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Peals v. Lilly

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 14, 2014

ROBERT PEALS, Plaintiff,
v.
ELI LILLY, Defendant

Page 997

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 998

For ROBERT PEALS, Plaintiff: Gregory A. Stowers, STOWERS & WEDDLE PC, Indianapolis, IN.

For ELI LILLY, Defendant: Amanda L. Shelby, Craig M. Borowski, Ellen E. Boshkoff, FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP - Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN.

OPINION

Page 999

ENTRY ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

RICHARD L. YOUNG, Chief United States District Judge.

Plaintiff, Robert Peals, is suing his former employer, Defendant, Eli Lilly (" Lilly" ), for racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. Peals alleges that his employment was terminated based on his race and in retaliation for reporting racial discrimination. Lilly, on the other hand, argues that his employment was terminated for his poor performance. Lilly moves for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, Lilly's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Background

Peals, an African American, began his employment with Lilly on March 31, 2008, as a Fixed Duration Employee (" FDE" ) in the Utilities Department. (Deposition of Robert Peals (" Peals Dep." ) 34:14-35:5). On November 23, 2009, Peals received an FDE position as Operator I (" packaging operator" ) in the Parenteral Packaging Department (" PPD" ). Packaging operators package injectable items; the work is organized in four different lines. (Deposition of Joseph Ferguson (" Ferguson Dep." ) 12:12-18, 12:25-13:1-8). As part of his contract with Lilly, Peals agreed that his employment would begin on December 7, 2009, and would end on December 2, 2012, unless either party terminated it earlier. (Peals Dep. 118:14-119:8; Ex. 22 ¶ 8).

A. Peals' Performance

Peals initially reported directly to Duane Weddle, one of four supervisors in the PPD. (Peals Dep 130:14-18; Ferguson Dep. 11:9-22). Weddle was also in charge of training the new hires. (Affidavit of Duane Weddle (" Weddle Aff." ) ¶ 3). He did not, however, have enough resources to train all the employees at the same time. ( Id.). As a result, he staggered the training. ( Id.). Peals felt as though he was not being properly trained by Weddle, which he reported to Human Resources on February 24, 2010. (Peals Dep. 152:17-25, Ex. 31). Specifically, Peals wrote that he believed " Weddle [was] not training him on purpose" and " was singl[ing] him out for whatever reason." ( Id.). A follow-up meeting was scheduled on the issue; however, Peals did not attend. ( Id. at 153:17-154:1, 154:17-155:19). Peals sent a letter the day after the meeting indicating that he had not been notified of it. ( Id. at 155:22-156:12, Ex. 33).

Peals' employment file contains evidence of numerous mistakes -- some of which he was disciplined for and others that he was not. Peals was not disciplined for the following:

Page 1000

o in April 2010, leaving his line without notifying his supervisor;
o in May 2010, signing for a task before a machine was clear;
o in June 2010, signing to verify the Labeler without having logged in to confirm that the counts had been cleared and not carrying the line clearance checklist with him as he was clearing it;
o in December 2010, leaving the line without authorization; and
o in July 2011, calling into work thirty minutes late.

(Supplemental Affidavit of Duane Weddle ¶ 3, Ex. A).

Peals was disciplined in the form of two Feedback/Coaching Forms. He received one in April and one in November, which disciplined him for the following:

o in April 2010, failing to follow procedures for performing electronic monitoring tests and documentation requirements;
o in April 2010, signing for tasks that had not yet been completed;
o in April 2010, falling behind while running the line when his instructor was not present; and
o in November 2010, failing to follow a procedure when he placed a vial labeled " After Counter Discard Vial" into the " Before Counter Discard Tray

(Peals Dep. 175:14-176:1, 185:10-25, 350:17-24, Exs. 36, 59).

B. Peals' First Feedback/Coaching

The most serious charge in Peals' first Feedback/Coaching from April 2010 was his initialing of a document indicating that he had completed a test when, in fact, he had not. (Deposition of Duane Weddle (" Weddle Dep." ) 85:6-86:12, Ex. 36; Weddle Aff. ¶ 6). Weddle informed Peals that this could be falsification, which is a ground for immediate termination. ( Id.). Human Resources Consultant Dan Neumann listened to Peals' explanation for the mistake and then placed Peals on a paid suspension while he investigated further. (Peals Dep. 185:13-187:9).

That afternoon, Peals called Lilly's hotline to again report his concern about his training. ( Id. at 187:14-16, 189:11-24). On April 20, 2010, Peals filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) alleging race discrimination and retaliation with regard to training. ( Id. 241:3-22, Ex. 41). Lilly investigated his claims, but found no evidence to substantiate them. (Affidavit of Mike Lakin (" Lakin Aff." ) ¶ 10, Ex. A).

Neumann's further investigation into Peals' error did not find deliberate falsification; however, he still recommended the early termination of Peals' contract. (Lakin Aff. Ex. B). Despite this recommendation, Peals' contract was not terminated and he returned to work where he received his first Coaching/Feedback instead. (Lakin Aff. 11, Ex. B).

C. Peals' Interim Review

Peals received an interim and final performance evaluation while at Lilly.[1] Peals received his interim performance evaluation on July 27, 2010, from Weddle. (Peals Dep. 298:16-299:17, Ex. 53). In this evaluation, Weddle wrote " Robert's performance to this point has been unsatisfactory." ( Id.). Furthermore, the evaluation noted that he fell behind while running the line when his instructor was not present, signed that he was ready to operate the Weiler Labeler after completing training but later told his supervisor that he was not ready, and did not listen or reacted negatively to feedback. ( Id.).

D. Peals' Second Coaching/Feedback

On November 30, 2010, Peals received his second Coaching/Feedback from Weddle for failing to follow a procedure when he placed a vial labeled " After Counter Discard Vial" into the " Before Counter Discard Tray." (Peals Dep. 350:17-24, Ex. 59). Weddle issued the Coaching/Feedback form as a result of another employee reporting that he had discovered that a vial count was short because Peals had misplaced the vial. (Weddle Aff. ΒΆ 8). Peals ...


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