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Pagels v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 26, 2016

ERNEST J. PAGELS, Plaintiff,


          HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge

         On August 21, 2015, plaintiff Ernest J. Pagels Jr., who is representing himself, filed a complaint against the United States Postal Service (“USPS”). Dkt. No. 1. The plaintiff appears to make two distinct claims. He alleges that the USPS (1) did not hire him and, instead, “hired Hispanics, African Americans and Women who have never served in the military, ” which sounds like a reverse discrimination claim, and (2) “put a restraining order on [him] not to enter any U.S. Postal Service [building] for the next three years;” he would like to enter a USPS office without restrictions. Id. at 1. The court construes the complaint as a request that the court enter an order directing the USPS to award the plaintiff a job, and modifying or vacating the state court restraining order. The USPS filed a motion for summary judgment as to both claims. The court will grant the motion.


         The plaintiff is a United States Air Force veteran who has served all over the world. Dkt. No. 17. He applied for employment with the USPS, but the USPS did not hire him. Id. The plaintiff also is subject to a restraining order that prevents him from entering a USPS office. Id. In response to the plaintiff’s complaint, Jennifer L. Jarvie, an EEOC Data Analyst, searched the USPS’s national database of information and formal EEOC complaints of discrimination filed by applicants for employment with the USPS. Dkt. No. 13 at 4, ¶¶2, 5. Her search identified “no record of any discrimination complaints, formal or informal, and no record of any calls to the USPS EEOC Contact Center” relating to the plaintiff. Id. at ¶7. The USPS also attached a certified copy of an “Injunction - Harassment” filed in the case United States Postal Service Lakeland District v. Ernest John Pagels, Case. No. 2015CV006603, along with a copy of the docket sheet in that case. Id. at 5, ¶¶8-9. The docket sheet reflects that the plaintiff did not appeal the entry of that injunction. Id., ¶10.


         A court must grant summary judgment when there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). A court appropriately grants summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Id. The “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, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citation omitted). “A party will be successful in opposing summary judgment only when they present definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.” EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 233 F.3d 432, 437 (7th Cir. 2000).

         “Material facts” are those facts which “might affect the outcome of the suit, ” and a dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if a reasonable finder of fact could find in favor of the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment cannot simply rest on allegations or denials in its pleadings; it must also introduce affidavits or other evidence setting forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Anders v. Waste Mgm’t of Wisconsin, 463 F.3d 670, 675 (7th Cir. 2006). The court views all facts and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, Tanner v. Jupiter Realty Corp., 433 F.3d 913, 915 (7th Cir. 2006), but “inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment motion, ” Herzog v. Graphic Packaging Int’l, Inc., 742 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Tubergen v. St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc., 517 F.3d 470, 473 (7th Cir. 2008)).


         Based on the undisputed facts, the court must grant the government’s motion for summary judgment. First, the court cannot give the plaintiff any relief on his discrimination claim at this time, because there is no evidence that he attempted to resolve his discrimination claim through the government’s administrative procedures. In other words, there is no evidence that before filing his lawsuit, the plaintiff filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That is a necessary step before a plaintiff can file a discrimination claim in federal court. Second, this court does not have the authority to modify the Milwaukee County Circuit Court’s restraining order, so it cannot give him any relief on that claim.

         Reverse Discrimination Claim

         Because Mr. the plaintiff was an applicant for federal employment, he was required to follow Title VII’s administrative grievance process before filing a complaint in this court based on his discrimination claim. Brown v. Gen. Servs. Admin., 425 U.S. 820, 831 (1976); Doe v. Oberweis Dairy, 456 F.3d 704, 712-13 (7th Cir. 2006). Title VII authorized the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to set forth regulations governing the administrative process that an unsuccessful applicant for federal employment must follow before filing a complaint in court. 42 U.S.C. §2000e-16(b).

         An applicant for federal employment who believes he “may have been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information must consult [an EEOC] Counselor within 45 days of the date the matter alleged to be discriminatory or, in the case of personnel action, within 45 days of the effective date of the action.” 29 C.F.R. §1614.105(a)(1). “The purpose of this section is to allow the government and the employee involved an opportunity to informally resolve the matter before formal action is taken, either through the EEOC or in the courts.” Smith v. Potter, 445 F.3d 1000, 1006-07 n. 15 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal citation and quotation omitted).

         In this case, the undisputed facts show that the plaintiff filed his complaint before he made either a formal or an informal complaint of discrimination to the EEOC. In response to the USPS’s motion, the plaintiff stated that he “thought only the Court’s deal with discrimination issues.” Dkt. No. 17 at 1. The court does not question the plaintiff’s explanation, but unfortunately, the plaintiff’s belief was wrong. The law does not relieve him from the requirement that he pursue administrative procedures before filing a complaint in court-even if he didn’t understand the requirements of the law. As an unsuccessful applicant for federal employment, the plaintiff must exhaust his administrative remedies before he can file a complaint “against the government for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . .” Smith, 445 F.3d at 1007. His failure to exhaust his administrative remedies is not a jurisdictional defect, and he still may be able to raise his claim with the agency. The court will grant the USPS’s motion summary judgment as to the reverse discrimination claim, and dismiss that claim without prejudice.

         Restraining ...

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