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Home / Opinion / 10-3490 Burnell v. Gates Rubber Co.

10-3490 Burnell v. Gates Rubber Co.

Race discrimination; retaliation

Where a supervisor accused an employee of “playing the race card,” summary judgment was improperly granted to the employer on the employee’s retaliation claim, even if summary judgment for the employer on the discrimination claim was proper.

“The strongest evidence of causation is Burnell’s deposition testimony that, during the December 19 interview, ‘[Totonchian] at one point said I guess I am playing the race card . . . I am the saddest employee he has ever seen. Just do the damn job.

This is the last straw.’ Gates Rubber calls this part of Burnell’s deposition testimony ambiguous. But at the summary
judgment stage, we must resolve any ambiguity in Burnell’s favor, and we do not think it a stretch to read Burnell’s

testimony as reporting that Totonchian had accused him of ‘playing the race card.’ By the end of the interview in which
Totonchian allegedly made the “race card” comment, Totonchian had decided he wanted Burnell fired. Given Burnell’s prior complaints of racial discrimination, Totonchian’s statement is evidence that those complaints caused Burnell’s discharge.”

Affirmed in part, and Reversed in part.

10-3490 Burnell v. Gates Rubber Co.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Kapala, J., Kanne, J.

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