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Andrews v. Cbocs West, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

February 14, 2014

RUTH N. ANDREWS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CBOCS WEST, INC., and J.J. STEWART, Defendants-Appellees

Argued April 18, 2013.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 09-CV-1025-WDS -- William D. Stiehl, Judge.

For RUTH N. ANDREWS, Plaintiff - Appellant: Ferne Paula Wolf, Attorney, SOWERS & WOLF, St. Louis, MO.

For CBOCS WEST, INCORPORATED, Defendant - Appellee: John F. Kuenstler, Attorney, BARNES & THORNBURG LLP, Chicago, IL.

Before BAUER, FLAUM, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 231

Sykes, Circuit Judge.

Ruth Andrews, a former server at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Caseyville, Illinois, alleges that the restaurant's manager fired her based on her race and age and also in retaliation for a past complaint about discrimination. Andrews, who is white, was in her mid-fifties at the time of the events in question; her former manager, Tremayne " J.J." Stewart, is black. Andrews brought claims against Cracker

Page 232

Barrel under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" ADEA" ), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.[1] The district court entered summary judgment for Cracker Barrel, and Andrews appealed.

We affirm. The undisputed facts show that Andrews wasn't fired; she quit her job at the Caseyville restaurant in anticipation of a transfer to a different Cracker Barrel restaurant that never materialized. Without evidence of an adverse employment action, none of her claims can succeed. The district court properly entered summary judgment for Cracker Barrel.

I. Background

We recount the following facts from the summary-judgment record, construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Andrews and drawing reasonable inferences in her favor. See Coca-Cola Enters., Inc. v. ATS Enters., Inc., 670 F.3d 771, 774 (7th Cir. 2012). Andrews was a server at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Caseyville, Illinois, from 1999 until December 21, 2007. In 2002 she filed a discrimination claim against Cracker Barrel, which was settled in 2003. As that case neared conclusion, " J.J." Stewart--then an associate manager at the restaurant--told Andrews that she had better " hope to God I never become GM because if I do, one of the first things I'm going to do is fire you." This was apparently meant as a comment about the amount of money that Andrews's lawsuit had cost the company.

Stewart was indeed elevated to general manager in 2006. Soon after, he said he was going to make the Caseyville restaurant the first all-black Cracker Barrel. He assigned more tables to black servers than to white servers. In Andrews's view Stewart hired a disproportionately high percentage of black people when compared to the demographics of the local population.

Stewart made daily comments about Andrews's age, calling her " old woman," " old lady," and " grandma." He sometimes would grab a cane and impersonate an elderly woman when approaching Andrews. On a few occasions, Andrews complained that Stewart was unfairly reassigning large tables of male customers from older servers to younger ones; Stewart responded, " those guys don't want to look at an old woman like you." Once a customer left a tip for the " little old lady," and Stewart gave it to Andrews, reasoning that she was " the only little old lady here." For a period of time, Stewart also encouraged Andrews to stop working and instead watch her grandchildren.

Andrews repeatedly asked Stewart to stop, but he didn't. She mentioned the problem to the associate manager, but he told her that there was nothing he could do. Andrews attempted to complain to the district manager, but the person responsible for scheduling an appointment for Andrews never did so. In July 2007 Andrews complained to a Cracker Barrel Employee Relations Specialist, who said she'd investigate and told Andrews to make notes of the goings-on at the Caseyville restaurant. Andrews was already doing so, keeping copious daily records of perceived slights from her coworkers, deviations from protocol, and instances in which she believed that Stewart was harassing her. Andrews submitted her notes to the specialist in

Page 233

July, September, and October of 2007, but received no response. She re-sent the notes in November 2007, and this time the specialist commenced an investigation and determined that no further action needed to be taken. At the specialist's request, however, the district manager visited Caseyville to discuss some operational concerns raised by Andrews's notes.

Meanwhile, the friction between Andrews and Stewart continued. Stewart began to encourage Andrews to transfer to a different Cracker Barrel restaurant. On one occasion he asked Andrews whether there was anything he could do to get her to transfer. He sarcastically said that he'd help her pack her things and drive her to the Cracker Barrel in ...


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