiff. [Id., at ¶ 7.]

         In April 2003, there was an opening for the position of Home Transportation Supervisor.[2][65, at ¶ 2.] On April 3, 2003, Plaintiff submitted an application for this position to Chevalier. [Id.] Neither Chevalier nor any other representative of Defendant interviewed Plaintiff for the position or communicated with Plaintiff about his application. [Id.] Chevalier hired Martha Jones to fill the Home Transportation Supervisor position. [57, at ¶ 9.] When she was hired, Jones did not have any experience in transportation as far as dispatching and coordinating rides. [61, at ¶ 3; 57, Exhibit C (Chevalier Deposition), at 19:14-23.] However, she had been working for Defendant for many years. In total, Jones worked for Cook County for thirty-one years until she retired on December 27, 2013. [57, at ¶ 8.] Prior to her promotion to Home Transportation Supervisor, Jones managed the daily operations of the Fantus Clinic, which included the Home Transportation Department. Chevalier knew Jones to have superior administrative skills based on her reputation for her work at the Fantus Clinic. [65, at ¶ 3; 57, Exhibit C, at 62:3-63:13.]

         As Home Transportation Supervisor, Jones directly supervised the employees in the Home Transportation Department, including Plaintiff and Sandra Bright, who also worked as a Scheduler Dispatcher. [57, at ¶¶ 10-11.] Jones was Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. [61, at ¶ 3.] Although Jones memorialized and communicated workplace incidents to Chevalier, she did not function as the final decisionmaker in the disciplinary and grievance process of employees. [57, at ¶ 10.] Chevalier was the only person with authority to discipline employees in the Home Transportation Department. [Id., at ¶ 10.]

         B. Plaintiff's 2003 Lawsuit

         On September 17, 2003, Plaintiff filed a charge of national origin and sex discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). [Id., at ¶ 50.] It is undisputed that Chevalier was unaware that Plaintiff filed this charge until after Plaintiff was terminated. [Id., at ¶ 50.] On September 24, 2003, Plaintiff received a Right to Sue letter from the EEOC. [Id., at ¶ 52.]

         On December 24, 2003, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Case No. 03-cv-9345, alleging sex and national origin discrimination. [61, at ¶ 4.] Plaintiff named Chevalier and Jones as defendants, among others. [Id.] Several of the allegations in the complaint concerned the conduct of Chevalier and Jones. [Id.] Plaintiff contends that he mailed a copy of the 2003 complaint to each defendant, including Chevalier and Jones. [Id.] Defendant disputes that Plaintiff mailed a copy of the 2003 complaint to each defendant, including Chevalier and Jones, emphasizing that Chevalier and Jones specifically denied any recollection of prior knowledge of any charges or lawsuits related to Plaintiff. [65, at ¶ 4.] Additionally, no answer was ever filed in Plaintiff's 2003 lawsuit. Eiyowuwai v. John H Stroger Jr., No 03-cv-9435 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 24, 2003) [29].[3] The district court directed the U.S. Marshals Service to effectuate service on Plaintiff's behalf, but, as the Seventh Circuit noted, there is no indication in the record that Plaintiff ever delivered the necessary paperwork or paid any required fees to the Marshals Service. [Id.; Eyiowuawi v. John H. Stroger, Jr. Hosp. of Cook Cty., 146 F. App'x 57, 59 (7th Cir. 2005).] The district court set the case for a status hearing, and an assistant state's attorney appeared on behalf of Defendant and notified the court that none of the defendants had been served. [Eyiowuawi, 146 F. App'x at 59.] Plaintiff failed to appear for the status hearing, and on April 21, 2004, the district court dismissed the case for failure to prosecute. [Id.] The district court denied Plaintiffs motion to reconsider under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), and on September 5, 2005, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. [Id.]

         C. Plaintiffs April 23, 2004 IDHR Charge

         On April 23, 2004, Plaintiff filed charge number 2004-CF-3253 with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) alleging national origin discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation. [57, at ¶ 55.] It is undisputed that Chevalier was unaware that Plaintiff filed that charge. [Id., at ¶ 56.] Chevalier testified that he was unaware that Plaintiff initiated any proceedings with the EEOC, IDHR, or court until after Plaintiffs termination. [Id., at ¶ 56.] The charge specifically names Jones in several of its allegations. [65, at ¶ 5.] When Jones was asked when she became aware of Plaintiff's April 23, 2004 charge with the IDHR, she responded “probably in 2008.” [57, Exhibit D (Jones Deposition), at 21:23-22:1.] When pressed if her testimony was that she was not made aware of the charge until four years after it was filed, Jones stated, “I want to be truthful, but I can't remember the date because most of the stuff that I did was from 2008. I could have seen it sooner, but I am not sure.” [Id., at 22:2-9.] In his deposition, Plaintiff could not recall whether he ever served anyone with this IDHR charge. [57, at ¶ 60.] Plaintiff did not know whether Chevalier ever learned of this charge, and he denied that any co-worker learned of this charge. [Id.] Plaintiff admits that no Cook County employee, including Chevalier, Jones, Bright, or former co-worker Erma Brandy, ever spoke with Plaintiff about his IDHR charge number 2004-CF-3253. [Id., at ¶ 61.]

         After Plaintiff filed IDHR charge number 2004-CF-3253 on April 23, 2004, he remained employed with Defendant until his termination on June 7, 2005. [Id., at ¶ 62.] Between April 23, 2004 and his suspension on June 7, 2005, Defendant never denied Plaintiff any promotion opportunities, a requested transfer, or job or skills training, reduced his pay, nor did Defendant ever discipline Plaintiff or otherwise change the terms and conditions of his employment. [Id.] On his evaluation dated March 25, 2005, Plaintiff earned unsatisfactory performance grades. Specifically, he was categorized as an “unsatisfactory performer” in the following areas: (1) complies with patients' rights/safety policy; respect and dignity for patients, families, and visits; (2) demonstrates ability to be emotionally mature, objective and sensitive to people and their problems; (3) develops observable and measureable goals and expected outcomes in the areas of problem resolution, resource management, and patient satisfaction for each problem, issue or concern; (4) accepts supervision and constructive comments in an appropriate matter. [Id., at ¶ 63.] The evaluation was signed by Chevalier and Jones. [65, at ¶ 8.]

         Additionally, Defendant had previously disciplined Plaintiff on seven other occasions: (1) suspended for five days on February 21, 2002 for harassment and directed to receive Sexual Harassment training by the Human Resources Department; (2) counseled on May 28, 2003 for using sick time for court; (3) verbal reprimand on June 2, 2003 for returning late from lunch; (4) suspended for one day on August 14, 2003 for patient abuse; (5) verbal reprimand on January 22, 2004 for violation of dress code policy, lateness, and lack of professionalism; (6) written reprimand on February 24, 2004 for lateness; and (7) suspended twenty nine days on April 22, 2004 for mistreating or abusing employees, patients, or visitors, using profanity in the work area, and intimidation of patients, employees, or visitors. [57, at ¶ 64.] Chevalier made the decision to suspend Plaintiff for twenty nine days on April 22, 2004. [Id., at ¶ 65.]

         D. The June 7, 2005 Incident

         Plaintiff and Bright were the only two dispatchers assigned to work together from October 18, 2004 through June 7, 2005. [57, at ¶ 12.] Bright testified that on June 7, 2005, while at work, she walked down an aisle between the front desk area and file cabinets toward the refrigerator in the Home Transportation Department to retrieve her lunch. [57, at ¶ 13.] Bright testified that Plaintiff blocked her by rolling his chair into her path and grabbing her arms tightly. [Id.] Bright further testified that she was shocked and told Plaintiff to let her go. [Id., at ¶ 14.] Bright testified that she broke away from Plaintiff by jerking away from him and that Plaintiff seemed upset during the incident. [Id.] According to Bright, Plaintiff told her that he loved her and that he wanted her to talk to him “because they're trying to make” her not like him. Bright testified that Plaintiff said, “they are trying to make you hate me. I just want you to talk to me, talk to me, ” and that she then “snatched away from him and told him to get his hands off.” her. [Id., at ¶ 15; 57, Exhibit E (Bright Deposition), at 19:18-20:5.] Bright went to the cafeteria for her lunch break. [Id.] Bright testified that when she returned from her lunch break, she proceeded to go back to the refrigerator, and Plaintiff again slid his chair into her path and grabbed her. [Id., at ΒΆ 16.] According to Bright, Plaintiff again ...

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