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Baig v. State, Department of Transportation

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

March 29, 2017

SHAKEEL BAIG, Plaintiff,



         This cause is before the Court on the Defendant's fully briefed Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 42). The Court, being duly advised, now GRANTS the Defendant's motion for the reasons set forth below.

         I. STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, a party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must show what evidence it has that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., Inc., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).


         The Plaintiff, Shakeel Baig, brings his Complaint against the Defendant, State of Indiana, Department of Transportation (“INDOT”) alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). Baig alleges that he was discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment because of his race, religion, and national origin, and that the Defendant unlawfully retaliated against him for complaining of race, religion, and national origin discrimination and harassment.

         Baig is originally from Pakistan. He is a practicing Muslim and identifies as Asian. Baig began working for INDOT in 1997. He worked in its Crawfordsville, Indiana division office beginning in 2005. He was hired as a design engineer and received several promotions. His final promotion was to Director of Production, a position that was later renamed Director of Capital Program Management and Director of Program Management. In this position, among other things, he was responsible for identifying projects, looking after the budget, and managing people below him. About five or six people reported directly to Baig, and he directly or indirectly supervised about thirty employees.

         Alan Plunkett has held the position of Deputy Commissioner of INDOT's Crawfordsville Division since 2005. Plunkett is of North American descent, does not practice Islam, and is Caucasian. Baig reported directly to Plunkett from 2005 to 2013, when a reorganization took place within INDOT. While Baig and Plunkett continued to work together on projects after the reorganization, Louis Feagans became Baig's supervisor. Feagans is of North American descent, does not practice Islam, and is Caucasian.

         Baig's Performance Reviews

         Baig generally received good performance reviews. Baig received a “Meets Expectations” on his 2009, 2010, and 2012 annual performance appraisals. Baig received a rating of “Exceeds Expectations” on his 2011 annual performance appraisal. His final performance appraisal, completed by Feagans for the year 2013, was also a rating of “Meets Expectations” and included assessments of “Meets Expectations” or “Exceeds Expectations” in every individual category. Feagans completed Baig's “Manager Evaluation” and reported that “Shakeel needs to continue to work on his relationships with his staff and providing them with new challenges and understanding their strengths and needs.” Dkt. No. 42-7 at 2.

         Plunkett's Comments and Actions

          Baig mentions numerous negative comments Plunkett made to him over the course of his employment. In 2008, Plunkett first told Baig that Baig was lucky to have a spot on the organizational chart. Plunkett repeated this comment to Baig several times.

         In 2008, Plunkett excluded Baig from a National Guard project that had begun in 2006. When Plunkett told Baig that he would not take Baig to a meeting with the National Guard, Plunkett made a comment that he did not want to scare them and “doesn't want them to think there's a terrorist on the ground.” Dkt. No. 42-21 at 6. Plunkett also said that Baig would scare the mayor of Lafayette if he were to meet with him.

         In 2010, Baig began growing a beard. Plunkett made multiple comments suggesting that Baig should shave his beard, his looked shabby, and that he would look better without the beard. Plunkett also made comments to Baig that the beard made him look like a terrorist. Once, during a staff meeting, Plunkett said that the FBI was watching Baig. Plunkett would tell Baig that he needed to shave his beard or the FBI would pick him up.

         Every year to eighteen months when Baig was preparing to fly to Pakistan, Plunkett would tell Baig that he would have a hard time getting through security coming back from Pakistan. Baig last flew to Pakistan in 2013. When Baig would return from Pakistan, Plunkett would say, “So I guess they let you go.” Dkt. No. 42-21 at 9.

         Plunkett also asked Baig several culturally insensitive questions. For example, he asked Baig if he was allowed to marry four wives and whether he would “get seventy virgins” if he killed someone. Dkt. No. 42-21 at 30. Plunkett asked Baig if he was required to wear a beard to return to Pakistan and if his wife was required to cover her whole body in Pakistan. He also asked if Baig knew Osama Bin Laden. Plunkett also made comments about “nuking” Muslims and Muslim countries and opined that there should be stricter TSA security for Muslims at the airport.

         In 2011 or 2012, Plunkett called Baig into his office and asked Baig if it was a cultural thing to throw used toilet paper on the floor rather than dispose of it in the toilet. When the issue came up again at a staff meeting, Plunkett again asked Baig if it was part of his culture to throw toilet paper on the floor. Plunkett also accused Jawed Bari, a Muslim employee from India, of throwing toilet paper on the floor. In May 2014, Bari overheard Plunkett say, “these foreigners, these brown people, they think they are very smart people, but they are not, they are shit.” Dkt. No. 48-7 at 2. Plunkett also threatened Baig with “consequences” after Baig hired Bari.

         Right after President Obama was elected, Plunkett made the comment that black people thought they would get a free ride because there was a black president and that deep down he thought President Obama was a Muslim. Baig found Plunkett's comments about President Obama being a Muslim to be in a negative tone. Between 2009 and 2014, Plunkett made racial comments about President Obama five or six times. The comments were made in a tone such that Baig believed that Plunkett did not like African-Americans.

         Further, Plunkett made comments about Baig's accent and pretended that he could not understand Baig. Baig was told by two other people that Plunkett and Joe Lewein, another employee, were making fun of his accent. Although Plunkett did not have any problems pronouncing Baig's name, he did have difficulty with the names of two other employees-Noor Afrin and Asfahan. Plunkett commented that he wished they would use nicknames that he would find easier to pronounce.

         Baig usually did not tell Plunkett that his offensive comments upset him because Plunkett told Baig he did not forget things, and Plunkett would sometimes get very angry with Baig, leading Baig to fear retaliation.

         Plunkett would go to Baig's employees to inquire whether Baig was “doing anything wrong.” Dkt. No. 42-21 at 6. He did not ask Baig's counterparts, such as Bruce Conrad and Mark Albers, or his counterparts' employees, about what they were doing. Plunkett did not give Baig a computer camera for web-conferences, as other individuals had. Plunkett would give Baig the worst cars in the district for his department, and his employees were always having trouble with the cars. This created hurdles that affected Baig's productivity. ...

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