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Mintz v. Caterpillar Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 5, 2015

MYRON MINTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,
CATERPILLAR INC., Defendant-Appellee

Argued: December 2, 2014.

Page 674

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 1:12-cv-01174-JBM-JEH -- Joe Billy McDade, Judge.

For Myron Mintz, Plaintiff - Appellant: Stephen L. Richards, Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For Caterpillar Inc., Defendant - Appellee: Jason M. Torres, Attorney, Seyfarth Shaw Llp, Chicago, IL.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and WILLIAMS and TINDER, Circuit Judges.


Page 675

Tinder, Circuit Judge.

Myron Mintz sued his employer Caterpillar, Inc., alleging claims of race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Caterpillar sought summary judgment, Mintz did not file a timely response, and the district court granted Caterpillar's motion. That prompted Mintz to file a motion to vacate the district court's order, for an extension of time to file a summary judgment response, and/or to file a motion to reconsider. Thereafter, Mintz filed a response to Caterpillar's summary judgment motion. Treating Mintz's motions collectively as a motion for relief from judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), the district court denied relief. Mintz appeals. Although the district court erred in treating Mintz's motions as a Rule 60(b) motion, we affirm its judgment.


Mintz, an African American, began working at Caterpillar in 2005 in its manufacturing engineering development program. Caterpillar manufactures a variety of heavy industrial equipment. This case focuses on Caterpillar's manufacture of track-type tractors at its East Peoria, Illinois facility. For simplicity, this type of tractor is the central part of what most readers would think of as a bulldozer. These tractors are built in various sizes for many different uses and are sold all over the world. The purchasing customers often specify that the tractors be built in particular configurations offered by Caterpillar to meet the varied uses that may be required. An assembly line construction process is used by Caterpillar, with the sequence of construction being conducted in different letter designated buildings throughout the East Peoria site, but more about that later.

Mintz was promoted to the position of manufacturing engineer in December 2007. As such, he was an intermediary between the engineering design department and the production floor. The engineering design department would give him design prints of various tractors to be constructed. Mintz was then responsible for reviewing the prints and writing detailed work instructions for production employees, identifying the tooling and materials that would be needed to build specific parts of the tractors. His initial manufacturing engineering assignment involved supporting what was called the " black iron" assembly line which was located in Building SS of the East Peoria site, and his immediate supervisor was Chuck Turpen. In the first quarter of 2010, Mintz moved to building LL to support the " track roller frame" assembly line and he continued to be supervised by Turpen until January 2011 when he began reporting to Ryan Rumler instead, although his duties remained unchanged.

A central function of Mintz's duties as a manufacturing engineer was to manage " grief" and " engineering change orders." The " change order" term is common in many manufacturing and construction settings but " grief" has a special meaning in the Caterpillar world which requires explanation. Simply put, " grief" as used at Caterpillar and throughout the rest of this opinion means discrepancy between what the customer ordered and what the production

Page 676

employees are scheduled to build on the production line. If there is variance between the customer's order and the parts, quantities, and materials projected by the manufacturing engineer in issuing instructions for the construction of the tractor, the difference is referred to as grief. Grief is tracked in Caterpillar's computer system, and it must be fixed, or resolved, before a tractor is built. Caterpillar categorizes two types of grief: MBM grief and 1410 grief. MBM grief is all of the grief in the Caterpillar system throughout the course of a particular build. 1410 grief is more urgent because it is grief that remains in the production system close to the build date of a particular tractor. Resolving all of the grief is important but eliminating the 1410 grief is a critical priority because it consists of errors and discrepancies for building projects that will soon come down the production line. The goal is to have zero grief because if all of the grief is not resolved, adverse consequences could include shutting down the ...

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