United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
CYNTHIA P. GIPSON, Plaintiff,
ARCELORMITTAL STEEL USA, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT CHIEF JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant ArcelorMittal
Steel USA's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 51],
filed on November 30, 2016. The Defendant seeks judgment as a
matter of law on Plaintiff Cynthia P. Gipson's claims for
race discrimination and retaliation, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000, Title VII, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which were
alleged in an Amended Complaint [ECF No. 11]. This matter is
now fully briefed and ripe for the Court's review.
Facts Relating to the Discrimination Claim
Defendant operates a steel plant in East Chicago, Indiana.
(Rose Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 52.) The Plaintiff is an
employee with the Defendant who works in the Security and
Emergency Department as a Fire Service Technician/EMT, and
most employees within that Department are represented by the
United Steel Workers Local 1011 (the “Union”).
(Id. ¶ 3.) The Plaintiff is a Black,
Jamaican-American, and the only employee of such ancestry in
the Security and Emergency Department. (Gipson Aff. ¶ 5,
ECF No. 56-1.)
2011, the Defendant “agreed to allow employees in the
Security and Emergency Services Department . . . to volunteer
for paid paramedic training.” (Rose Decl. ¶ 5.)
The paramedic training course was administered by Methodist
Hospital, included classroom and clinical components, and
lasted for fifteen weeks. (Gipson Dep. 36:24-37:18,
63:23-64:4, ECF No. 52.) As part of its policy, the Defendant
would “pay for paramedic training for one employee at a
time, and . . . give that employee two paid days off to
attend the training classes.” (Rose Decl. ¶ 5.)
Rosales,  a Hispanic employee senior to the
Plaintiff, was the first employee to attend the paramedic
training. (Gipson Dep. 35:14-17, Ex. 2.) Before the training,
Rosales's regular schedule was to work Monday, Tuesday,
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and take days off Wednesday and
Thursday. (Id. 39:6-8, Ex. 2.) For her paramedic
training, Rosales's schedule was adjusted so that her two
paid days off to attend training classes were Monday and
Thursday, her paid days working at the plant were Friday,
Saturday, and Sunday, and her unpaid days off were Tuesday
and Wednesday. (Id. 39:20-24, 40:4-6, 42:8-11.)
Plaintiff was the second employee to attend the paramedic
training. (Id. 35:19- 36:15.) Before the training,
the Plaintiff's regular schedule was to work Sunday
through Thursday, and take days off Friday and Saturday.
(Id. 53:2-5.) The Plaintiff requested that her schedule
during the paramedic training be five paid days off-Monday
through Friday-without having to work at the plant during the
fifteen-week paramedic training. (Id. 47:24-48:1,
Exs. 6, 8.) She sought more time off than Rosales because she
“needed more time to study.” (Id.
Defendant denied the Plaintiffs requests but “offered
her the same accommodation as Rosales-attend paramedic
training on Monday and Thursday (paid), work at the plant on
Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and have Friday and Saturday
off.” (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. of Summ. J. 6, ECF No.
52 (citing Gipson Dep. 53:12-16, 54:1, Exs. 7-8).) Because
this adjusted schedule “caused her to be scheduled to
work an overnight shift that began at 10:00 p.m. the same day
that she had attended paramedic training, ” the
Plaintiff filed a grievance. (Gipson Dep. 56:15-20.) On
October 24, 2012, a grievance hearing was held with the
Plaintiff, the Defendant, and the Union, at which the
Defendant offered three schedule options to the Plaintiff:
• Continue to work Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at the
plant, attend paramedic training (paid) on Mondays and
Thursdays, and have Friday and Saturday off;
• Work at the plant Friday, Saturday and Sunday, attend
paramedic training (paid) on Mondays and Thursdays, and have
Tuesday and Wednesday off;
• Same as option one, except that on those weeks when
the rotating schedule had the Plaintiff working nights, she
would be given a day or afternoon shift, work in an open
shift and at the rate of pay for the position she was
assuming, and she would not be able to bump employees
regularly scheduled to work the day or afternoon shift.
(Gipson Dep. 47:18-21, 49:13-16, 51:18-52:10, Ex. 8.) No
other employee, before or after the Plaintiff, was given
three options when they took the paramedic training. (Rose
Dep. 106:19-25, ECF No. 52.) The Union agreed that the three
options that the Defendant offered were consistent with the
CBA and with accommodations offered to other employees.
(Gibson Dep. Ex. 8.)
the Plaintiff chose the first option “because she did
not want to risk possibly being assigned to a lower pay
grade, or a day or afternoon position, during the weeks in
which she would normally be scheduled to work nights.”
(Def.'s Mem. 6-7 (citing Gibson Dep. 136:21- 137:24, Ex.
Plaintiff failed her practical exam for the paramedic
training program three times and was dismissed from the
program. (Gipson Dep. 63:2-24, 65:1-4.) An appeal to
Methodist Hospital regarding her dismissal was not
successful, and her request to be reinstated to the program
was denied. (Id. 65:8-15, Ex. 11.)
Facts Relating to the Retaliation Claim
Defendant has in place a progressive discipline policy for
violations of its work rules or policies. “The steps of
progressive discipline are: (1) written reprimand; (2)
one-day suspension; (3) three-day suspension; and (4)
five-day suspension preliminary to discharge. When making
suspension and discharge decisions, the [Defendant] may
consider records relevant to an employee's conduct for up
to five years and any other discipline the employee received
during the previous two years.” (Rose Decl. ¶ 8.)
Prior to 2012, the Plaintiff had no disciplinary history.
(Gipson Dep. 114:2-8.)
5, 2012, the Plaintiff received a “step one”
written reprimand for unauthorized use of computers and
internet while at work. (Id. 101:15-103:7, Ex.
On April 23, 2013, the Plaintiff was issued a “step
two” one-day suspension for insubordination after
refusing to work as a “Squad 2” ambulance
passenger, as instructed by her supervisor, and instead
working as a “Squad 1” ambulance driver.
(Id. 103:8-106:10, 130:10-132:10, Ex. 14.) On
November 19, 2013, the Plaintiff was issued a “step
three” three-day suspension for insubordination because
on two separate occasions she was directed to call in
security checks over the radio, as required by Department
policy, and she refused to do so. (Id. 106:11-111:4,
Ex. 15; Rose Decl. ¶ 10.)
Plaintiff's “step four” five-day suspension
preliminary to discharge occurred on May 21, 2014, as the
result of a false report investigation. On April 6, 2014, the
Plaintiff reportedly told her shift leader that she
“witnessed an employee not do a security check
correctly.” (Rose Dep. 54:20-55:12, Ex. B.) On multiple
occasions thereafter, the Plaintiff's supervisor
“instructed her to write a report that she had
witnessed her coworker calling in an assigned security check
that he had not actually completed.” (Id.
53:4-55:11, Ex. E.) The Plaintiff was reportedly angry that
her supervisor had identified her as the person who witnessed
the employee falsify his security check. (See id.)
Ultimately, on May 7, 2014, the Plaintiff submitted a report
in which she stated that she had no recollection of the
coworker falsely reporting his assigned security check.
(Id. Ex. E.)
the Defendant “believed that she lied about having no
recollection of witnessing and reporting her coworker for
failing to complete an assigned security check, ” the
Plaintiff received her “step four” discipline.
(Id.) Ultimately, an arbitrator decided that the
Defendant did not meet its high burden of proof that
Gipson's termination was supported by just cause, as
required by the CBA, reinstated her, awarded her back pay for
any work she had missed, and rescinded the suspension and
discharge from her employment record. (Gipson Dep. 86:17-21;
Rose Dep. 56:13-59:20, Ex. C.)
September 18, 2012, Gipson filed a charge with the EEOC
alleging that the Defendant had discriminated against her by
not permitting her to change her schedule with regard to the
paramedic training, which was dismissed on July 26, 2013.
(Hartman Decl. ¶¶ 4-5, Exs. A-B, ECF No. 52.) Then,
on October 21, 2013, the Plaintiff filed this lawsuit. In a
second EEOC filing on October 26, 2013, the Plaintiff alleged
that she was unfairly disciplined, which was dismissed on
June 24, 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7, Ex. C.) Then,
on July 14, 2014, the Plaintiff amended her Complaint to
include retaliatory discharge claims.
judgment is warranted when “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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is the moment in
litigation where the nonmoving party is required to marshal
and present the court with evidence on which a reasonable
jury could rely to find in that party's favor.
Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d
651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). A court should only deny a motion
for summary judgment when the nonmoving party presents
admissible evidence that creates a genuine issue of material
fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't of Corrs., 652 F.3d
726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011) (first citing United States v.
5443 Suffield Terrace, 607 F.3d 504, 510 (7th Cir.
2010); then citing Swearnigen-El v. Cook Cty.
Sheriff's Dep't, 602 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir.
2010)). A court's role in deciding a motion for summary
judgment “is not to sift through the evidence,
pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to
believe. [A] court has one task and one task only: to decide,
based on the evidence of record, whether there is any
material dispute of fact that requires a trial.”
Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920
(7th Cir. 1994). Material facts are those that are outcome
determinative under the applicable law. Smith v.
Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th Cir. 1997). Although a
bare contention that an issue of material fact exists is
insufficient to ...