United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
RITA L. GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
TAPE CASE LTD., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Gonzalez has sued her former employer, Tape Case, Ltd. She
alleges that Tape Case terminated her on the basis of her
age, race, and national origin in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a),
and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). 29
U.S.C. § 623(a). Gonzalez also asserts a state law claim
based on Tape Case's violation of its employee handbook.
Tape Case has moved for summary judgment on Gonzalez's
claims. Both parties have also moved for sanctions.
Case contends that Gonzalez submitted a statement of facts
that did not comport with Local Rule 56.1, as some of the
factual statements contained improper argument or were
unsupported by the cited evidence. The Court takes note of
these issues and relies on the underlying record. On a motion
for summary judgment, the Court reviews the facts in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, without vouching
for the accuracy of those facts. Arroyo v. Volvo Grp. N.
Am., LLC, 805 F.3d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 2015).
is a former employee of Tape Case, a manufacturing company
that distributes specialized adhesive tapes. It receives
customer orders, prepares the tapes to the customer's
specifications, and readies them for shipment. Al Brunner,
the plant manager, hired Gonzalez on December 14, 2015 to
work as a bagger. She was responsible for reviewing customer
orders and placing the finished products in a plastic bag,
which a machine then sealed.
carrying out these responsibilities, Gonzalez received a
great deal of criticism from her immediate supervisor,
Phyllis Franz. Franz told her that she was incompetent, she
would not keep her job, she needed to count better, and she
needed to use her brain. D.E. 25, Pl.'s Ex. 3 at 19-21
(Gonzalez Dep.). Franz "yelled all the time" at
virtually all the employees. Id. at 20. Franz also
threw tape at Gonzalez and pushed a cart towards her. Because
Tape Case did not write up every reprimand given to an
employee, there is no written record of Franz's comments
to Gonzalez. However, Gonzalez was written up twice by Tape
Case for incurring ten absences over her first six months.
found Franz's criticisms very distressing. On October 13,
2016, after Franz again critiqued her work, Gonzalez gathered
her jacket and left the warehouse before the end of her
shift. Other Tape Case employees testified that as Gonzalez
was leaving, she announced that she quit; Gonzalez denies
saying that. Gonzalez went to her car and called the owner of
the company to tell him about her interactions with Franz,
who Gonzalez believed was violating Tape Case anti-harassment
policies. The owner said he would call Gonzalez back but
never did. The next day, Gonzalez returned and spoke to a
supervisor, who asked her to return the following day so that
she could speak with Brunner, the plant manager who hired
her. On October 15, Gonzalez and Brunner spoke. He told her
she had quit on October 13 when she walked off her shift;
Gonzalez denied that she quit; and Brunner told her that, in
any event, he could not re-admit her to Tape Case. As
Gonzalez stated, "he told me, you know, you quit when
you walked out the door saying you quit. I told him I
didn't quit. I was upset and I couldn't believe what
happened and that I tried to get in contact with the owner of
the company and he never responded to me." Id.
who is Asian-American and over the age of 40, filed a charge
with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Gonzalez's EEOC charge describes her as Hispanic, but
Gonzalez contends that was an error on the part of an EEOC
employee who helped her fill out the charge form. As
indicated earlier, Gonzalez asserts violations of Title VII,
the ADEA, and a claim for breach of promises in the Tape Case
Case has moved for summary judgment on Gonzalez's
discrimination and contract claims. To prevail on its motion,
Tape Case must demonstrate that "there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). "A genuine issue of material fact arises only if
sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists to
permit a jury to return a verdict for that party."
Egonmwan v. Cook Cty. Sheriff's Dept., 602 F.3d
845, 849 (7th Cir. 2010) (quotation marks omitted).
Title VII / ADEA
Tape Case seeks summary judgment on Gonzalez's Title VII
race and national origin discrimination claims, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-2(a), and her ADEA age discrimination claim. 29
U.S.C. § 623(a). Courts apply the same "analytical
framework" for Title VII and ADEA claims, so the Court
considers these claims together. Nagle v. Village of
Calumet Park, 554 F.3d 1106, 1114 n.3 (7th Cir. 2009).
The issue is whether Gonzalez has presented enough evidence
to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that her age, race,
or national origin caused her termination. Ortiz v.
Werner Enters., Inc., 834 F.3d 760, 765 (7th Cir. 2016).
The Court first addresses whether Gonzalez has established a
prima facie case of discrimination under the
McDonnell Douglas framework. Next, the Court
"assess[es] cumulatively all the evidence" Gonzalez
presented to determine whether a reasonable jury could find
in her favor. See David v. Bd. of Trs. of Cmty. Coll.
Dist. No. 508, 846 F.3d 216, 224 (7th Cir. 2017)
(employing the McDonnell Douglas framework first,
then reviewing all evidence together per Ortiz).
the McDonnell Douglas framework, to establish a
prima facie case of discrimination, Gonzalez must
show (1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) her job
performance met Tape Case's legitimate expectations, (3)
she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) another
similarly situated employee who was not in the protected
class was treated more favorably. Khowaja v.
Sessions, 893 F.3d 1010, 1014-15 (7th Cir. 2018).
Although there are subsequent steps in the McDonnell
Douglas analysis, the Court concludes that Gonzalez
cannot make out a prima facie case, as she has ...