182 F.Supp.2d 705 (S.D.Ill. 2002), 00-CV-09920, Broadwater v. Heidtman Steel Products, Inc.

Docket Nº:00-CV-09920
Citation:182 F.Supp.2d 705
Party Name:Broadwater v. Heidtman Steel Products, Inc.
Case Date:January 09, 2002
Court:United States District Courts, 7th Circuit, Southern District of Illinois

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182 F.Supp.2d 705 (S.D.Ill. 2002)

Gerald BROADWATER, Plaintiff,

v.

HEIDTMAN STEEL PRODUCTS, INC., and Darryl Whitner, Defendants.

No. 00-CV-09920MJR.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois.

Jan. 9, 2002

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Heidi L. Leopold, James M. Martin, Martin, Malec & Leopold, P.C., St. Louis, MO, for plaintiff.

James N. Foster, Burton D. Garland, Jr., McMahon, Berger, Hanna, Linihan, Cody & McCarthy, St. Louis, MO, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

REAGAN, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Gerald Broadwater, a white male born on August 4, 1947, worked for Heidtman Steel Products, Inc. from July 1990 until August 2000, when he was discharged. In December 2000, Broadwater filed suit in this District Court against Heidtman Steel and against Darryl Whitner, his supervisor as Heidtman. Following the Court's partial grant of a motion to dismiss, Broadwater filed a First Amended Complaint. By Order filed July 11, 2001, the Court partially granted a motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint.

On August 1st, Broadwater filed a 15-page Second Amended Complaint to which voluminous documents were attached, including correspondence between Broadwater and Heidtman, correspondence between Broadwater's attorneys and Heidtman, and documents relating to Broadwater's two employment discrimination charges filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").

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Broadwater's Second Amended Complaint ("complaint") alleges age discrimination against Heidtman (Count I), retaliatory discharge and reverse race discrimination by Heidtman (Count II), intentional infliction of emotional distress against Heidtman and Whitner (Count III), and violations of the Illinois Eavesdropping Act by Heidtman and Whitner (Count IV). Count V of Broadwater's complaint, entitled "Punitive Damages," seeks a minimum of $150,000 from each of the two Defendants and alleges that their acts were taken "intentionally and in gross disregard of Plaintiff's rights" (Doc. 31, p. 17).

II. Procedural Status

Now before the Court is Defendants' fully-briefed summary judgment motion, which was filed November 20, 2001. After obtaining additional time in which to oppose the motion, Broadwater filed a motion for leave to file an oversized response on December 12, 2001. Although cognizant of the fact that this case involves multiple issues which required briefing, the Court notes its displeasure with both parties' pleadings on the summary judgment issues.

The Local Rules of this District limit briefs in support of or opposing summary judgment motions to 10 pages. First, Defendants sought leave to file a brief exceeding the 10-page limit. By Order filed November 19, 2001, the Court granted that motion and allowed Defendants to file a brief 25 pages in length. In the same Order, the Court excused the parties from complying with the "motion packet" procedures of Local Rule 7.1(g) and directed them to simply file memoranda supporting or opposing summary judgment. Thus, Defendant was to file a motion for summary judgment accompanied only by a memorandum supporting summary judgment. Plaintiff was to file only a memorandum opposing summary judgment. Neither party followed this directive.

Instead, Defendants filed a 25-page memorandum supporting summary judgment 1 plus a 30-page statement of uncontroverted facts supporting their motion (see Docs. 48, 49). Plaintiff then filed a 7-page "response" to the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 57), plus an 11-page "Statement of Uncontroverted Facts" (Doc. 58), and a motion for leave to file a 48-page memorandum opposing summary judgment. Finally, Defendants moved for (and this Court now GRANTS) leave to file a 15-page reply brief on summary judgment (granting Doc. 62). So, Defendants filed 70 pages of argument for summary judgment, and Plaintiff filed 66 pages of argument opposing summary judgment.

Counsel are strongly advised, in the future, to not ask this Court for leave to file any memoranda (supporting or opposing dispositive motions) longer than 15 pages. The Court has handled complicated patent cases and employment discrimination cases in which the parties were able to limit their briefs supporting and opposing summary judgment to 10 or 15 pages. The Court does not believe this case is so uniquely complex that it required 136 pages of supporting and opposing briefs (not counting the hundreds of pages of affidavits, deposition excerpts, and exhibits) submitted by each party.

Although displeased with the parties' voluminous submissions, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for leave to exceed Local Rule 7.1(c)'s 10-page limit (Doc. 59). The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to file-

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stamp and docket Plaintiff's memorandum opposing summary judgment and Defendants' reply brief in support of summary judgment, as the Court has considered the arguments contained therein. The Court now rules on Defendants' summary judgment motion, beginning with an overview of relevant facts and the governing legal standards.

III. Key Facts 2

Heidtman Steel Products, Inc. operates a steel processing facility in Granite City, Illinois. Darryl Whitner, a black male, currently serves as Plant Manager for the Granite City facility. He has held that position since 1995.

Gerald Broadwater began work for Heidtman Steel in July 1990, initially working at the company's St. Louis, Missouri facility as a "packer" on the paint line. After the St. Louis plant closed in January 1991, Broadwater requested and received a transfer to the Granite City facility. Broadwater worked on the third shift in Granite City. His Shift Supervisor was Darryl Whitner.

In 1995, Whitner recommended Broadwater for promotion to a supervisor's position. Broadwater was promoted to supervisor on third shift. In this position, Broadwater received a pay increase, and he supervised fifteen employees. Sometime in 1996, Whitner became Plant Manager of the Granite City facility. In February 1997, Heidtman Steel equalized the pay of its supervisors. This equalization involved reducing the pay of Broadwater and at least one other supervisor, Mike Becherer, to bring their salaries into line with the salaries of other Heidtman supervisors.

In October 1999, Heidtman had two or three video cameras at the Granite City facility. The video cameras were used to record pictures of defective steel while keeping the production line running. During the week, the cameras were kept on the plant floor, near the steel processing equipment. Over the weekend, the cameras were stored in a camera bag in a locked compartment in the supervisors' office. The area where the cameras were stored was roughly three feet from Broadwater's desk.

On Friday, October 8, 1999, after his shift, David Hemphill returned a video camera to the supervisors' office. While returning the bag containing the video camera, Hemphill accidentally jostled the camera into "record" mode. While the video camera was running inside the bag, it captured the audio portion of a conversation between Broadwater and another supervisor. On the tape, Broadwater made a disparaging remark about a fellow supervisor, Tracy McElroy. Specifically, Broadwater remarked that McElroy had "sucked big black dick," referring to McElroy's efforts to win favor or ingratiate himself with Plant Manager Whitner.

When a vendor on site at the Granite City facility discovered voices on the videotape, he reported the discovery to Heidtman. Supervisor Mark Hessler then informed Darryl Whitner about the videotape. Whitner listened to the tape for four seconds, instructed Hessler to stop the tape, locked the tape in his own desk drawer, and notified the Director of Human Resources (Sandy Tosha) about the tape. Whitner then forwarded the tape to Tosha.

On November 1, 1999, Tosha traveled to the Granite City plant to investigate the incident regarding the tape. Tosha met with Broadwater, Whitner, and others. After Whitner left the conference room,

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Tosha played the tape for Broadwater. At the end of the meeting, Tosha advised Broadwater that he was suspended until further notice. At the conclusion of Heidtman's investigation into the incident, Broadwater was reinstated to his position as Third Shift Supervisor with benefits and back-pay, except for a four-day period of suspension.

On July 4, 2000, Heidtman employee John Randall reported to work for the third shift. Randall drove his motorcycle through the Granite City plant, and employees reported that Randall appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. Broadwater, the Third Shift Supervisor, confronted Randall, who admitted that he had been drinking earlier in the day and admitted that he had left tire tracks from his bike in the plant.

The parties' statements of "uncontroverted facts" contain slightly differing versions of what occurred next. According to Heidtman, Broadwater gave Randall the option to (a) submit to a drug and alcohol test or (b) go home, and Randall elected to go home. According to Broadwater, he "told John Randall that he would have to take an alcohol test," Randall responded that "he could not take an alcohol test because he would fail same," and Broadwater never told Randall that if he left the premises "there would be no consequences from his reporting to work in an intoxicated condition" (Doc. 58, pp. 6-7). What is clear is that Randall did not submit to a drug or alcohol test; he went home.

On July 5, 2000, the company commenced an investigation of the previous day's events. Ultimately, Heidtman determined that Broadwater had violated the company's Substance Abuse Policy by offering Randall the option of taking the drug test or going home. Heidtman's Substance Abuse Policy provides that any employee suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs...

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