Muhammad v. Caterpillar, Inc., No. 12-1723 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
In 2006, after coworkers made offensive comments, orally and in graffiti, about Muhammad’s race and perceived sexual orientation, Muhammad complained to management. Caterpillar responded. Walls were repainted and employees were warned that anyone caught defacing the walls would be fired. Six weeks later, Muhammad left his work station during non-break time to use the restroom, and checked the bid board before returning to work. Supervisor Edwards confronted him about use of work time to check the board. Edwards contends that Muhammad responded with disrespectful comments and walked away. Muhammad claimd that he did not act disrespectfully, but did not want to discuss it without a union representative present. Edwards suspended Muhammad and walked him out of the plant, allegedly for insubordination. After an internal investigation, the suspension was deemed appropriate. Muhammad filed a grievance through his union and was allowed to return to work. He was suspended again and later terminated based on his conduct upon his return. Following settlement of his grievance of the termination, he returned to work. He was later laid off in a reduction in force. He was subsequently rehired and remains employed at Caterpillar. Based on the 2006 incidents, Muhammad filed charges of harassment and retaliation with the EEOC. After receiving a right-to-sue letter, he sued, claiming hostile work environment and retaliation. The district court entered summary judgment for Caterpillar. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the company reasonably responded to complaints of harassment and no evidence suggested that Caterpillar suspended Muhammad because he complained.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on October 16, 2014.