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Gage v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

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

September 26, 2019

CHERRIE L. GAGE, Plaintiff,
v.
METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT OF GREATER CHICAGO, DAVID ST. PIERRE, DENICE E. KORCAL, and EILEEN MCELLIGOTT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT W. GETTLEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Cherrie L. Gage is a management analyst for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Plaintiff claims in her second amended complaint that the Water Reclamation District and three of its employees-David St. Pierre, Denice E. Korcal, and Eileen McElligott (together, “defendants”)-discriminated against her because she is African American and retaliated against her because she fled a race discrimination suit in 2002. See Gage v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, No. 02 C 9369, 2004 WL 1899902, at *19 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 18, 2004) (granting summary judgment to the Water Reclamation District on some of plaintiff’s claims). Tis court previously dismissed some of plaintiff’s claims. Gage v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, No. 16 C 8072, 2017 WL 1739925, at *6 (N.D. Ill. May 3, 2017). Defendants move for summary judgment on plaintiff’s race discrimination and retaliation claims. Tat motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff’s woefully inadequate summary judgment briefing made it difficult for the court to identify which facts are genuinely disputed. In short, plaintiff: (1) declined to respond to most of the facts in defendants’ L.R. 56(a)(3) statement because that statement supposedly “violates the Court’s standing order . . . that no statement fled under L.R. 56.1(a)(3) may contain more than 80 statements of uncontested fact”; (2) improperly introduces and cites facts in exhibits attached to her opposition to summary judgment, rather than doing so through her L.R. 56.1(b)(3) statement; (3) cites to deposition pages that she did not include in her exhibits; and (4) cites exhibits for assertions that they do not support. Given plaintiff’s failure to comply with the basic rules governing summary judgment procedure, defendants rightly urge this court to reject plaintiff’s attempt to dispute the facts. See United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991) (“Judges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs.”).

         Te court has nonetheless examined plaintiff’s improperly cited exhibits and finds that considering them would not prejudice defendants. Te court thus incorporates plaintiff’s exhibits into the facts discussed below.

         Te facts below do not include acts that occurred before August 12, 2012. See Gage, No. 16 C 8072, 2017 WL 1739925, at *4 (N.D. Ill. May 3, 2017) (dismissing as time-barred “plaintiff’s [section 1981] discrimination and retaliation claims based on alleged occurrences prior to August 12, 2012”). Nor are those acts within the limitations period for plaintiff’s Title VII claims. Tis court declined to dismiss plaintiff’s claims based on acts outside the limitations period because plaintif had alleged continuing violations. Id. at *5. But on summary judgment, plaintif presents no evidence that any of defendants’ acts within Title VII’s 300-day limitations period “contribut[ed]” to a pattern of discrimination that began outside the limitations period. Dandy v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 388 F.3d 263, 270 (7th Cir. 2004). In fact-as discussed below-plaintiff offers no evidence of any discrimination within the limitations period.

         Te facts are taken from the parties’ L.R. 56.1 statements and from the depositions and exhibits. Te material facts are not genuinely disputed. Plaintiff began working for the Water Reclamation District in 1989. She started as an Administrative Assistant, then became a Management Analyst. She was promoted to Management Analyst III in 2012. For the most part, plaintiff’s suit involves her belief that defendants delayed her promotion from Management Analyst III to Supervising Budget and Management Analyst. Defendants finally promoted her in 2017-about a month after plaintiff fled her second amended complaint.

         Plaintiff complains that defendants: (1) impeded her professional development by denying her promotion and by transferring her from Information Technology to General Administration; and (2) created a work environment “designed . . . to wear down” plaintiff and “make her quit her budding career.”

         1. Evidence of plaintiff s employment status

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants impeded her professional development. She complains that she was: (1) denied a promotion to Supervising Budget Management Analyst in September 2014 and again in June 2015; and (2) transferred from IT to General Administration, which stripped her of her duties.

         1.1 September 2014 - Sharon Fitzpatrick promoted over plaintiff

         In September 2014, plaintiff was denied a promotion to Supervising Budget Management Analyst. Te vacancy arose when the incumbent retired. After plaintiff and other candidates took the exam and interviewed for the promotion, defendants learned that the incumbent-Sharon Fitzpatrick, a white woman-wanted to return to work, seeking an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Te Director of Human Resources, defendant Denice Korcal, sent a memorandum to Fitzpatrick’s former supervisor. Korcal wrote that Fitzpatrick’s medical records qualified her for an accommodation, and unless certain conditions were met-undue hardship for the employer, risk to other employees, or inconsistency with business necessity- they were “required to make a job accommodation.” Korcal recommended that the supervisor approve Fitzpatrick’s request. Te supervisor did so. Fitzpatrick returned to her position.

         1.2 June 2015 – Julie Ryan promoted over plaintiff

         In June 2015, plaintiff was again denied a promotion to Supervising Budget Management Analyst. Te vacancy was flled by Julie Ryan, a white woman. On the exam, Ryan scored in the same category as plaintiff; in the interview, Ryan scored two categories higher.

         Ryan had been interviewed by three raters. One of them was Manju Sharma, Ryan’s prospective supervisor. Sharma sent a memorandum recommending Ryan’s appointment to the Executive Director, defendant David St. Pierre. Sharma wrote: “Ms. Ryan’s analytical skills and the understanding of the Budget from her experience in General Administration, Maintenance and Operations, along with the Procurement Department, makes her uniquely qualified. Further, Ms. Ryan has, over the years, shown herself to be an exemplary employee in all positions held at the District.” Sharma acknowledged that there was “an EEO recommendation for a minority, ” but noted Ryan’s exam score-tied with one minority candidate, higher than the other-and her interview score, which was higher than both minority candidates.

         Plaintiff’s lawyer deposed Sharma. He asked her whether she tampered with Ryan’s scores. Sharma denied doing so. Plaintiff’s lawyer confronted Sharma with a document that Sharma did not recognize:

         (Table Omitted)

         Plaintiff’s lawyer then questioned Sharma using the document. It was not fruitful:

Q. I’m handing to the court reporter what she’s going to mark as Sharma Exhibit No. 1. Do you recognize that document?
A. No, I do not.
Q. Do you recognize the writing on the document?
A. I do not.
Q. It’s not your writing?
A. No.
Q. Do you recognize it as Tony’s writing?
A. I don’t know what his writing looks like.
Q. You don’t know what Tony’s writing ...

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