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Bullock v. South Bend Community School Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

March 27, 2015

YVONNE BULLOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTH BEND COMMUNITY, SCHOOL CORPORATION, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

RUDY LOZANO, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Defendant's Counterclaim, filed by the plaintiff, Yvonne Bullock, on August 29, 2014. (DE #18.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Yvonne Bullock ("Plaintiff"), filed her Complaint against Defendant, South Bend School Corporation ("Defendant"), on October 10, 2013. (DE #1.) The Complaint alleges the following claims: Count I, Violation of Title VII: Race Discrimination; Count II, Violation of Title VII: Gender Discrimination; Count III, Violation of the Equal Pay Act; Count IV, Violation of Title VII: Retaliation; Count V, Violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act: Retaliation; Count VI, Violation of the False Claims Act: Retaliation; and Count VII, Breach of Contract. ( Id. ) Defendant filed its Answer on November 11, 2013, which included a counterclaim against Plaintiff alleging a breach of a settlement contract. (DE #10.) On August 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment as to Defendant's counterclaim. (DE #18.) Defendant filed its response in opposition on September 25, 2014. (DE #21.) Plaintiff did not file a reply. The motion is ripe for adjudication.

DISCUSSION

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment must be granted when "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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Not every dispute between the parties makes summary judgment inappropriate; "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Id. In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the deciding court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010). "However, our favor toward the nonmoving party does not extend to drawing inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture." Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 730 (7th Cir. 2013)(citing Harper v. C.R. Eng., Inc., 687 F.3d 297, 306 (7th Cir. 2012)). A party opposing a properly supported summary judgment motion may not rely on allegations or denials in her own pleading, but rather must "marshal and present the court with the evidence she contends will prove her case." Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). If the non-moving party fails to establish the existence of an essential element on which he or she bears the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is proper. Massey v. Johnson, 457 F.3d 711, 716 (7th Cir. 2006).

Material Facts

Defendant employed Plaintiff as the Executive Director of Instruction and Curriculum from April 18, 2011, to June 30, 2012. (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶ 1.) On October 10, 2012, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that Defendant engaged in gender and racial discrimination with regard to her employment. (DE #19-4.) The parties agreed to participate in a mediation session conducted by the EEOC. (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶¶ 3, 4; DE #19-5, p. 1.) On August 26, 2013, the mediation was held at the EEOC's Indianapolis District Office and was facilitated by EEOC investigator, William Rogers ("Rogers"). (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶ 4; DE #19-5, pp. 1-3.) Plaintiff was not represented by counsel before or during the mediation session; the EEOC, on the other hand, was represented by attorney Lyle Hardman. (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶ 5.)

Prior to the mediation, Plaintiff provided Rogers with a written settlement demand that included both financial and qualitative terms. (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶ 6; DE #19-6, pp. 1-2.) At the mediation, the parties exchanged proposals but ultimately left the mediation session after failing to come to an agreement. (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶¶ 9-10; Dep. Rogers, DE #19-7, pp. 6-9; DE #19-5, p. 2.) During the mediation, Plaintiff did not wish to accept a proposal without financial compensation, and Defendant would only negotiate with qualitative demands. (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶ 8; Dep. Rogers, DE #19-7, pp. 6-9.) The parties appeared to Rogers to have reached a stalemate, and Rogers dismissed Defendant. (Dep. Rogers, DE #21-2, pp. 13, 15.) Rogers then informed Plaintiff that Defendant's last offer would likely remain on the table. ( Id. at 16.)

Shortly after the mediation concluded, Plaintiff left Rogers a voicemail urging him to call her back right away, so he did. (Aff. Bullock, DE # 19-2 ¶ 12; Dep. Rogers, DE #19-7, ¶¶ 1-9.) The content of their subsequent phone communication is largely disputed.

Plaintiff maintains that, during the phone call, she told Rogers that she would only agree to qualitative terms with Defendant as an "intermediate step" towards reaching a settlement. (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶ 12.) Defendant, on the other hand, presents testimony from Rogers who states that Plaintiff agreed to accept Defendant's last offer exactly as it was previously communicated to her during the mediation session and to settle all of her claims. (Dep. Rogers, DE #21-2, pp. 17-19.)

Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that she definitively told Rogers that she would not agree to a final settlement without financial compensation. (Aff. Bullock, DE #19-2, ¶ 12.) However, Rogers testified that Plaintiff was willing to "take the offer where they would expunge her records, [provide a] neutral reference [and] I believe make Mr. Roggeman the central point of contact." (Dep. Rogers, DE #21-2, p. 17.) Rogers stated he specifically clarified with Plaintiff that Defendant's offer did not involve financial compensation and that Plaintiff understood this issue and agreed to it. ( Id. ) Rogers testified that Plaintiff was insistent that he immediately call Defendant to express her willingness to settle:

[s]he insisted that I contact the respondent at - the respondent's counsel that day and inform them that she was going to take the offer.... Ms. Bullock expressed to me when I talked to her - when I answered the voice mail message, she expressed to me that she wanted - she wanted to take the settlement before and wanted me to call - the urgency of the call before they went back up to South Bend because she felt if they would have gotten to South ...

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