Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Daza v. State

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

January 10, 2020

Peter Daza, Plaintiff,
State of Indiana, Russell Fowler, Nina Daniel, and Valerie Cockrum, Defendants.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Peter Daza, who is Hispanic, Native American, over the age of forty, and a Democrat, worked for the State of Indiana Department of Transportation (“INDOT”) as a Geologist from 1993 until he was terminated in 2015. In 2017, he initiated a lawsuit against Defendants the State of Indiana, INDOT District Deputy Commissioner Russell Fowler, INDOT District Human Resources Manager Nina Daniel, and INDOT Technical Services Director Valerie Cockrum, alleging claims of discrimination based on race, color, age, and political speech and association, and retaliation based on his complaints about discrimination and his exercise of his right to free speech and political association. Daza v. State of Indiana, et al., Case No. 1:17-cv-316-JMS-MPB (“Daza I”). This Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants in Daza I, and Mr. Daza appealed the portion of that decision granting summary judgment on his § 1983 political discrimination and political retaliation claims to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

         Mr. Daza initiated this lawsuit on September 25, 2018, twenty-six days after the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants in Daza I. In this lawsuit, Mr. Daza claims that Defendants discriminated and retaliated against him based on his race, color, age, and political speech and association by failing to rehire him after his termination. [Filing No. 1.] Magistrate Judge Matthew Brookman stayed this case on May 17, 2019, pending resolution of Mr. Daza's appeal of the decision in Daza I. [Filing No. 32.] The Magistrate Judge noted in his Order that “staying this case pending a decision in Daza I before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is the most efficient course.” [Filing No. 32.] Subsequently, the Court administratively closed this case pending resolution of the appeal in Daza I. [Filing No. 34.]

         On October 24, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this Court's grant of summary judgment in Daza I. Daza v. Indiana, 941 F.3d 303 (7th Cir. 2019). The Court reopened this case, and reinstated two pending motions: (1) Defendants' Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions, [Filing No. 16]; and (2) their “Early” Motion for Summary Judgment, [1] [Filing No. 24]. Those motions are now ripe for the Court's decision. Because Defendants' Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions is based on their assertion that Mr. Daza's lawsuit is meritless, the Court first considers the “Early” Motion for Summary Judgment.


         “Early” Motion for Summary Judgment

         A. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. SeeFed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the granting of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (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). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them.” Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

         B. Statement of Facts

         The following factual background is set forth pursuant to the standards detailed above. The facts stated are not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light most favorable to “the party against whom the motion under consideration is made.” Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005).

         1. Mr. Daza's Termination From INDOT

         Mr. Daza began working as a geologist for INDOT in 1993. Daza v. State, 331 F.Supp.3d 810, 820 (S.D. Ind. 2018).[2] On December 10, 2015, Ms. Daniel, INDOT's District Human Resources Manager, provided Mr. Daza with a termination memorandum which stated:

On 3/12/13 you received a Written Reprimand for exhibiting defiant and insubordinate behavior by your refusal to follow a direct Agency expectation. This defiance was exhibited in front of members of the construction staff, as well as, employees you directly supervised. You were reminded that this behavior did not reflect INDOT's Core4 values and was not acceptable.
Your 2013 annual review addressed your struggle to cooperate on assignments you did not agree with (Teamwork) and your need to improve upon your method of delivery and professionalism (Customer Service).
In 2013 you received Core4 Training which set an expectation for all INDOT employees to support a culture of Respect, Teamwork, Accountability, and Excellence (the “Core4 Principles”). In 2014 you received Act 1 training which set expectations for all INDOT employees on how to speak to and work with others and the expectation that employees be accountable for your behavior and actions. Keeping your words and behavior “Above the Line”.
On 11-30-15 your Director discussed with you your abrasive interaction with another Director and suggested that you meet with that manager to clear the air, you declined to do so. On 12/2/15 you refused to participate fully in an Agency required training evidenced by your leaning back with arms folded and eyes closed and commenting “this is f[***]ing gay” in reference to one of the training exercises. On 12/7/15 you disseminated…an email to possible awardees concerning an, as of yet, unapproved bonus request. These are all examples of your continued defiance of Agency culture and expectations.
Your lack of judgment and inability to conduct yourself in a manner in which your actions do not bring you or the Agency into disrepute cannot be tolerated.
For the reasons listed above, you are hereby notified that effective immediately your employment with the Indiana Department of Transportation is terminated in accordance with IC-4-15-2.2-24 which states “An employee in the unclassified service is an employee at will and serves at the pleasure of the employee's appointing authority…and may be dismissed, demoted or transferred for any reason that does not contravene public policy.”

Daza, 331 F.Supp.3d at 834-35.

         2. The December 16, 2015 Charge of Discrimination and the December 17, 2015 Civil Service Employee Complaint

         On December 16, 2015, Mr. Daza filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, in which he stated:

I started working for the State of Indiana Department of Transportation in June 1993 as a Geologist. I am of Hispanic and Native American races with darker skin, over 40 years of age with a disability. I had good work performance, and I received performance reviews of meets requirements or above. On December 10, 2015, the Department of Transportation gave me a letter of termination for reasons that were false and discriminatory.
I believe that I am being discriminated against due to my race, Hispanic and Native American, color, darker skin, age, over 40, and disability, which are violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as amended [the “ADEA”], and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended.

Id. at 835-36.

         On December 17, 2015, Mr. Daza filed a Civil Service Employee Complaint with the Indiana State Personnel Department, stating:

1. Employee suffered discrimination based on his race, national origin. This discrimination ultimately [led] to his termination.
2. Employee suffered discrimination due to a partial disability of limited eyesight requiring glasses and the disability of Meniere's disease which [led] to his termination.
3. Employee suffered age discrimination which [led] to his termination.
4. INDOT failed to follow their practice of progressive discipline.
5. Employee did not violate the Bonus Policy Guidelines referenced in the termination letter.
The basis for each assertion is included in the attachment to this complaint. The employee seeks immediate reinstatement to his position as a geologist for the Vincennes District Testing Department with no lapse in his employment record, full back pay, restoration of his salary with addition of any raise that would ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.