United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE
James Thompson (“Thompson”) invokes the
Court's federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
1331, accusing defendant Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc.
(“Einstein”) of unlawful discrimination under
federal law. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 29) is fully briefed and ripe for decision.
Having considered the motion, response, reply, evidence, and
applicable law, the Court concludes that the motion should be
GRANTED for the following reasons.
James Thompson (“Thompson”) worked as a baker at
an Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc.
(“Einstein”) restaurant from June 2014 to January
2017. (ECF No. 30-2 at 61:11-24.) After his shift on
January 5, 2017, Thompson fell asleep at a table in
Einstein's dining room while wearing his Einstein
uniform. (ECF No. 30-3 ¶ 4.) One of
Thompson's co-workers woke him up and Thompson moved to
another table where customers were sitting. (ECF No. 30-3
¶ 4.) Thompson then fell asleep again. (ECF No.
30-3 ¶ 4.) David Webber, Einstein's general
manager and Thompson's supervisor, testified that the
customers gave Webber a “look of discomfort” as
Thompson slept at their table. (ECF No. 30-3 ¶
4.) Thompson's supervisor then approached Thompson and
asked him to wake up and leave the restaurant. (ECF No.
30-3 ¶ 5.) Shortly after Thompson left the
restaurant, his supervisor received a call from a regular
Einstein customer, advising him that she had just seen
Thompson almost hit Einstein's building and her vehicle
as Thompson drove out of the parking lot. (ECF No.
30-3 ¶ 6.) The customer told Thompson's
supervisor that she had called and reported Thompson's
behavior to the police. (ECF No. 30-3 ¶ 6.) The
customer also advised Thompson's supervisor that she
would not return to Einstein because of this parking lot
incident. (ECF No. 30-3 ¶ 6.)
that day, the police responded to a call that Thompson was
sleeping in the middle of the road and arrested him for
driving while intoxicated and for driving with a suspended
license. (ECF No. 30-2 at 87:2-24-90:24-25.)
Thompson remained in jail until January 6, 2017, when he
posted bond. (ECF No. 30-2 at 91:16-21.) Because he
was incarcerated, Thompson failed to report to Einstein on
January 6th for his scheduled shift. (ECF No. 30-3
¶ 8; ECF No. 30-2 at 99:3-18.) Einstein
considered Thompson's absence a “no-call,
no-show” absence because Thompson failed to notify his
supervisor of this absence beforehand. (ECF No. 30-3
¶ 8; ECF No. 30-2 at 99:3-18.) On January 7,
2017, Thompson reported for his shift at Einstein and learned
that his employment had been terminated. (ECF No. 30-2 at
100:9-22.) Thompson's supervisor testified that
three factors motivated him to terminate Thompson's
employment: (1) Thompson's “no-call, no-show”
absence on January 6, 2017; (2) Thompson's falling asleep
at a table in the dining room; and (3) the report by a
regular guest that Thompson almost hit the building and her
car as he left Einstein's parking lot. (ECF No.
30-3 ¶ 9.) Thompson, however, alleges that Einstein
terminated him because of his race, in violation of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1967, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
and/or 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (ECF No. 1 at 1.)
Summary Judgment Standard
56(a) provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary
judgment 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In
considering a motion for summary judgment, the district court
must view the evidence “through the prism of the
substantive evidentiary burden.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254 (1986). All
justifiable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts
must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (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). “Where the record taken as a whole could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving
party, ” summary judgment should be granted.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. at 587 (1986).
moves for summary judgment on Thompson's claim of racial
discrimination under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981,
arguing that Thompson fails to establish a prima facie case
of unlawful discrimination. (ECF No. 30 at 9.)
Einstein also argues that Thompson's discrimination claim
must fail because he “admitted at deposition he does
not believe Einstein discriminated against him because of his
race.” (ECF No. 30 at 2.) Finally, in addition
to arguing that summary judgment is warranted because
Thompson did not follow the procedural rules (ECF 37 at 2);
Einstein argues that Thompson's Title VII discrimination
claim fails because the claim is time-barred. (ECF No. 30
VII prohibits an employer from “discriminat[ing]
against any individual with respect to . . . compensation,
terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of
such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Title VII also
prohibits an employer from acting in retaliation against
employees who oppose any practice made unlawful under Title
VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Section 1981 prohibits race
discrimination and retaliation. 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a);
Tank v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 758 F.3d 800, 805 (7th
Cir. 2014). Courts apply the same standards to analyze claims
under Title VII and § 1981. Mintz v. Caterpillar
Inc., 788 F.3d 673, 679 (7th Cir. 2015).
alleging discrimination may prove their claims using either
the direct method or indirect method of proof. Andrews v.
CBOCS West, Inc., 743 F.3d 230, 234 (7th Cir. 2014).
Under the direct method, a plaintiff proves his case
“by pointing to evidence directly showing that [his]
employer subjected [him] to an adverse employment action on
an impermissible discriminatory basis.” Id.
Under the indirect, burden-shifting method established in
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792
(1973), a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case
of discrimination based on, as alleged in this case, race.
Id. at 802. A plaintiff establishes a prima facie
case of discrimination by presenting evidence that would
allow a reasonable jury to find on each claim that: (1) he is
a member of a protected class; (2) he was meeting the
employer's legitimate employment expectations; (3) he
suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) he was treated
less favorably than a similarly-situated, non-protected class
member. See Farrell v. Butler Univ., 421
F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 2005). If the plaintiff can prove a
prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to
articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the
adverse action. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802.
If the employer articulates such a reason, the burden shifts
back to the plaintiff to show that a genuine issue of
material fact exists as to whether the employer's stated
reason was pretext. Id. at 804.
of whether a plaintiff uses the direct method of proof,
indirect method, or both methods, the legal standard is the
same, namely, “whether the evidence would permit a
reasonable factfinder to conclude that the plaintiff's
race, ethnicity, sex, religion, or other proscribed factor
caused the discharge or other adverse employment
action.” Ortiz v. Werner Enterps., Inc., 834
F.3d 760, 765 (7th Cir. 2016). Ortiz “did not
alter McDonnell Douglas or displace the indirect
method of establishing a prima facie case of
discrimination.” Golla v. Office of Chief Judge of
Cook Cty., Ill., 875 F.3d 404, 407 (7th Cir. 2017).
Rather, “the indirect method remains a means of
organizing, presenting, and assessing circumstantial evidence
in frequently recurring factual patterns found in
discrimination cases.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted) (quoting David v. Bd. of Trs. of Cmty.
Coll. Dist. No. 508, 846 F.3d 216, 224 (7th Cir. 2017).