United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Michael M. Mihm, United States District Judge
before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (D. 37). For the reasons stated herein,
Defendant's Motion is GRANTED. The Clerk of Court is
instructed to close this case.
Court has federal question jurisdiction over this matter
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as Plaintiff's claims arise
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq. It also has diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), as Plaintiff
is a citizen of Massachusetts, Defendant is incorporated
under the laws of Delaware and has its principal place of
business in Illinois, and the amount in controversy exceeds
$75, 000. Venue in this Court is appropriate under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1391(b)(2), as a substantial part of the events giving
rise to the claims occurred in Peoria, Illinois.
Obiora Onyemelukwe began working for Defendant Caterpillar
Inc. as a Pre-Field Part Service Operations Representative
(“PSOR”), in its Global Marketing Talent Division
on September 11, 2013. (D. 38-2 at 3; 58 at 19.) Plaintiff is
a black male who was born in Nigeria and moved to the United
States in 1999. (D. 58, ¶ 2 at 91.) Employment as a
Pre-Field PSOR entailed completion of an initial 14-week
corporate training class and one to six-month field
rotations. Id., ¶¶ 8, 11 at 20. The
purpose of the rotations was for the Pre-Field PSOR to learn
the people, processes, and products necessary for successful
placement into a long-term PSOR position. Id.,
¶ 4 at 25. PSORs served as liaisons between Defendant
and third-party dealerships, marketing Defendant's
products and services to those dealerships. Id.,
¶ 5 at 19.
completed the corporate training class in December 2013, and
moved on to his rotation assignments. Id., ¶ 11
at 20. In December 2014, he interviewed for two open PSOR
positions. Id., ¶ 18 at 21. Although Plaintiff
received sufficient marks on performance reviews up to that
point (D. 65 at 2-5; 66 at 3-8), two of the three PSOR
interviewers testified Plaintiff either performed poorly in
the interview, or that the other candidate's interview
went better. (D. 38-7 at 2; 38-8 at 3.) In early 2015,
Plaintiff had another interview for a PSOR position in
Seattle. (D. 58, ¶ 23 at 35.) He was not selected for
that position either, with Plaintiff conceding the hiring
manager “selected a candidate with more experience than
any Pre[-]field PSOR” for the position. Id.
April 2015, Plaintiff's work performance took a hit when
his supervisor was notified Plaintiff had attempted to use
his corporate credit card for a large personal expense.
Id., ¶ 26 at 23. The notification resulted in
Plaintiff admitting he had made prior unauthorized personal
charges to his corporate card. Id., ¶ 30 at 24.
What turned out to be extensive misuse of his corporate card
resulted in a lingering cloud of suspicion over
Plaintiff's performance and trustworthiness thereafter.
(D. 65 at 17.) It also resulted in close scrutiny of
Plaintiff's subsequent expense reporting (D. 60, p. 168
at 37) and the implementation of the first of two Employment
Action Plans (“EAP”s) (D. 58, ¶ 30 at 24).
August 2015, after multiple disagreements between Plaintiff
and his supervisor, and a sinking premonition that things
were not going to end well for him (D. 65 at 39), Plaintiff
contacted Defendant's Office of Business Practices
(“OBP”) alleging his supervisor was planning to
terminate him on a false allegation regarding his meal
receipts. (D. 58, ¶ 51 at 55.) An internal investigation
ensued, a member of the OBP advocated on his behalf, and
Plaintiff was placed into a revised second EAP. Id.,
¶ 56 at 59-60. Although the OBP had been his advocate,
after the implementation of his second EAP, Plaintiff
believed his days with Defendant were numbered. (D. 66 at
The final straw came when a PSOR informed Plaintiff's
supervisor that Plaintiff had skipped a pre-arranged customer
tour at one of Defendant's facilities (D. 38-6 at 15) and
had arrived ten minutes late for a class (id. at
13). Plaintiff had failed to inform his supervisor he
attended a Donuts and Dad's Day event at his
daughter's school (D. 66 at 28), even though his supervisor
was aware of his attendance at the event and had asked
Plaintiff his reason for missing the tour (id.).
September 25, 2015, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's
employment. (D. 58, ¶ 79 at 81.) The reason for his
termination: dishonesty. (D. 38-1, p. 345 at 65.)
November 9, 2017, Plaintiff filed his complaint in the United
States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. (D.
1.) On March 20, 2018, Defendant filed its answer. (D. 19.)
Plaintiff's claim was transferred to this Court on March
21, 2018. (D. 22.) On June 21, 2019, Defendant filed its
Motion for Summary Judgment (D. 37), and on August 28, 2019,
Plaintiff filed his Amended Response (D. 58). On September
26, 2019, Defendant filed its Reply. (D. 68). This Order
judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists if “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party
seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the
lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “In deciding
motions for summary judgment, courts must consider the
evidence as a whole, ” de Lima Silva v. Dep't
of Corrs., 917 F.3d 546, 559 (7th Cir. 2019), and
“view[ ] the record and all reasonable inferences . . .
drawn from it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, ” Laborers' Pension Fund v. W.R. Weis
Co., Inc., 879 F.3d 760, 766 (7th Cir. 2018). However,
the court will not draw inferences that are “supported
by only speculation or conjecture, ” Argyropoulos
v. City of Alton, 539 F.3d 724, 732 (7th Cir. 2008), and
“[c]onclusory allegations alone cannot defeat a motion
for summary judgment.” Thomas v. Christ Hosp. &
Med. Ctr., 328 F.3d 890, 892 (7th Cir. 2003).
avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party must go beyond
the pleadings and “set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. “It is not the role
of the [c]ourt to scour the record in search of evidence to
defeat a motion for summary judgment; instead, the nonmoving
party bears the responsibility of identifying evidence to
defeat summary judgment.” Aberman v. Bd. of Educ.
of City of Chi., 242 F.Supp.3d 672, 685 (N.D. Ill. 2017)
(citing Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526
F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008)). Summary judgment is proper
if the nonmoving party “fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Ellis v. CCA of
Tenn. LLC, 650 F.3d 640, 646 (7th Cir. 2011). ...