United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Juanita Hart brings this Title VII suit against her former employer, Defendant Forge Industrial Staffing Inc. ("Forge"). [Filing No. 10.] Currently pending before the Court is Forge's Motion for Summary Judgment. [Filing No. 52.]
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A motion for summary judgment asks that the Court find that a trial based on the uncontroverted and admissible evidence is unnecessary because, as a matter of law, it would conclude in the moving party's favor. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).
In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has "repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, " Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).
A. Procedural Background
Before outlining the factual background, the Court addresses two issues regarding Ms. Hart's briefing and compliance with the Federal and Local Rules. Forge maintains that Ms. Hart's response brief in opposition to Forge's Motion for Summary Judgment failed to comply with the Local Rules. [Filing No. 64, at ECF p. 3.] Because of these alleged deficiencies, Forge argues that its version of the facts should be deemed admitted, and Ms. Hart's version of the facts should be stricken to the extent those facts are not supported by citations to admissible evidence. [Filing No. 64, at ECF pp. 3-5.] For the reasons below, the Court deems Forge's version of the facts admitted and strikes Ms. Hart's version of the facts to the extent they are not supported by admissible evidence.
1. Ms. Hart's Failure to Include a "Statement of Material Facts in Dispute" Section
A party opposing a summary judgment motion "must include a section labeled Statement of Material Facts in Dispute' that identifies the potentially determinative facts and factual disputes that the party contends demonstrate a dispute of fact precluding summary judgment." Local Rule 56-1(b). The consequence of such a failure is that Ms. Hart concedes Forge's version of events. See Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) ("[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission."); see also Wackett v. City of Beaver Dam, 642 F.3d 578, 582 n.1 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court continues to apply the same summary judgment standard, but Ms. Hart's failure to comply with the Local Rules in this respect "reduc[es] the pool" from which the facts and inferences may be drawn. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997). Forge's uncontroverted facts are deemed admitted.
2. Ms. Hart's Failure to Support Her Factual Assertions
Ms. Hart rarely points to record evidence to support her factual assertions, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(1). See also Local Rule 56-1(e) ("A party must support each fact the party asserts in a brief with a citation to a discovery response, a deposition, an affidavit, or other admissible evidence"). This additional failure to comply with Rule 56 and its local counterpart reduces the pool of facts even further. For example, Ms. Hart claims that her supervisor did not request any documentation from her after her termination to prove that her license had been reinstated. [Filing No. 60-1, at ECF p. 3.] Yet, Ms. Hart fails to support this assertion with any citation to a deposition or affidavit. [Filing No. 60-1, at ECF p. 3.] And, even when Ms. Hart attempts to cite relevant evidence to support her factual assertions, the evidence cited often does not support the assertion made. For example, Ms. Hart claims that her supervisor did not follow Forge's No-Harassment Policy, citing her own deposition testimony. [Filing No. 60-1, at ECF p. 2.] But Ms. Hart's testimony only shows that she has no knowledge of whether Mr. Keene followed Forge's No-Harassment Policy. [Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 35.] Ms. Hart's unsupported facts are stricken.
These briefing practices are not appropriate. They are detrimental to both Ms. Hart's case and the Court's decisional process. There are consequences resulting from these failures. In deciding Forge's Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court will only consider Ms. Hart's factual assertions that are supported by citations to record evidence that include the page or paragraph number or otherwise sufficiently direct the Court to the place in the cited documents that supports the factual assertion in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) and Local Rule 56-1(e). Therefore, in setting forth the relevant factual background below, the Court provides a brief overview of the facts necessary to understand Ms. Hart's claim as derived from the undisputed evidence-much of which is Forge's evidence that Ms. Hart conceded as true by failing to file the "Statement of Material Facts in Dispute" section. See Local Rule 56-1(b); Smith, 321 F.3d at 683.
B. Factual Background
1. Forge Hires Ms. Hart
Forge is a staffing agency that employs temporary workers to provide staffing solutions for industrial workplaces. [Filing No. 53-3, at ECF p. 2.] On August 30, 2011, Ms. Hart applied for a position with Forge. [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 3.] She was then contacted by Forge's Manager of Operation, Nick Keene. [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 2; Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 9.] Mr. Keene thought Ms. Hart was a good candidate for the Service Coordinator position - an administrative position within Forge. [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 3.] Mr. Keene informed Ms. Hart that the Service Coordinator position was a permanent position, not a temporary one. [Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 9.]
A Service Coordinator is required to "travel to client sites to develop client relationships and monitor temporary employees staffed at clients." [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 2.] During Ms. Hart's interview on August 30, 2011, Mr. Keene explained the duties of the position, including that it required her to have a valid driver's license. [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 2.] Ms. Hart informed Mr. Keene that her driver's license had been suspended, and Mr. Keene offered to hire Ms. Hart on the condition that she obtain her driver's license within ninety days (or by November 3, 2011), and informed her that her employment would be terminated if she failed to obtain her driver's license within that time. [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 3; Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 10.] Ms. Hart accepted the offer, [Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 10], signing an at-will employment contract as a Part Time Service Coordinator, [Filing No. 53-5, at ECF p. 2].
2. Ms. Hart's Efforts to Reinstate Her Driver's License
On September 1, 2011, Mr. Keene reiterated to Ms. Hart the importance of reinstating her license as soon as possible. [Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 3.] Additionally, Mr. Keene directed Ms. Hart to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles ("BMV") website, and assisted her with setting up a login and profile. [Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 3.] On September 5, 2011, Mr. Keene permitted Ms. Hart to leave work so that she could go to traffic court and obtain her license. [Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 3.] Ms. Hart learned that to reinstate her license she had to complete the driver-safety program and pay all outstanding fines before a court date set for October 12, 2011. [Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 18.] To aid Ms. Hart, Mr. Keene prepared a letter to the BMV, explaining the license requirement for her job. [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 4; Filing No. 60-11, at ECF p. 2.]
On October 10 and October 12, 2011, Mr. Keene allowed Ms. Hart to leave work to continue the process of having her license reinstated. [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 4.] On October 13, 2011, Ms. Hart informed Mr. Keene that the BMV had not reinstated her driver's license because, although she had completed the driver-safety program, [Filing No. 53-7, at ECF p. 7], she had failed to pay all outstanding fines, [Filing No. 53-4, at ECF p. 19]. Ms. Hart advised Mr. Keene that she needed to appear in court for another hearing on December 7, 2011. [Filing No. 53-2, at ECF p. 4.] ...