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Kennedy v. United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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

September 29, 2014

JOSEPH ROBERT KENNEDY, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Defendant.

ORDER

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Joseph Kennedy, proceeding pro se, filed this suit against Defendant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), asking this Court to review whether the EEOC complied with FOIA in response to Mr. Kennedy's request for all documents in the agency's possession related to a Charge of Discrimination he had filed. [Filing No. 1.] Presently pending before the Court are Mr. Kennedy's Motion for Summary Judgment and the EEOC's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment. [Filing No. 20; Filing No. 22.] For the reasons explained, the Court DENIES Mr. Kennedy's Motion for Summary Judgment, [Filing No. 20], and GRANTS the EEOC's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment, [Filing No. 22].

I.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). 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 factfinder 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 non-moving 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).

The fact that cross-motions for summary judgment have been filed does not automatically mean that all questions of material fact have been resolved. Franklin v. City of Evanston, 384 F.3d 838, 842 (7th Cir. 2004). The Court must evaluate each motion independently, making all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party with respect to each motion. Id. at 843.

II.

BACKGROUND

The Court draws the following factual background from the undisputed evidence submitted by the parties. On September 25, 2013, Mr. Kennedy filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC alleging that his former employer, Stericycle, discriminated against him due to his disability and illegally retaliated against him for voicing concerns over Stericycle's regulatory compliance. [Filing No. 1-1 at 2.] The EEOC informed Stericycle of Mr. Kennedy's Charge of Discrimination on September 30, 2013; however, the EEOC did not require Stericycle to take any action in response to Mr. Kennedy's allegations. [Filing No. 1-7 at 2.] On November 18, 2013, the EEOC determined that Mr. Kennedy's Charge of Discrimination was not timely submitted and was therefore dismissed. [Filing No. 1-2 at 2.]

On December 9, 2013, Mr. Kennedy filed a FOIA request with the EEOC, seeking "any and all records pertaining to [his] EEOC Charge." [Filing No. 1-3 at 2.] The EEOC granted in part and denied in part Mr. Kennedy's FOIA request. [Filing No. 1-4 at 2-4.] Mr. Kennedy appealed the EEOC's decision on January 15, 2014. [Filing No. 1-5 at 2.] The EEOC affirmed in part and reversed in part its earlier decision. [Filing No. 1-6 at 2.] Specifically, the EEOC determined that Mr. Kennedy was entitled to all of his file except that FOIA Exemption 5 permitted the following three items to be redacted from the documents: (1) the EEOC Investigator's rationale for recommending the closure of Mr. Kennedy's case contained in the document entitled "Recommendation for Closure"; (2) the processing category code found in the document entitled "Charge Detail Inquiry"; and (3) the preliminary code found in the document entitled "Case Log." [Filing No. 1-6 at 5; Filing No. 22-2 at 2.]

Mr. Kennedy filed the instant case challenging the EEOC's FOIA decision on March 3, 2014. [Filing No. 1.] He alleges that the EEOC wrongfully withheld documents, which, according to Mr. Kennedy, contain comments made by Stericycle to the EEOC during the EEOC's investigation of his Charge of Discrimination, and that the redactions in the documents the EEOC provided him were ...


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