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Cyrus v. Chicago Transit Authority

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

September 11, 2019

KEVIN T. CYRUS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, UNITED STATES JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Kevin Cyrus brings an amended complaint against Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”) alleging employment retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Currently before the Court is CTA's motion for summary judgment [120]. For the reasons explained below, CTA's motion is granted.

         Background

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. CTA is a municipal corporation in Chicago, Illinois. Cyrus began working for CTA on January 13, 2014 as a Maintenance Manager (“M1”). From January 13, 2014 until August 24, 2014, Cyrus worked as an M1 in the “Bus Maintenance” department. Cyrus was voluntarily transferred to “Rail Maintenance” on August 24, 2014 and was assigned to CTA's Howard Shop facility (“Howard Shop”). Cyrus reported to Jeffrey Bell, Thomas Dietrich, Thomas Matuszak, and Donald Bonds.

         Part of Cyrus' duties as a manager included entering information in the Maintenance Management Information System (“Maintenance System”) as well as generating reports to ensure CTA followed safety hazards. CTA conducts periodic inspections (every 30-120 days) as well as annual inspections of their rail vehicles. Annual inspection managers are required to update the Maintenance System with a code detailing the number of days and miles since the last inspection.

         After job shadow training, Cyrus was assigned to the Howard Shop to perform annual inspections during the morning shift. Bell drafted a written warning on October 27, 2014 regarding Cyrus' performance difficulties and stated that Cyrus had problems with: performing his assignments without help from other managers, designating time to learn from managers, using the Maintenance System properly, and following instructions. This written warning was not issued to Cyrus but was sent to Dietrich, one of the General Managers of Rail Maintenance.

         Cyrus sent an e-mail to Dietrich on December 18, 2014, concerning an altercation between him and co-worker Thomas Hojnacki. Cyrus also complained about profanity and unprofessionalism at the Howard Shop and being in a hostile work environment.

         Cyrus informed Bell and Dietrich on December 18, 2014 that he was meeting with Rita Kapadia, the Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) office investigator, regarding altercation. In the meeting, Cyrus specified that he had negative interactions with Bell since October 2014 and believed he was being harassed by Bell because of his race. Cyrus also filed a formal complaint with CTA's EEO office that same day. After an investigation, Kapadia issued a report which concluded that Cyrus' claims were not supported.

         Following Cyrus' e-mail and complaint, Dietrich and Bell sought investigatory memos concerning Cyrus from other M1s at the Howard Shop. The majority of memos Dietrich received admitted that profanity was used but was not directed towards Cyrus in particular. In the opinions of several M1s, Cyrus was not performing all the duties assigned to him.

         Bell and Dietrich met with Cyrus on January 13, 2015 to discuss performance issues. The statement memorializing the meeting included several issues by Cyrus including: his failure to properly inspect the rails and maintain daily reports; leaving his responsibilities to be performed by other shifts; not responding to the CTA assigned pager; and failing to make service requests in the Maintenance System. The document stated that further incidents would result in discipline. Later that same day, Bell sent an e-mail to Cyrus regarding improper documentation during his shift.

         The next month, Seth Wilson, Director of Human Resources, issued a Notice of Written/Performance Improvement Plan citing several continued performance deficiencies. Included in the February 26, 2015 memo were problems such as Cyrus' failure to properly document inspections, generate required reports, properly request time off, and properly discipline a subordinate on his shift. The Improvement Plan stated that Cyrus' conduct violated Rules 7, 14, and 24 of CTA's General Rules book.

         Cyrus was assigned to work at a different shop than usual (on 98th street) on March 15, 2015. While there, Cyrus found a set of CTA keys, a radio, and a pager (“CTA equipment”) in a restroom locker. Cyrus took the CTA equipment home with him at the end of his shift. The next day, Matt Bianciotto (a fellow rail manager) alerted Cyrus that the CTA equipment was his. Cyrus returned the CTA equipment a few days later. Several members of management met with Cyrus concerning the CTA equipment on March 20, 2015 (“98th Street Incident”).

         Csyrus filed a complaint with CTA's EEO office on March 23, 2015, alleging that he was being retaliated against for his December 2014 complaint. It is unclear whether an investigation occurred following this complaint or whether the complaint was found to be substantiated by CTA's EEO office.

         When Matuszak became Rail Maintenance General Manager in April 2015, he met with Cyrus after being informed by some of his (and other M1s') performance deficiencies. Cyrus received a Final Written Warning document and was suspended for ten days for misconduct on June 15, 2015. The Final Written Warning stated that Cyrus committed several violations including: taking CTA equipment (during the 98th Street Incident), failing to properly document inspections, not updating the Maintenance System, and failing ...


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