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ESTHER M. RODRIGUEZ Plaintiff
vs.
M & M/MARS Defendant.
 
Case:
No. 96 C 1231
 
Location:
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS EASTERN DIVISION
 
Date:
June 18 1997 Decided
 
Attorneys:
For ESTHER M RODRIGUEZ plaintiff: Terrance Anthony Norton IIT-Kent Law Offices Chicago IL.
For M&M/MARS defendant: Jody Wilner Moran Patrick V. Melfi Connelly Sheehan & Moran Chicago IL.
 
Court:
Robert W. Gettleman United States District Judge
 
Author:
The Hon. Justice Robert W. Gettleman
 

Plaintiff Esther Rodriguez has brought a one count complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. SEC. 2000(e) against her former employer M&M/Mars alleging that she was subjected to unwanted sexual advances by co-workers amounting to a hostile work environment and then terminated from her employment in retaliation for having complained. Defendant has moved for summary judgment and plaintiff has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.

Defendant does not really dispute that it terminated plaintiff after she made a specific complaint of sexual harassment. It does dispute that plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for that complaint. In support of its position defendant has presented substantial evidence that plaintiff was terminated because her complaint which proved to be unfounded was just one in a long line of unsubstantiated complaints made by plaintiff. Those complaints included: 1) falsely accusing coworkers of misconduct; 2) providing false information to the employer in order to cause the company to initiate disciplinary action against coworkers; 3) asking that coworkers be tested for drugs because she saw them smoking marijuana after working hours; and 4) telling other employees that they were in trouble with management. Plaintiff was warned that any further unsubstantiated charges would result in termination.

Plaintiff does not dispute that she made the series of charges or that she was warned about further charges. She does dispute in her deposition that her claims were unfounded. She has little evidence besides her own testimony however to support her claim that defendant's proffered reason for her discharge was a pretext for discrimination and her own motion argues only that once having filed a complaint with management she could not be terminated even if the complaint was based on lies. In essence she argues that once she complained about sexual harassment she was insulated from discharge even for raising meritless claims. This simply is not the law. In Wilson v. U T Health center 973 F.2d 1263 1268 (5th Cir. 1992) the court stated:

Plaintiff claims that Pettway [411 F.2d 998 (5th Cir. 1969)] interprets Title VII to prevent an employer from making a disciplinary decision based on its evaluation of the veracity of an employee's allegation that concern an activity that Title VII protects such as complaints about sexual harassment. No court has read Pettway so broadly and we see no justification for doing so now.

See also Vasconcelos v. Meese 907 F.2d 111 (9th Cir. 1990)("accusations made in the context of charges before the [EEOC] are protected by statute charges made outside of that context are made at the accuser's peril").

Thus plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is ill-conceived and must be denied. As noted plaintiff has presented little evidence to demonstrate that defendant's articulated reason for its decision was pre-textual. Perhaps the little evidence plaintiff has might be enough to ward off summary judgment for defendant if not for another problem.

In addition to its motion for summary judgment defendant has moved for sanctions against plaintiff asserting that she committed perjury in her deposition. In particular plaintiff stated in her deposition that she had never been convicted of a crime. She made the same statement on her employment application with defendant. Plaintiff has failed to respond to the motion for sanctions probably because the documents attached to the motion clearly indicate that plaintiff has been convicted of: (1) felony grand larceny and felony conspiracy for which she was sentenced to ten years imprisonment; (2) obtaining goods under false pretenses for which she was sentenced to five years imprisonment; and (3) felony theft for stealing $45 000.00 from a currency exchange for which she received a sentence of five years imprisonment. Plaintiff failed to reveal these convictions in her deposition and on her employment application where she indicated that she had been unemployed caring for her sick father. At her deposition she testified that the statements she made on her employment application were true and accurate.

Such egregious conduct on its own warrants dismissal of plaintiff's action. Combs v. Rockwell International Corp. 927 F.2d 486 488 (9th Cir. 1987) (dismissal is an appropriate sanction for falsifying at deposition). This court has inherent equitable powers to dismiss actions for failure to prosecute contempt of court or abuse of litigation practices. TeleVideo Systems Inc. v. Heidenthal 826 F.2d 915 (9th Cir. 1991). "False testimony in a formal proceeding is intolerable." ABF Freight System Inc. v. NLRB 510 U.S. 317 323 127 L. Ed. 2d 152 114 S. Ct. 835 (1994).

This court is aware that the law favors a trial on the merits. That right to a trial however is not absolute. Dismissal may be ordered upon a finding of bad faith willfulness or fault. In this context "bad faith" is conduct which either is intentional or in reckless disregard of one's obligations. Brady v. United States 877 F. Supp. 444 452 (C.D. Ill. 1994). In the instant case plaintiff intentionally attempted to mislead defendant and this court. She was aware of her obligation to tell the truth at the deposition and intentionally violated it. Parties who wish to use the judicial system to settle disputes have certain obligations and responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to tell the truth in a deposition. Id.

In the instant case plaintiff sought to conceal relevant information bearing directly upon her credibility both as a witness and a litigant. Issues of credibility are particularly important in Title VII matters. Sarsha v. Sears Roebuck & Co. 3 F.3d 1035 1038 (7th Cir. 1993). This court cannot and will not allow a litigant to so abuse the judicial process. Accordingly the court concludes that plaintiff's actions warrant a dismissal of the case.

Moreover even if the court applied a lesser sanction it would strike plaintiffs deposition. Without her deposition plaintiff has no evidence to refute defendant's articulated reason for dismissal. Therefore defendant would be entitled to summary judgments on the merits of the complaint.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth above defendant's motion for sanctions is granted and this case is dismissed with prejudice.

Robert W. Gettleman

United States District Judge