United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
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
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.]
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,
[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.
Motion for Summary Judgment
Standard of Review
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).
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).
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
Statement of Facts
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).
Mr. Daza's Termination From INDOT
Daza began working as a geologist for INDOT in 1993. Daza
v. State, 331 F.Supp.3d 810, 820 (S.D. Ind.
2018). 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.
The December 16, 2015 Charge of Discrimination and the
December 17, 2015 Civil Service Employee Complaint
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
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.
December 17, 2015, Mr. Daza filed a Civil Service Employee
Complaint with the Indiana State Personnel Department,
1. Employee suffered discrimination based on his race,
national origin. This discrimination ultimately [led] to his
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
3. Employee suffered age discrimination which [led] to his
4. INDOT failed to follow their practice of progressive
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 ...