United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment
filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by
Defendants Indiana University School of Medicine
(“IU”), Sheryl Allen (“Allen”), and
Abby Klemsz (“Klemsz”) (collectively,
“Defendants”) (Filing No. 68), and a
Rule 37(b) Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff
Patricia Ann Wade (“Wade”) (Filing No.
72). After IU terminated her employment, Wade filed this
pro se action asserting claims of employment
discrimination and retaliation based on her age, sex, and
race, and a deprivation of her equal protection and due
process rights. Wade brings these claims pursuant to Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e,
et seq. (“Title VII”), the Civil Rights
Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section
1981”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29
U.S.C. § 621 (“ADEA”), and 42 U.S.C. §
1983 (“Section 1983”).
answering the Complaint, the Defendants filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment. Wade then filed a Rule 37(b) motion for
judgment, requesting a default judgment against the
Defendants as a sanction for spoliation of evidence. For the
following reasons, the Court grants the
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and
denies Wade's Rule 37(b) Motion.
following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as
required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are
presented in the light most favorable to Wade as the
non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d
582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
University is a university of the State of Indiana with its
main campus located in Bloomington, Indiana, and a School of
Medicine based primarily in Indianapolis. Wade is a white
female who was 55 years old when this litigation was
initiated. She was hired by IU on July 14, 2008 as a learning
specialist in the medical student affairs department
(“MSA”) of the School of Medicine. As a learning
specialist, Wade's primary responsibility was to provide
support to medical and graduate students, including support
with student study habits. When Wade was hired, her direct
supervisor was Mary Alice Bell (“Bell”)
(Filing No. 70-1 at 6-7, 80, 83-84; Filing No.
11 at 3).
the course of her employment at IU, Wade had various work
performance issues. In May 2012, Bell informed Wade that she
had specific performance issues such as sporadic hours that
led to not fulfilling the fulltime hours obligation, lack of
follow through on projects, lack of initiative and
participation, poor judgment, and lack of basic demonstrated
knowledge of MSA functioning (Filing No. 70-2). In
an effort to address these specific work performance issues
Wade was placed on a performance improvement plan from May
29, 2012 through July 27, 2012. The performance improvement
plan noted that unsatisfactory improvement could result in
corrective action, including termination of employment
(Filing No. 70-3). Bell provided the performance
improvement plan to Wade during an in-person meeting and
discussed the performance issues with her. Wade did not
contest any of the issues raised in the performance
improvement plan; however, she did not agree with some of the
critiques (Filing No. 70-1 at 21-29).
November 1, 2012, Bell and Anne Flaherty
(“Flaherty”) issued another performance
improvement plan to Wade. The second performance improvement
plan identified the following areas of concern: active and
effective outreach; active engagement within MSA functions;
overall judgment, initiative, and ability to prioritize; and
supervision and monitoring of statewide tutoring program
(Filing No. 70-4). Bell and Flaherty met with Wade
to discuss the performance improvement plan. Wade
acknowledged that her performance “was still not up to
par” and her supervisors were “still not
happy.” (Filing No. 70-1 at 31-32).
Allen became the associate dean of the MSA department in July
2013. In that role, Allen oversaw and supervised the MSA
department. Before becoming the associate dean of the MSA
department, Allen was the assistant dean of Diversity Affairs
for the School of Medicine. While in the Diversity Affairs
role, Allen would send students to the learning specialist in
the MSA department (which was Wade) for assistance with
personalized study and work plans. On many occasions,
students would return to Allen and report that Wade was
unhelpful and did not provide the requested assistance
(Filing No. 70-5 at 1).
becoming the associate dean, Allen met with Wade on several
occasions to provide feedback on her work performance. In an
informal conversation in early October 2013, Bell told Wade
that her concerns about Wade's performance were resolved.
However, on October 31, 2013, Allen issued a “second
written warning” to Wade for “poor work
performance”. The warning referred to an earlier
written warning that had been issued in August 2013 and noted
that Wade's work performance had not improved.
Allen's written warning informed Wade that she needed to
improve streamlining the tutor process, identifying
“high risk” students, and developing an
evaluation form for the learning programs. Wade was warned
that if her work performance did not improve she would be
subject to further disciplinary action, which could include
termination. Allen then met with Wade on or about November 7,
2013, after having issued the written warning (Filing No.
70-6; Filing No. 70-1 at 37-39).
tried to submit an internal grievance in November 2013 based
on “false accusations” about her work conduct. In
particular, she met with Allen in December 2013 to discuss
the matter, and Allen told Wade that another learning
specialist would be hired and Wade would be moved to another
building, which happened in January 2014. With the move,
Wade's access to an electronic database of student
records, necessary for her job responsibilities, was blocked
(Filing No. 70-1 at 49-51). A formal written
grievance of Wade's November 2013 complaint
“didn't go anywhere” because she
“didn't file timely.” Id. at 52.
Klemsz became Wade's direct supervisor in January 2014
when she was made the assistant dean for academic advising
and career mentoring in the MSA department. Klemsz met with
Wade on several occasions to discuss performance issues
(Filing No. 70-7 at 1).
April 2014, Wade filed an internal grievance against Allen
and an executive associate dean, alleging age discrimination
based on Wade's perception that it looked like they were
trying to get rid of all the older, experienced employees in
the MSA department. IU conducted an investigation and
interviewed approximately thirty people. Thereafter, IU
determined the grievance had no merit (Filing No. 70-1 at
52-54; Filing No. 70-5 at 2).
December 15, 2014, Wade filed another internal grievance with
IU, this time alleging retaliation for filing the April 2014
grievance (Filing No. 70-1 at 61). The retaliation
Wade complained of included not being informed of employee
development opportunities, lack of a budget, exclusion from
work projects or activities, not approving vacation time,
hiring another learning specialist without her input, and
reclassifying her attendance at a work convention from being
a work-related event to vacation time (Filing No.
70-10). IU determined there was not sufficient evidence
of retaliation (Filing No. 70-1 at 61-62).
in the year, on May 6, 2014, Wade had communicated
incorrectly to a medical student that the student had been
granted an accommodation for each year of the student's
enrollment even though the committee responsible for
providing accommodations had granted the student's
accommodation for only one year. Wade did not have the
authority to approve an accommodation for each year of the
student's enrollment. Klemsz first learned of this issue
in February 2015 when the student emailed her about the
accommodation. On February 27, 2015, Klemsz and a member of
the human resources department met with Wade to discuss the
incident. Klemsz asked Wade about what had happened and why
she had told the student something that was contrary to
documentation regarding the student's accommodation. Wade
initially denied that she had inappropriately approved the
accommodation, but she later acknowledged the incident only
after Klemsz presented her with an email addressed to the
student from Wade approving the accommodation for four years
(Filing No. 70-7 at 1-2).
and a member of human resources met with Wade on March 17,
2015, to discuss her work performance issues. They informed
Wade that they had lost trust in her ability to perform her
responsibilities. Wade was given the option to resign from
her employment at IU with a severance package, or she would
be terminated. Wade chose not to resign with the severance
package, so IU terminated her employment. On April 2, 2015,
Allen sent a termination letter to Wade, notifying her that
her employment was terminated effective March 27, 2015. The
letter noted that the termination was a result of recent
performance-related issues that had been discussed with Wade
(Filing No. 70-1 at 62; Filing No. 70-7 at
2; Filing No. 70-8 at 1). Wade was 54 years old
at the time of her termination (Filing No. 70-1 at
86). A white female in her late 30s was hired as the new
learning specialist following Wade's termination
(Filing No. 70-7 at 2).
to receiving the termination letter, Wade filed an internal
grievance regarding her termination. In her grievance, she
requested reinstatement and to be place under a different
supervisors. She alleged that her termination was in
retaliation for her internal grievances filed against Allen.
Wade argued that IU did not follow its corrective action
policies when handling her termination. She explained that
her inaccurate approval of a student's accommodation was
an innocent mistake based on Klemsz's negligence. Wade
alleged two situations where Allen and Klemsz discriminated
against students with disabilities or failed to appropriately
accommodate students, yet they were not disciplined by IU.
Wade argued that the student accommodation email incident was
a pretext for terminating her to retaliate for the prior
grievances (Filing No. 70-9). IU investigated the
termination grievance and decided that it had no merit
(Filing No. 70-5 at 2).
filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on
September 11, 2015 (Filing No. 70-1 at 120-21). On
May 19, 2016, she amended her charge of discrimination with
the EEOC (Filing No. 70-11 at 2). Wade asserted
charges of age discrimination and retaliation against I U.She
noted her IU internal grievances from April and December 2014
and complained that she then was terminated in March 2015 and
replaced by someone ten years younger. She explained,
“I believe I am being discriminated against in my
termination because of my age, 54 . . . and retaliated
against for complaining of age discrimination in my
termination . . . .” Id. On May 24, 2016, the
EEOC issued its Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue to Wade.
Id. at 1.
August 24, 2016, Wade filed the instant pro se
Complaint, asserting claims pursuant to Title VII, Section
1981, ADEA, and Section 1983 for employment discrimination
and retaliation based on age, sex, and race, and a
deprivation of her equal protection and due process rights
(Filing No. 1). After two years of litigation, the
Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment, and Wade
filed her Rule 37(b) Motion for Judgment.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings
and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a
genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary
judgment is appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”
Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487,
489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all
reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”
Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584 (citation omitted).
“However, inferences that are supported by only
speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment
motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d
624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks
omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who bears the burden
of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings,
but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual
allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact
that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at
490 (citation omitted). “The opposing party cannot meet
this burden with conclusory statements or speculation but
only with appropriate citations to relevant admissible
evidence.” Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900
F.Supp. 1065, 1072 (S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).
much the same way that a court is not required to scour the
record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary
judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the
merits of [the] claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden
Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and
quotation marks omitted). “[N]either the mere existence
of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the
existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts
is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.”
Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391,
395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
considering the Defendants' summary judgment motion, the
Court views the designated evidence in the light most
favorable to Wade, as the non-moving party, and draws all
reasonable inferences in her favor. Bright v. CCA,
2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162264, at *8 (S.D. Ind. Nov. 14,
2013). “However, employment discrimination cases are
extremely fact-intensive, and neither appellate courts nor
district courts are obliged in our adversary system to scour
the record looking for factual disputes.” Id.
at *8-9 (citation and quotation marks omitted).
document filed pro se is to be liberally construed,
and . . . must be held to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
However, it is also well established that pro se litigants
are not excused from compliance with procedural rules. [T]he
Supreme Court has never suggested that procedural rules in
ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to
excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel[.]
Further, as the Supreme Court has noted, in the long run,
experience teaches that strict adherence to the procedural
requirements specified by the legislature is the best
guarantee of evenhanded administration of the law.
Loubser v. United States, 606 F.Supp.2d 897, 909
(N.D. Ind. 2009) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
[E]ven pro se litigants . . . must expect to file a legal
argument and some supporting authority. A litigant who fails
to press a point by supporting it with pertinent authority,
or by showing why it is sound despite a lack of supporting
authority . . . forfeits the point. We will not do his
research for him.
Mathis v. New York Life Ins. Co., 133 F.3d 546, 548
(7th Cir. 1998) (citations and quotation ...