Hernandez-Martinez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.

Decision Date09 July 2012
Docket Number11 C 4990
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Judge George W. Lindberg


Before the court is defendant Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Defendant's Motion to Strike

The court begins by considering defendant's motion to strike plaintiff's response to defendant's statement of material facts, plaintiff's statement of additional facts, and plaintiff's exhibits. A party opposing a motion for summary judgment must file "a concise response to the movant's statement [of material facts] that shall contain . . . a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." LR 56.1(b)(3)(B). If the nonmovant seeks to offer any additional facts requiring the denial of summary judgment, he or she must present those facts in the form of "a statement, consisting of short numbered paragraphs, . . .including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." LR 56.1(b)(3)(C). The nonmovant is limited to asserting forty statements of additional fact, absent leave of court to assert more. See id. Local Rule 56.1 "provides the only acceptable means of disputing the other party's facts and ofpresenting additional facts to the district court." Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1317 (7th Cir. 1995).

"Employment discrimination cases are extremely fact-intensive," and the court is not "obliged in our adversary system to scour the record looking for factual disputes." See Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001). The procedure prescribed in Local Rule 56.1 serves the important purpose of promoting efficiency and "ensuring that the adversary system functions as it should." See Minemyer v. B-Roc Representatives, Inc., 695 F. Supp. 2d 797, 801-02 (N.D. Ill. 2009). For example, a nonmovant's presentation of additional facts in a statement of additional facts, as required by Local Rule 56.1, gives the movant the opportunity to admit or deny the facts, and allows the court to readily and fairly determine which of those additional facts are in dispute. Accordingly, the court is "entitled to expect strict compliance" with Local Rule 56.1. See Ciomber v. Coop. Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643 (7th Cir. 2008).

As defendant argues, plaintiff's filings fail to comply with Local Rule 56.1 in many ways. Although plaintiff filed a statement of additional facts, she also asserted many other additional facts in her brief and in her responses to defendant's statements of fact. For example, although plaintiff admits defendant's statement of fact in paragraph 39, she follows the admission with two pages of additional facts and argument. She also fails to support many of her denials of defendant's statements with citations to the record. The court notes that plaintiff is represented by counsel, and that the court granted plaintiff's counsel two extensions of time to respond to defendant's motion for summary judgment, permitted her to file an amended response to defendant's motion for summary judgment, and granted her leave to file a response brief inexcess of fifteen pages.

The court deems admitted defendant's statements of fact for which plaintiff's denial does not "fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted" or is not supported by a citation to the record. See L.R. 56.1(b)(3); Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 528-29 (7th Cir. 2000), see also Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584 (N.D. Ill. 2000). The court disregards legal arguments presented in plaintiff's responses to defendant's statement of facts. See Malec, 191 F.R.D. at 585. The court also disregards additional facts presented in plaintiff's brief or in her responses to defendant's statement of facts, rather than in a Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement of additional facts. See id. at 584; see also Ciomber, 527 F.3d at 643-44. The court disregards statements that are not supported by citations to the record, or that are only supported by citations to the complaint. See LR 56.1(b)(3)(C); Tages v. Univision Television Group, Inc., No. 04 C 3738, 2005 WL 2736997, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 20, 2005) ("It is axiomatic that pleadings are not facts, and that allegations in a complaint do not create a material issue of fact"). The court also disregards hearsay, which is inadmissible in summary judgment proceedings. See Eisenstadt v. Centel Corp., 113 F.3d 738, 742 (7th Cir. 1997).

Plaintiff's violations of Local Rule 56.1 are egregious. However, the court declines to strike her filings in their entirety, as defendant urges. To the extent that plaintiff has presented evidence in compliance with Local Rule 56.1, the court will consider it. The motion to strike is granted in part and denied in part.

II. Factual Background

The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff was born in Mexico on August 18, 1964. Defendant hired plaintiff as a crew member in one of its Mexican "fastcasual" restaurants in 2000. Crew members are hourly, at-will employees, and are responsible for preparing and cooking ingredients, assembling customer food orders, cleaning and maintaining the restaurant, serving customers, and other similar tasks. In January 2010, plaintiff transferred to defendant's restaurant at 2302 West 95th Street in Chicago, and was supervised by Joseph Brown beginning shortly thereafter.

Plaintiff claims that Brown, who is African-American, favored younger African-American employees, and treated older Hispanic employees poorly. As defendant relates in its statement of material facts, plaintiff testified or stated in her interrogatory responses that Brown:

• described Spanish-language music as "some ugly music";
• told plaintiff that she could not speak Spanish with her co-workers;
• made Hispanic employees unload food trucks and wash dishes alone more often than other employees;
• spoke to non-African American employees "in a harsh tone and manner";
• allowed African American employees to refuse to do certain jobs and to take longer breaks;
• told plaintiff she was slow and lazy;
• yelled at plaintiff to work more quickly because she had been there longer and earned more than other employees;
• told plaintiff that she worked "like a grandma";
• required plaintiff to make tortilla chips, a hot task, even though she had a doctor's note that stated that she should not work in an excessively hot environment; and
• yelled at plaintiff on December 2, 2010 about not making guacamole fast enough, causing plaintiff to scream, feel ill, and have difficulty breathing.

In addition, plaintiff claims in her statement of additional facts that Brown treated her negatively by requiring her to enter cash into the computer, a task that she did not know how to do, causingher to feel frustrated and to cry.

Plaintiff often called defendant's Human Resources Generalist, Esther Smiley, to complain about various things. At some point before November 2010, plaintiff complained to Smiley that Brown and other managers were treating her differently because she was Hispanic.

Plaintiff took a scheduled vacation beginning December 16, 2010. Plaintiff contends that Brown told her not to come in on a day that she was scheduled to work during the week before her vacation. When plaintiff returned from her vacation in January 2011, Brown had only scheduled her to work on January 12, 2011. According to plaintiff, another supervisor then allowed her to work on January 13 and 14, 2011 as well. Plaintiff claims that although the other supervisor also scheduled her to work on January 15, 2011, Brown sent her home when she arrived at work that day.

The following week, Brown scheduled plaintiff to work four days. Although three Chipotle employees, including Brown, called plaintiff to inform her of the schedule and to ask her if she was coming to work, she did not come to work on those days. On January 25, 2011, after not hearing from plaintiff for ten days, Brown completed a termination form that stated that plaintiff's termination was "Voluntary - Failed to Report to Work."

Defendant terminated Brown on February 1, 2011. Approximately one week after plaintiff left, defendant's assistant manager called plaintiff, told her that Brown was no longer working for defendant, and invited her to return to work. Plaintiff declined the invitation.

Plaintiff filed this action on July 23, 2011, alleging claims of harassment, constructive discharge, discrimination, and retaliation based on race and national origin, in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff also alleges claims of harassment, discrimination, andretaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. Defendant has moved for summary judgment as to all of plaintiff's claims.

III. Analysis

Summary judgment shall be granted "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). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that no material issue exists for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has properly supported its motion, the nonmoving party must offer specific facts demonstrating that a material dispute exists, and must present more than a scintilla of evidence to support its position. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,...

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