GBUR v. CITY OF HARVEY, ILLINOIS No. 07 C 1923.
835 F.Supp.2d 600 (2011)
Alex GBUR, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF HARVEY, ILLINOIS, an Illinois municipal corporation, Eric Kellogg, individually and in his official capacity as mayor, Andrew Joshua, individually and in his official capacity as chief of police, Defendants.
United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.
Opinion Granting in Part and Denying in Part Reconsidertaion March 9, 2012.
Julie Ann Hofherr Bruch, Jane Marie May, Benjamin Matthew Jacobi, O'Halloran, Kosoff, Helander & Geitner, P.C., Northbrook, IL, for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JEFFREY COLE, United States Magistrate Judge.
Alex Gbur, a white male, was a policeman for the south suburban City of Harvey, beginning in 2001. In April 2003, Harvey elected an African-American mayor — the previous mayor had been white — and Mr. Gbur feels it was no coincidence that his career took a turn for the worse around that time. He was disciplined on a number of occasions, and his employment
Under Count I of his second amended complaint, Mr. Gbur charges the defendants with "race discrimination in violation of Title VII." Mr. Gbur alleges that he was suspended without pay and subsequently discharged because he is white, while similarly situated African-American officers were treated more favorably when they committed similar or more severe misconduct. (Second Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 13-21). Mr. Gbur also claims the defendants: terminated white officers from their employment; rehired African-American police officers who had been discharged or resigned in lieu of discharge for disciplinary reasons; demoted white officers and promoted less qualified African-American officers in their place; disciplined white officers more harshly than African-American officers; and permitted a hostile work environment that subjected white officers to racial epithets and unsafe work assignments. (Second Amended Complaint, ¶ 21).
Mr. Gbur charges that defendants with "First Amendment violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983." He says that when he filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March 2006, he was treated differently and suffered adverse job actions. (Second Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 28-29).
He also claims that when he testified regarding his experiences during a Department of Justice investigation into charges of discrimination in Harvey's police department, he suffered retaliation in the form of threats of termination, denial of vacation days, provision of unsafe equipment, and unsafe work assignments. (Second Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 30-33).
Mr. Gbur adds that, after he supported a rival candidate for mayor against defendant Eric Kellogg, the incumbent, he suffered retaliation, including: threats of termination, denial of vacation days, provision of unsafe equipment, and unsafe work assignments, termination, and not being invited to union meetings with the mayor. (Second Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 34-35). He also claims to have been shot at in an attempted homicide by a relative of Mayor Kellogg, who was later apprehended by the Illinois State Police. (Second Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 36-38). Mr. Gbur states that the mayor and the chief of police are policymakers for the City of Harvey, and that it is a custom and practice of the city to retaliate against those who publicly express opposition to the city regarding matters of public concern.
The defendants have moved for summary judgment. They argue that this court does not have jurisdiction over Mr. Gbur's Title VII and § 1983 claims pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because he challenged his termination in state court proceedings. (Defendants' Memorandum, at 3-4). They also argue that, for the same reason, res judicata precludes Mr. Gbur's claims of discrimination and retaliation regarding his suspension and subsequent termination, and the investigation into his conduct that precipitated his suspension and termination. (Defendants' Memorandum, at 4-8). The
At the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a "genuine" dispute as to those facts. Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c); Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380,
Local Rule 56.1
As always, the facts underlying this summary judgment proceeding are drawn from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 submissions. Local Rule 56.1 requires a party seeking summary judgment to include with its motion "a statement of material facts as to which the ... party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the ... party to a judgment as a matter of law." Local Rule 56.1(a)(3); Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc.,
If the moving party fails to comply with the rule, the motion can be denied without further consideration. Local Rule 56.1(a)(3); Smith v. Lamz,
The defendants have pointed out what they perceive as problems with some of the evidence Mr. Gbur has cited to in support of his Local Rule 56.1 facts. The evidence a party relies upon to stave off summary judgment must be admissible evidence. Sow v. Fortville Police Dept.,
Mr. Gbur began his career as a patrol officer in September of 2001. (Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement ("Def.St."), ¶ 10; Gbur Dep., at 13). On November 18, 2002, Sergeant Eric Douglas, a white male, issued a disciplinary action memorandum to Gbur for failing to perform a pre-shift systems test of his department-issued WM Pro Wireless Transmitter Azden camera and microphone. (Def.St., ¶ 10; Gbur Dep., at 31; Ex. 1). This was several months before Mayor Kellogg was elected. The memorandum stated that Mr. Gbur violated sections 2.41.01 (titled, "Violation of the Rules") and 2.41.10 (titled, "Incompetence") of the Harvey Police Department's Rules and Regulations ("Rules and Regulations") (Def.St., ¶ 10; Gbur Dep. Ex.1). As a result of this incident, Mr. Gbur was suspended without pay for one day. (Def.St., ¶ 10; Gbur Dep., at 31; Ex. 1). Gbur served that suspension. (Gbur Dep. 31.)
On November 9, 2002, still a few months before the election, Mr. Gbur was assigned to transport five prisoners to the Sixth District Markham Court lockup for bond hearings. (Def.St., ¶ 12; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). As Mr. Gbur was getting the prisoners in the van, one of the prisoners escaped his handcuffs and ran away. (Def.St., ¶ 12; Gbur Dep., at 35; Ex. 1). After securing the four other prisoners in the van and advising dispatch of what had happened, Mr. Gbur pursued the escaped prisoner on foot. (Def.St., ¶ 12; Gbur Dep., at 35).
As a result of this incident, on November 20, 2002, Sergeant Gerald Townsend issued a disciplinary action memorandum stating that Mr. Gbur "failed to exercise due caution at the start by not using safety precautions already in place." (Def.St., ¶ 13 Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). The memorandum explained that he should have pulled his van all the way into the garage, closed the door and taken the time to make sure each individual prisoner was properly secured in handcuffs before exiting the station lockup area, that he could have gotten assistance from the two on-duty detention officers, and that he endangered the safety of the other prisoners and the public by leaving the other prisoners in the locked van while he pursued the escaped prisoner. (Def.St., ¶ 13 Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). Sergeant Townsend indicated Mr. Gbur violated section 2.41.01, section 2.41.07 (titled, "Neglect of Duty"), Section 2.41.10, and section 2.41.57 (titled, "Care and Custody of Prisoner") of the Rules and Regulations. (Def.St., ¶ 13 Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). As a consequence, Mr. Gbur was issued a suspension of five days without pay. (Def.St., ¶ 13 Gbur Dep. Ex. 1).
Mr. Gbur had another gaffe that same day. After filling up his squad car with fuel, he pulled away from the pump while the nozzle was still in his tank, ripping the nozzle off the hose. (Def.St., ¶ 11; Gbur Dep., at 32; Ex. 1). Sergeant Willie Applewhite, an African-American male, issued the disciplinary action memorandum for this incident, which stated that Mr. Gbur violated section 2.41.10 of the Rules and Regulations. (Def.St., ¶ 11; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). This resulted in a three-day suspension without pay. (Def.St., ¶ 11; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1).
The next day, November 21st, Mr. Gbur failed to attend his weapons qualification. He got another disciplinary action memorandum — this one from Sergeant Douglas — which stated that Mr. Gbur violated section 2.41.01, section 2.41.10, and section 2.41.16 (titled, "Obedience to Orders") of the Rules and Regulations. (Def.St., ¶ 14; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). This cost Mr. Gbur one day off without pay. (Def.St., ¶ 14; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1).
Eric Kellogg had been Mr. Gbur's football coach in high school. (Gbur Dep., at 20). When the election rolled around the following spring, Mr. Gbur did not support him in his run for mayor. (Def.St., ¶ 16; Gbur Dep., at 21). At his deposition, he initially claimed this was because he was on probationary status and he was afraid of losing his job. (Plaintiff's Rule 56.1(b)(3) Response ("Pl.Rsp."), ¶ 16; Gbur Dep., at 21). But he had to admit that his probation period had ended in September of 2002, six months before the election. (Gbur Dep., at 20-21).
Once he was elected Mayor, Mr. Kellogg appointed an African-American male, Andrew Joshua, as chief of police. (Def.St., ¶ 4, 17; Joshua Dep., at 9, 11). Mr. Joshua began his career in Harvey's police department as an officer in 1987. (Def.St., ¶ 4; Joshua Dep., at 9). He was promoted to the position of juvenile officer in 1996 and, from 1996 to 2001, he was commander of investigations. (Def.St., ¶ 4; Joshua Dep., at 9). According to Mr. Joshua, before the 2003 election, Mayor Kellogg promised him he would appoint him chief if he won. (Plaintiff's Statement ("Pl.St.)", ¶ 6; Joshua Dep., at 10-11). Mayor Kellogg doesn't recall his promise to Mr. Joshua. (Kellogg Dep., at 21-22). Mayor Kellogg said that he "believe[d] he could have been" a campaign supporter. (Kellogg Dep., at 21).
Mayor Kellogg also appointed Denard Eaves as deputy chief. (Def.St., ¶ 17; Joshua Dep., at 46). Mayor Kellogg "believe[d]
Mayor Kellogg brought several other African-American officers back from disciplinary terminations: Merritt Gentry, Sam White, Angela Avant, and Darnell Kell. (Pl.St., ¶ 4). The Mayor may have rued that bit of largesse; Mr. Keel and Mr. Gentry later sued him and the city for depriving them of employment benefits and promotional opportunities without due process. Keel v. Village of Harvey, 2011 WL 249435 (N.D.Ill.2011). At his deposition, the Mayor explained his amnesty policy this way:
(Pl.St., ¶ 7; Kellogg Dep., at 22, 27-28). The four reinstated officers were immediately given the rank of commander. (Pl.St., ¶ 5; Ex. 17). According to Mr. Joshua, these "promotions" came directly from the mayor. (Pl.St., ¶ 5; Joshua Dep.,
Now back to Mr. Gbur's career. Things didn't start out so badly after the election. Shortly after he was elected, Mayor Kellogg called Mr. Gbur at home and offered him an assignment in investigations — a step up — which he accepted after a bit of deliberation. (Def.St., ¶ 20; Gbur Dep., at 18-19). But the defendants' evidence is conflicting on this point because they also point to testimony from Mr. Joshua that it was his decision to promote Mr. Gbur. (Def.St., ¶ 19; Joshua Dep., at 35).
It wasn't long before Mr. Gbur became uncomfortable in the new position and began asking for a reassignment to patrol, in December 2003. (Def.St., ¶ 22; Gbur Dep., at 18). Mr. Gbur then expressed interest in the canine division to Mr. Joshua. (Def.St., ¶ 4; Joshua Dep., at 9). Mr. Joshua placed him in the next available class, and he became a canine officer in March 2004. (Def.St., ¶ 19, 22; Gbur Dep., at 16-18; Joshua Dep., at 9). This promotion came with an extra hour of pay per day. (Def.St., ¶ 22; Joshua Dep., at 118; Gbur Dep., at 15).
The promotion also came after another disciplinary problem for Mr. Gbur. On November 15, 2004, Sergeant Kevin Ramsey issued a disciplinary action memorandum because Mr. Gbur had failed to meet the minimum work standards for the month of October 2004 as a patrol officer. (Def.St., ¶ 23; Gbur Dep., at 39; Ex. 1). According to Sergeant Ramsey's memorandum, this was a violation of Section 2.41.10 of the Rules and Regulations. (Def.St., ¶ 22; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). Mr. Gbur was given a written reprimand. (Def.St., ¶ 22; Gbur Dep., at 39; Ex. 1).
On January 27, 2005, Sergeant Andrew Bell issued a disciplinary action memorandum stating that Mr. Gbur had failed to report to his assignment at Brooks Jr. High School. (Def.St., ¶ 24; Gbur Dep., at 40; Ex. 1). That constituted a violation of section 2.41.01 and section 2.41.07 of the Rules and Regulations. (Def.St., ¶ 24; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). While the memorandum stated that Mr. Gbur would be suspended without pay for one day, Mr. Gbur testified that he was actually paid for the day that he was suspended. (Def.St., ¶ 24; Gbur Dep., at 42; Ex. 1). Mr. Gbur does not know of any other patrol officers who failed to show up for assignment at the junior high school. (Def.St., ¶ 24; Gbur Dep., at 43).
Mr. Gbur failed to show up for court appearances on December 8, 2004, and January 12, 2005, and did not call in. (Def.St., ¶ 25; Gbur Dep., at 44; Ex. 1; Kellogg Dep., at 44). Sergeant James Brooks, an African American, wrote him up on February 18, 2005, for violating section 2.41.01, section 2.41.10, and section 2.41.37 (titled, "Court Attendance and Conduct") of the Rules and Regulations. (Def.St., ¶ 25; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). It cost Mr. Gbur a day's suspension without pay. (Def.St., ¶ 25; Gbur Dep. Ex. 1). Mr. Gbur says he was at court, but there was no court reporter to sign in with. (Gbur Dep., at 45). He testified that he believed Lionel Smith, an African-American male, also received a write-up for the same thing. (Def.St., ¶ 25; Gbur Dep., at 45). Mr. Gbur says he filed a grievance regarding the discipline but "never heard back on any of it." (Gbur Dep., at 45).
In 2005, Mr. Gbur and some other police officers spoke with Sandra Alvarado, the chief of police's assistant, to complain that he and some others weren't "getting a fair shake" in terms of appointments and tell her that they were going to have to file a
On April 6, 2006, Mr. Gbur spoke with investigators from the Department of Justice who had come in to look into charges of racial discrimination in Harvey's police department. (Def.St., ¶ 27; Gbur Dep., at 62). He told the interviewers that Deputy Chief Eaves and Chief Joshua referred to him as "white boy." (Def.St., ¶ 27; Gbur Dep., at 63). At some point, Mr. Gbur told an attorney for the City of Harvey that he felt that there was racial discrimination occurring in Harvey's police department. (Def.St., ¶ 28; Gbur Dep., at 65). He explained that "Mayor Kellogg took care of me when he first came in or wanted to and am I going to have to worry about them coming back at me or, you know, me losing my job...." (Def.St., ¶ 28; Gbur Dep., at 65). That attorney told Mr. Gbur that they couldn't fire him and that the attorney would advise them that it would be illegal to do so. (Def.St., ¶ 28; Gbur Dep., at 65). Mr. Gbur hired an attorney on April 23 or 24, 2006, who gave him EEOC forms that he and other officers could fill out if they felt they had been discriminated against by Harvey. (Def.St., ¶ 29; Gbur Dep., at 66).
On May 8, 2006, Commander Annette Avant issued a disciplinary action memorandum stating that Mr. Gbur had failed to appear at Markham Court for his scheduled court day on April 3, 2006. (Def.St., ¶ 30; Gbur Dep., at 46; Ex. 1). Commander Avant wrote that Mr. Gbur violated section 2.41.01, section 2.41.10, section 2.41.16, and section 2.41.37 of the Rules and Regulations. (Def.St., ¶ 30; Gbur Dep.; Ex. 1). As a result, Mr. Gbur was suspended without pay for one day. (Def.St., ¶ 30: Gbur Dep.; Ex. 1). Apparently immediately after that, on the same day, Mr. Gbur filed a charge with the EEOC alleging his employer discriminated against him based on his race and color. (Def.St., ¶ 31; Gbur Dep., at 67-68; Ex. 2). Specifically, the charge stated:
(Def.St., ¶ 31; Gbur Dep.; Ex. 2). Mr. Gbur agrees that he was not making a hostile work environment or retaliation charge. (Def.St., ¶ 31; Gbur Dep., at 68; Ex. 2; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 31).
Before he filed his EEOC charge, Mr. Gbur told Chief Joshua what he was going to do. (Def.St., ¶ 32; Gbur Dep., at 150). The chief told Mr. Gbur he appreciated the heads-up and told him he had a good case. (Def.St., ¶ 32; Gbur Dep., at 151). When asked at his deposition whether he thought
(Def.St., ¶ 32; Gbur Dep., at 151).
On September 26, 2006, Mr. Gbur was scheduled to work the midnight shift. (Def.St., ¶ 34; Gbur Dep., at 75). He showed up for his shift, and the sergeant in charge assigned him to squad car number 2105, which Mr. Gbur described as an old Crown Victoria with no computer, without functioning dashboard lights, without a dome light, without a spotlight, and with malfunctioning red and blue lights. (Def.St., ¶ 34; Gbur Dep., at 75-77, 99). The other four officers on duty that night were all assigned new Impalas. (Def.St., ¶ 34; Gbur Dep., at 88). The police department had about eight new Impalas, and about 12 older Crown Victorias in its fleet. (Def.St., ¶ 34; Gbur Dep., at 87-88). Mr. Gbur went up the chain of command to request a safer vehicle, but Commander Roy Wells told him to take the car he was assigned. (Def.St., ¶ 34; Gbur Dep., at 76). Mr. Gbur then called Norm Fries, who works for the union, and Fries told him that he would grieve the car assignment in the morning. (Def.St., ¶ 35; Gbur Dep., at 76, 85). According to Mr. Gbur, Mr. Fries also told him he was meeting with Mayor Kellogg, that the meeting was secret, and that Mayor Kellogg "got wind that [Gbur] was backing" Kellogg's opponent, Marian Beck, and was "not too happy" with him. (Def.St., ¶ 35; Gbur Dep., at 77).
The squad car assignment prompted the union to file a grievance on Mr. Gbur's behalf for faulty and unsafe equipment. (Def.St., ¶ 36; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 36). Mr. Harris, the union president, testified that he took the grievance to Chief Joshua and Deputy Chief Eaves, and that Mr. Eaves said that "the white boys was [sic] mad anyway that we're running the department now." (Def.St., ¶ 36; Harris Dep., at 21). Mr. Harris further alleges that Mr. Eaves said, "This is some more BS from Gbur. We'll take care of that problem with him." (Def.St., ¶ 36; Harris Dep., at 18-19). Chief Joshua did not say anything that was racial at the meeting. (Def.St., ¶ 36; Harris Dep., at 25). Chief Joshua denies hearing Mr. Eaves make the statements alleged by Mr. Harris, but Chief Joshua also said that he didn't recall being at any meeting, and that he thought Mr. Eaves handled the whole matter. (Def.St., ¶ 36; (Joshua Dep., at 43-47)). To the contrary, Mr. Eaves denies that he was ever involved with a grievance from Mr. Gbur regarding faulty equipment and that Chief Joshua took care of all grievances. (Def.St., ¶ 36; Eaves Dep., at 51-52). And, Mr. Eaves denies making the comments Mr. Harris attributed to him and said Mr. Harris was an habitual liar. (Def.St., ¶ 36; Eaves Dep., at 58-59). Moreover, Mr. Eaves claims that, during his time of employment with the City of Harvey, he never once made any antiwhite comments. (Def.St., ¶ 36; Eaves Dep., at 58).
Mr. Harris, Mr. Fries, Mayor Kellogg, and Detective Archie Stallworth met at Stallworth's house prior to the 2007 mayoral election. (Def.St., ¶ 37; Harris Dep., at 15). Mr. Fries brought up Mr. Gbur's grievance regarding the faulty vehicle with the mayor. (Def.St., ¶ 37; Harris Dep., at 17). Mr. Harris claims that Mayor Kellogg responded, "My administrators will take care of him." (Def.St., ¶ 37; Harris
Mr. Gbur did back Marian Beck in that election, but not in any official capacity. (Def.St., ¶ 38; Gbur Dep., at 71). He helped her make signs for her campaign and handed out literature in January 2007 (Def.St., ¶ 38; Gbur Dep., at 72-73), which was after Chief Joshua filed Mr. Gbur's termination notice on November 1, 2006. (Def.St., ¶ 44; Gbur Dep. 10; Joshua Dep. 48-49). Mr. Gbur never spoke to Mayor Kellogg, or any person in the city administration, regarding the 2007 election campaign, and no one spoke to him. (Def.St., ¶ 38; Gbur Dep. 74-75). Chief Joshua says he was unaware that Mr. Gbur backed Ms. Beck in her run against Mayor Kellogg. In the 2007 election. (Def.St., ¶ 38; Joshua Dep. 65-66). According to Mayor Kellogg, "a host of city employees" worked with candidates that ran against him in 2007. (Def.St., ¶ 39; Kellogg Dep., at 90). When asked to identify someone — anyone — by name, Mayor Kellogg said, "[w]ell, again, it — it — you know there's — there were a lot of different names that surfaced." (Def.St., ¶ 39; Kellogg Dep., at 91). When pressed for at least one, he testified:
(Kellogg Dep., at 91).
The beginning of the end of Mr. Gbur's tenure with Harvey's police department came on September 25, 2006. While he was on his way to work in a department vehicle, he stopped at a gas station, and someone told him the car was damaged. When he reported for duty, he informed Commander Wells that "somebody hit [his] vehicle on the back passenger side when it was parked at [his] house." Mr. Gbur told Sergeant Darren Mines, his supervisor, that his vehicle had been struck in a hit-and-run. The two of them went to Mr. Gbur's house in Thornton, Illinois, to view the scene where the damage had occurred, but didn't notice anything on the street. They then went to the Thornton police department to file an accident report. In it, Mr. Gbur stated that the vehicle was struck by an unknown vehicle in the right rear quarter panel while it was parked in front of 117 Indianwood Drive, Thornton, Illinois. (Def.St., ¶ 40; Notice of Discharge).
The next day, September 26th, Mr. Gbur gave Sergeant Mines a written statement that "the only time the vehicle could have
Mr. Gbur finished his shift during the afternoon of the 26th and went home. He called his supervisor and told him, "there's a red fire hydrant in front of my house and that I couldn't confirm it if this is where the damage came from, but its possible." (Def.St., ¶ 42; Notice of Discharge ¶ 10(y)). Later, Mr. Gbur gave Sergeant Mines a second written statement saying that he "observed that a red fire hydrant that is on the street infront [sic] of said location had minor, possible, gray paint, and possible impact marks on said property." (Def.St., ¶ 42; Notice of Discharge ¶ 10(z)). Mr. Gbur never amended or supplemented the accident report he filed with the Thornton police department. (Def.St., ¶ 42; Notice of Discharge ¶ 10(l)).
Mr. Gbur was suspended on or around October 13, 2006, and his pay was stopped on or around October 24, 2006. (Def.St., ¶ 43; Gbur Dep., at 14). On November 1, 2006, Chief Joshua filed charges with the police commission against Mr. Gbur relating to the September 25, 2006 incident. (Def.St., ¶ 44; Gbur Dep., at 10; Joshua Dep., at 48). The decision to file the termination charges was Chief Joshua's alone. (Def.St., ¶ 44; Joshua Dep., at 49). Mr. Gbur agrees that Chief Joshua's recommendation to terminate Mr. Gbur was not based on race, or made in retaliation for any protected activity he engaged in. (Def.St., ¶ 44; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 44). Mr. Gbur claims that Chief Joshua told him in August 2008 "... time's gone by and you haven't wavered; and you know, I think maybe it was an actual accident...." (Pl.Rsp., ¶ 44, Gbur Dep., at 109-110). When Mr. Gbur asked why, if that was the case, he fired him, he claims Chief Joshua told him he "didn't fire [him]; Sandra Alvarado fired [him]. Roy Wells fired [him]. Denard Eaves fired [him]. Mayor Kellogg fired [him]." (Pl.Rsp., ¶ 44, Gbur Dep., at 109-10).
Chief Joshua held a Loudermill hearing
At the Civil Service Commission hearing,
The Commission didn't believe that Mr. Gbur could have struck the hydrant with enough force to move it, yet not know he hit something. (Def.St., ¶ 49; Notice of Discharge ¶ 10(oo)). It also noted that Mr. Gbur lied to his commander, his sergeant, and the Thornton police department when he said it had been a hit-and-run, and had never mentioned running over the ball or the loud bang to anyone. (Def.St., ¶ 49; Notice of Discharge ¶ 10(tt)). The commission recounted Mr. Gbur's past disciplinary problems, and determined that he had violated a laundry list of regulations, including those dealing with conduct unbecoming, incompetence, submitting truthful reports, damaging departmental equipment and vehicles, and reporting accidents. (Def.St., ¶ 50; Notice of Discharge ¶ 10(ww)). The commission ordered him discharged for cause on March 21, 2007. (Def.St., ¶ 50; Notice of Discharge, at 16).
Mr. Gbur filed a complaint seeking only administrative review in the Circuit Court of Cook County naming the City of Harvey Civil Service Commission and Police Chief Joshua as defendants. (Def.St., ¶ 51; Circuit Court Order). The Circuit Court affirmed the order of the Police Commission, which constituted a final judgment on the merits. (Def.St., ¶ 51; Circuit Court Order). Mr. Gbur appealed, and the Illinois Appellate Court also affirmed the order of the Police Commission. (Def.St., ¶ 51; Appellate Court Order).
Between the hearing and the commission's decision, Mr. Gbur filed a second charge with the EEOC, on March 15, 2007. (Def.St., ¶ 52; Gbur Dep., at 68; Ex. 3).
(Def.St., ¶ 52; Ex. 3).
After leaving Harvey's police department, Mr. Gbur worked part-time as a patrol officer for the City of Posen for a year. (Def.St., ¶ 54; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 54). He started working part-time for the City of Markham as a patrol officer on May 1, 2008, working roughly 24 hours each week and being paid by the hour. (Def.St., ¶ 54; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 54; Gbur Dep., at 5-6). According to Mr. Gbur, Acting Chief Denard Eaves, who replaced Chief Joshua, attempted to "blackball" him by contacting the Markham police department when Mr. Gbur sought employment there. Mr. Eaves denies ever having any contact with any individuals from Posen or Markham's police departments. (Def.St., ¶ 53; Pl. Rsp., ¶ 53; Eaves Dep. 49-50). But the Markham deputy police chief, Tony DuBois, in a statement taken over the telephone on April 2, 2009 — that he later signed — states that Mr. Eaves did contact him to inform him that the Harvey police department fired Mr. Gbur and asked why, given that, the Markham police department was hiring him. (Pl.St., ¶ 42; Ex. 8). The odd thing about this piece of evidence is that the interviewer and Mr. DuBois dated the signatures of that document May 5, 2008, about a year before the interview.
Moreover, it was not signed by a notary until a year after the dates of those signatures — May 5, 2009. It is, of course, a common mistake for people to write the previous year on documents early in the new year, but May is well into the new year. Still, the Seventh Circuit has stated that "so long as the documents comply with 28 U.S.C. § 1746, and in the interests of justice, a district court should not be unnecessarily hyper-technical and overly harsh on a party who unintentionally fails to make certain that all technical, nonsubstantive requirements of execution are satisfied." Pfeil v. Rogers,
Apart from the oddity of the DuBois statement, Mr. Eaves' "attempt to `blackball'" Mr. Gbur would not appear to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Perhaps it has evidentiary significance under Rule 404(b), but that would appear to be its only significance.
Rooker-Feldman Doctrine Does Not Apply In This Case
The defendants begin by arguing that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars
Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, lower federal courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction when, after state proceedings have ended, a losing party in state court files suit in federal court complaining of an injury caused by the state-court judgment and seeking review and rejection of that judgment. See Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp.,
Examples of such state court injuries include cases like Golden v. Helen Sigman & Associates, Ltd.,
611 F.3d at 362. Here, the injury Mr. Gbur alleges was his termination as a police officer, resulting from the acts of Markham officials, not the result of the state court proceedings.
In Gilbert, the plaintiff was terminated from his tenured teaching position. At the administrative proceeding, the school district alone presented evidence. The plaintiff moved for a judgment in his favor when the school district rested. The hearing officer granted his motion and ordered his reinstatement. When the district appealed, the state trial court affirmed but
The court's observation in Zurich American Insurance Co. v. Superior Court for the State of California,
Moreover, aside from an unamplified and conclusory assertion that Mr. Gbur "is bringing Title VII and § 1983 claims that attack the circuit court's finding that his termination was justified" (Defendants' Memorandum, at 4), the defendants' brief does not really analyze why Rooker-Feldman applies, and does not attempt to distinguish the situation in this case from those in cases like Golden or Gilbert. The brief does, however, cite Manley v. City of Chicago,
In Manley, a police officer who was fired unsuccessfully challenged his termination in state court and then brought federal due process and equal protection claims in the district court. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applied because "[plaintiff's] injury stems from the state court judgment upholding the decision to terminate him made by an administrative board." 236 F.3d at 397. This holding would seem to contravene other cases holding that the doctrine did not apply where the plaintiff is seeking to remedy a "prior injury that a state court failed to remedy." Long v. Shorebank Development Corp.,
The Seventh Circuit retreated — as we shall see, "explained" is perhaps the more apt term — from Manley almost immediately thereafter in Durgins v. City of East St. Louis, Illinois,
The Seventh Circuit disagreed. Here is how Judge Easterbrook explained the difference in result and the real meaning of Manley:
272 F.3d at 844-45.
The upshot of all this is that Manley is not really a Rooker-Feldman case after all, but a res judicata case and thus is not supporting the defendants' Rooker-Feldman argument. It is relevant, however, to their res judicata argument.
Precludes Mr. Gbur's Claims Regarding Discrimination And/Or Retaliation In Connection With His Suspension And Termination And The Antecedent Investigation
As a partial alternative to Rooker-Feldman, the defendants argue that res judicata precludes Mr. Gbur from bringing his claims that he suffered discriminatory or retaliatory investigation, suspension, or termination, because he already litigated these claims in state court. For res judicata to apply, three factors are necessary: (1) an identity of the parties or their privies; (2) an identity of the cause of action; and (3) a final judgment on the merits [in the earlier action]. Johnson v. Cypress Hill,
First, the third factor — a final judgment on the merits is clearly established. The decision of the Illinois Appellate Court in Mr. Gbur's case, (see Defendants' Rule 56. Statement, ¶ 51, Ex. Appellate Court Order), is a final decision on the merits. Licari v. City of Chicago,
In his response brief, Mr. Gbur makes no argument that he attempted to bring these claims in state court but was somehow prevented from doing so. (Plaintiff's Memorandum, at 17-18). He does, however, allude to such a contention in his Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) statement of facts, in which he claims that he attempted to prove his termination was discriminatory before the Harvey Civil Service Commission, but was thwarted. (Pl.St., ¶ 46) [Dkt # 82]. The defendants' Response to this statement of fact is that "it misstates the evidence and the cited evidence [Tab 13, Civil Service testimony Doc. 479] does not support the proposition asserted." [Dkt. # 88 at 20].
While it is true that res judicata does not apply "if the plaintiff did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate his claim in state court," Hicks v. Midwest Transit, Inc.,
(Pl.St., ¶ 46) (Tab 13, Civil Service testimony Doc. 479).
The cited exchange lends no support to Mr. Gbur unless the "offer of proof" that the chief attorney successfully moved to strike contained evidence supporting a claim of discrimination. The problem is that neither Mr. Gbur's Statement of Material Fact nor his brief refers either to the content of the offer of proof or to any specific action that "prevented" his attempt to raise or prove his discrimination claim. Hence, there is nothing to support the claim that res judicata should not apply. See Arlin-Golf, 631 F.3d at 823 ("the plaintiffs fail to point out any relevant authority ... indicating that the circumstances... denied them a full and fair opportunity to litigate their claims, and we find none. Accordingly, any argument that this exception applies is meritless or waived.").
It ought to be noted that neither on review of the City of Harvey Civil Service Commission's decision upholding Mr. Gbur's firing nor in the appeal from the Circuit Court's adverse decision against him in the Illinois Appellate Court did Mr. Gbur make any claim of error based on having been prevented from advancing a discrimination claim or involving the striking of the offer of proof. See Exs. Circuit Court Order and Appellate Court Order to ¶ 51 of defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement. In the Illinois Appellate Court, Mr. Gbur raised three issues: 1) the decision to terminate him was against the manifest weight of the evidence; 2) defendants' decision to terminate his employment was excessive and unduly harsh; and 3) even if the determination to fire him was otherwise proper, the defendants should have considered a lesser discipline because another officer, who committed certain infractions, was promoted thus resulting in inconsistent disciplinary actions. There was no claim that the disparity in treatment was racially based. The Illinois Appellate Court rejected Mr. Gbur's arguments, concluding, inter alia, that his explanations for his conduct were incredible, and that his situation did "not even bear a modicum of similarity to that involving" the "promoted officer." (Appellate Court Order at 9-10, 16-17).
This leaves the question of whether Mr. Gbur's claims in the state court proceedings constitute the same cause of action as his current federal claims. Illinois employs a transactional test to determine whether this requirement is met. Separate claims will be considered the same cause of action for purposes of res judicata if they arise from a single group of operative facts, regardless of whether they assert different theories of relief. Arlin-Golf, 631 F.3d at 821; River Park, Inc. v. City of Highland Park,
The defendants rely on Garcia to demonstrate that the transactional test is met here. In that case, the plaintiff was a Mount Prospect police officer who was denied duty-related disability benefits by the Mount Prospect police pension board. 360 F.3d at 632-33. The plaintiff sought administrative review in the Circuit Court of Cook County, arguing that the board's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence. The court upheld the board's decision, and the plaintiff filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the board's decision was motivated by discrimination based on national origin and race and retaliation under Title VII, § 1981, and § 1983. 360 F.3d at 633-34.
Even though the plaintiff had not mentioned discrimination or retaliation in his state court proceeding, the Seventh Circuit determined that both the plaintiff's appeal of the board's denial of his disability application and his federal claims all arose from the same core of operative facts:
Id. at 637-38.
Similarly, here, the state court reviewed the Civil Service Board's determination that Mr. Gbur should be terminated for rules violations under a manifest weight of the evidence standard, and Mr. Gbur, like the plaintiff in Garcia, brought discrimination and retaliation charges — also under Title VII and § 1983 — in federal district court, but didn't raise such concerns in the administrative proceeding or in state court. But, as in Garcia, the core of operative facts is the same: the acts of Harvey's police department that led up to Mr. Gbur's termination.
Mr. Gbur doesn't see it that way. He says that in Garcia, the core of operative facts was limited to the pension board's decision to deny benefits, whereas his problem is limited to the racial discrimination on the parts of Mayor Kellogg and Chief Joshua. He says what the commission did is of no concern to him and was not motivated by racism or retaliation. (Plaintiff's Memorandum, at 17-18). That may be so, but that distinction
Pirela v. Village of North Aurora,
The plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review of the board's decision in the Circuit Court for Kane County, Illinois. There, he argued only that the decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and presented no evidence that his employment was terminated as the result of racial or national origin discrimination. The circuit court concluded that the board's findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence and affirmed the board's decision discharging plaintiff. Id. at 910.
While the state court proceedings were pending, the plaintiff filed a formal charge of discrimination with the EEOC. He later amended his EEOC charge to include an allegation of discriminatory discharge. After receiving a right-to-sue letter, he filed a three-count complaint in federal district court alleging discrimination on the basis of race in the village's promotion, salary, suspension, and discharge procedures pursuant to Title VII, and discrimination on the basis of national origin in the village's promotion, salary, suspension, and discharge procedures pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The village argued that the Title VII and § 1981 claims were precluded by res judicata, and the district court agreed and dismissed the case. 935 F.2d at 910-11.
On appeal, the Seventh Circuit agreed that the plaintiff's termination and suspension claims were precluded:
Id. at 912.
So viewed, there are no subtle differences of the type that Mr. Gbur sees in regard to Garcia (i.e., the decision of a
That leaves Mr. Gbur's Title VII claims relating to hostile work environment under and the rehiring of terminated African-American officers under Title VII, and his First Amendment retaliation claims regarding unsafe equipment assignments, threats of termination, denial of vacation days, unsafe work assignments, and not being invited to union meetings with the mayor.
Mr. Gbur Has Failed To Exhaust Administrative Remedies Regarding His Hostile Work Environment And Rehiring Of Terminated African-American Officers Claims
The defendants also submit that Mr. Gbur failed to exhaust his administrative remedies in regard to his hostile work environment claim and his claim about the rehiring of African-American police officers who had been discharged for disciplinary reasons.
In his first EEOC charge, Mr. Gbur said: "(1) I have been employed as a police officer by the City of Harvey from 10 Sept 2001 to the present. I am a white male. (2) Starting in about 2003, the City of Harvey implemented a practice of filling vacant supervisory positions in its police department with African American and Hispanic persons. (3) I am qualified to be promoted to sergeant but I have not been
Mr. Gbur argues that "[t]here is no question" that the charges describe the same conduct and implicate the same individuals as his current federal court complaint. (Plaintiff's Memorandum, at 15). But Mr. Gbur cannot rely on the fact that there were a number of generally discriminatory actions. "Any additional alleged act of discrimination can always be fit in and become part of an overall general pattern of discrimination. [Mr. Gbur's] argument, if accepted, would eviscerate the general rule that each separate act of discrimination must be set out in an EEOC charge before an action can be brought." Jones v. Res-Care, Inc.,
In Moore, the plaintiff's EEOC charge focused almost entirely on evidence of a sexually and racially hostile work environment, involving inappropriate racial and sexual language, racial and sexual insults, and inappropriate sexual behavior. It also mentioned retaliatory work assignments. It made no mention of a racially or sexually motivated discharge. Nonetheless, the plaintiff raised that claim in his federal suit. The Seventh Circuit held that, "[a]t best, the EEOC charge can be read to allege a hostile work environment and retaliation (though not retaliatory discharge). These harassment and retaliation allegations are not like or reasonably related to [plaintiff's] discriminatory discharge claims because they are not based on the same conduct." Moore, 641 F.3d at 257.
So, too, here. Mr. Gbur's discriminatory rehiring and hostile work environment claims are not based on the same conduct as his charges that he was denied promotions and received worse disciplinary treatment — suspension and discharge — than African-American officers. See also Swearnigen-El v. Cook County Sheriff's Dept.,
Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mut. Hosp. Insurance., Inc.,
Racial Discrimination Under Title VII
The defendants next argue that Mr. Gbur cannot establish that there is a disputed issue of material fact regarding his claim for suspension and subsequent firing. As discussed earlier, this claim is precluded by res judicata. See supra at 619. But assuming for the sake of discussion it is not, the defendants' contention will be addressed. A plaintiff alleging racial discrimination under Title VII can prove his case under either the direct or indirect method. Montgomery v. American Airlines, Inc.,
Under that approach, to survive summary judgment, Mr. Gbur must introduce
The defendants argue that Mr. Gbur cannot show he is a member of a protected class, that he was performing his job satisfactorily, or that other, similarly situated non-white officers were treated more favorably. Even if Mr. Gbur could succeed on these elements of his prima facie case, the defendants submit that they had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for suspending and then firing him.
There Is A Genuine Issue As To Whether Mr. Gbur Is A Member Of A Protected Class
For white plaintiffs to bring race discrimination claims, the Seventh Circuit requires evidence of "background circumstances' that demonstrate that a particular employer has reason or inclination to discriminate invidiously against whites or evidence that there is something `fishy' about the facts at hand." Henry v. Jones,
That this situation would suffice for the Seventh Circuit is not only a matter of common sense — which has a perfectly legitimate role to play in discrimination or any other kind of case, Peirick v. Indiana University-Perdue University Indianapolis Athletics Dept.,
In addition, there is evidence here of racial epithets by someone in power — a police chief — which the court has indicated "might" be sufficient to establish the requisite background circumstances. Nagle v. Village of Calumet Park,
The sum of all this is "fishy" enough for Mr. Gbur to stave off summary judgment. Moreover, the defendants' brief, for whatever reason, list three white police officers, who held the rank of commander until 2003 — when Mr. Kellogg was elected mayor — and "reverted" to the rank of sergeant thereafter. (Memorandum, at 11). It's not clear what this is supposed to prove; the wording suggests that these individuals suffered demotions to sergeant from the higher rank of commander due to their race. Perhaps that's a mistaken impression, but the defendants don't explain the police department hierarchy or why being "reverted" is a good thing. In any case, summary judgment is inappropriate on the issue of whether Mr. Gbur is a member of a protected class.
Satisfactory Job Performance
Next, Mr. Gbur must provide evidence that he was meeting his employer's legitimate expectations. He has — to an extent. At his deposition, Chief Joshua testified as follows:
(Joshua Dep., at 65). There were, as Mr. Gbur's record demonstrates, a few instances where he was written up after Chief Joshua took over. He failed to meet minimum work standards in October 2004. (Def.St., ¶ 23; Gbur Dep., at 39; Ex. 1). He failed to report to an assignment in January 2005. (Def.St., ¶ 24; Gbur Dep., at 40; Ex. 1). He failed to show up for court appearances on December 8, 2004, and January 12, 2005. (Def.St., ¶ 25; Gbur Dep., at 44; Ex. 1; Kellogg Dep., at 44).
But, these incidents all preceded, by at least two years, Mr. Gbur's termination. The episode with the squad car and the fire hydrant was apparently another matter. In that instance, Chief Joshua brought termination charges. The Seventh Circuit has explained that, when considering whether an employee is meeting an employer's legitimate expectations, the question is whether he was performing adequately at the time of the adverse employment action. Dear v. Shinseki,
There is, however, an "out" for Mr. Gbur. "When a plaintiff produces evidence sufficient to raise an inference that an employer applied its legitimate expectations in a disparate manner ... the second and fourth prongs merge — allowing plaintiffs to stave off summary judgment for the time being, and proceed to the pretext inquiry." Elkhatib v. Dunkin Donuts, Inc.,
Similarly Situated Non-White Officers Were Treated More Favorably
The next element in Mr. Gbur's prima facie case requires him to demonstrate that non-white officers who were similarly situated were treated more favorably than he. In determining whether someone is comparable for this purpose, the relevant factors include whether the employee in question: (1) held the same position or had the same description; (2) was subject to the same standards; (3) was subordinate to the same supervisor; and (4) had comparable experience, education, and other qualifications. Silverman v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago,
Mr. Gbur cites five examples to stave off summary judgment on this aspect of his case: Mike Neal, Mike Hartwell, Hollis Dorough, Richard Jones, and Manuel Escalante. (Plaintiff's Memorandum, at 5-7). But he focuses almost exclusively on the disciplinary records of these policemen and pays insufficient attention to the other pertinent factors. Mr. Hartwell and Mr. Dorough were not similarly situated because they were detectives, not patrol officers like Mr. Gbur. (Def.St., ¶ 56; Pl. Rsp., ¶ 56). Mr. Gbur asserts that "detective" is not a rank, but an assignment. (Plaintiff's Memorandum, at 6). It may not technically constitute a "rank," but it is a different job title with higher pay than a patrol officer. (Pl.St., Ex. 9, at 249). Hence, the question becomes whether a patrol officer and a detective have comparable responsibilities. Caskey v. Colgate-Palmolive Co.,
Mr. Gbur's own brief suggests they do not: he indicates the two positions are different assignments, and he cites a page in the Harvey police manual
Mike Neal is another matter, however. He was a patrol officer — like Mr. Gbur — from 2003 to 2004. His infraction during that time was speeding through red lights and down sides streets, and sleeping on duty when he reported performing a premises check. In other words, he filed a false report. (Def. St., ¶ 62; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 62). He reported to a different sergeant than those involved in Mr. Gbur's disciplinary proceedings; but that sergeant — Sergeant Soderlund, who was white — actually filed a report recommending he be terminated. (Def. St., ¶ 62; Pl.Rsp., ¶ 62). Sergeant Soderlund cited him for nine rules violations: rules of conduct, violation of rules, unbecoming conduct, neglect of duty, incompetence, obedience to orders, submission of reports, use of emergency warning devices, use of in-car video recorder. (Pl.St.; Ex. 18, at 592). Nothing came of it; in fact, Mr. Neal was promoted to the mayor's body guard detail. The mayor was apparently unperturbed by Mr. Neal's driving because the former patrol officer's duties included taking the mayor to and from meetings. (Kellogg Dep., at 39).
Three of the violations Mr. Neal was charged with — unbecoming conduct, incompetence, and submission of reports — match up with the charges that led to Mr. Gbur's termination. For the defendants, however, that's insufficient to make Mr. Neal similarly situated, because he and Mr. Gbur did not report to the same supervisor and didn't commit the same infractions. The fact that the two didn't report to the same supervisor is inconsequential here, because Mr. Neal's supervisor didn't look the other way because Mr. Neal was African-American. His recommendation
Similarly situated employees need not be identical in all respects. It is enough that they are comparable in those respects which are material. See Patterson v. Indiana Newspapers, Inc.,
The requirement that comparators be "similarly situated," obviously does not and could not require complete congruence in all details. It is enough that the plaintiff employee need not be "identical," and in regard to comparable conduct, "the plaintiff must show that the other employee `had engaged in similar conduct without such differentiating or mitigating circumstances as would distinguish [his] conduct or the employer's treatment of [him].'" Caskey v. Colgate-Palmolive Co.,
The similarly situated inquiry is a "flexible, common-sense one." Henry v. Jones,
Here, perhaps the main thing that distinguishes Mr. Gbur's conduct from Mr. Neal's — and this is an argument that the defendants don't make — is the fact that he damaged his squad car. But this factor was not terribly troubling to the commission deciding his fate:
(Notice of Discharge, at 11, ¶ (uu)). Mr. Neal was also taken to task for lying about his activities:
(Pl.St., Ex. 18, at 592). So lying and submitting false reports were the key elements of both Mr. Neal's and Mr. Gbur's infractions. While a jury may determine that the degree of similarity here is insufficient, LaBella Winnetka, Inc. v. Village of Winnetka,
The Defendant's Proffered Reason For Mr. Gbur's Termination Is Insufficient To Conclude That There Is Not A Disputed Issue Of Fact On The Question Of Pretext
The defendants spend only a paragraph on the question of whether the reason for Mr. Gbur's termination was legitimate and non-discriminatory or pretextual, merely referring to their argument regarding the more favorable treatment of similarly situated, non-white officers. (Defendants' Memorandum, at 14). The Seventh Circuit has acknowledged that the prima facie and pretext analyses often overlap, and that courts can proceed directly to the pretext inquiry if the defendant offer a nondiscriminatory reason for its action. Radentz v. Marion County,
As already discussed, at least one non-white officer who committed some of the same infractions as Mr. Gbur, including the most significant infractions — lying and making a false report — was actually promoted rather than disciplined. The chief of police had no explanation for this seemingly significant disparity in treatment. Thus, it is at least a question of fact for the jury as to whether something else — like race — was the motivating factor in Mr. Gabor's firing. In Boumehdi, the employer cited a negative performance review as the reason for denying the plaintiff a raise. But the court held that a jury could have determined that the review itself was discriminatory — retaliation for complaining about discrimination — and that it "[could] not reverse course and say that the review constitute[d] a legitimate reason for denying [plaintiff] a raise." 489 F.3d at 792-793. Along these lines, in Radentz, the employee's reason for replacing white coroners with African-American coroners was expense of certain autopsies under the plaintiffs' contracts. But there was evidence that a new supervisor was interested in replacing white workers with African-American workers, tending to demonstrate that the proffered reason was pretextual. 640 F.3d at 759. Here, the evidence tends to suggest that the Harvey police department was more lenient with non-white officers than with Mr. Gbur. That is enough to require denial of summary judgment.
The result of all this is that claims for race discrimination under Count I in violation of Title VII are barred by the doctrine of res judicata, even though the motion for summary judgment is denied.
The Retaliation Claims Under § 1983 in Count II For Mr. Gbur's Alleged Exercise of His First Amendment Rights
In order to establish a prima facie case of unlawful First Amendment
The claimed protected speech in this case is: (1) Mr. Gbur's testimony during the Department of Justice investigation in April 2006; (2) his EEOC charge in May 2006; and (3) his supporting a rival candidate during Mayor Kellogg's 2007 re-election campaign. (Plaintiff's Memorandum, at 8). The defendants argue that Mr. Gbur has no cognizable First Amendment retaliation claim because he cannot establish that the defendants were aware of any protected activity (and thus could not have been retaliating against him because of it) and Mr. Gbur did not suffer a "materially adverse action." (Defendants' Memorandum, at 15-16).
Defendants' assert, without proof, that they had no idea that Mr. Gbur gave testimony during the DOJ investigation, meaning Mr. Gbur cannot show that but for his protected speech, the defendants would not have taken the same actions. Kodish v. Oakbrook Terrace Fire Protection Dist.,
Of course, that contention was baseless. Simply admitting that a communication was made is not a disclosure of what was communicated to the client. In other words, it would not reveal privileged advice or an attorney's work product. See Judson Atkinson Candies, Inc. v. Latini-Hohberger Dhimantec,
Significantly, the defendants do not deny that they were aware of Mr. Gbur's DOJ testimony. Nor do they deny that they were aware of the content of his testimony. That silence is telling. Compare United States v. Vrdolyak,
One need not rest on inferences from silence, however. It is a reasonable inference that the lawyer who attended the DOJ interview on behalf of the City faithfully fulfilled his ethical obligations and reported to his employer what occurred. Indeed, it is unreasonable to suggest the contrary. After all, what was the point of sending him in the first place if he was not to report on what occurred.
We come then to the question of the defendants' knowledge of Mr. Gbur's EEOC charge of May 8, 2006. Responding to Mr. Gbur's interrogatories, the defendants admitted that the City of Harvey became aware of the charge "two days after May 18, 2006." (Pl.St., ¶ 36, Ex. 2, ¶ 9). Mr. Gbur makes no argument regarding whether the city's knowledge gives the mayor knowledge as well. Chief Joshua said at his deposition that May 20, 2006 "sound [sic] about right." (Pl.St., ¶ 36; Ex. 22, at 39). But when asked whether he felt Chief Joshua retaliated against him for the EEOC charge, he initially said he couldn't say for sure, but then said that he did not, and he could not name anything specific that Chief Joshua did to him. (Def.St., ¶ 32; Gbur Dep., at 151).
While Mr. Gbur later filed an affidavit claiming that Chief Joshua retaliated against him by using racial slurs, allowing him to be assigned to an unsafe vehicle, and terminating him (Pl.Rsp., ¶ 32; Ex. 2, ¶ 9), it is well-settled that a party cannot create an issue of fact to avoid summary judgment by contradicting his deposition testimony with an affidavit. Lorillard Tobacco Co., Inc. v. A & E Oil, Inc.,
That leaves his support for the mayor's rival. Here, Mr. Gbur relies on the testimony of Mr. Harris, the union representative, who claimed to have heard the mayor say that Mr. Gbur was "backing Marion Beck anyway." (Pl.St., ¶ 39; Ex. 23; Harris Dep., at 20-21). Mr. Harris also testified that the mayor said his administrators would "take care of" Mr. Gbur for filing a grievance about the squad car assignment. (Pl.St., ¶ 39; Harris Dep., at 21). While Mr. Gbur does not argue that filing the grievance was one of his protected activities (Plaintiff's Memorandum, at 8), the evidence is relevant and admissible under Rule 404(b), Federal Rules of Evidence. In short, Mr. Harris' testimony is sufficient to warrant denial of the motion for summary judgment.
The squad car assignment is the remaining point. As the defendants see it, this wasn't a big deal because it lasted just one shift. (Defendants' Memorandum, at 16). But the evidence suggests the car was potentially dangerous, especially for police work, and there were a number of newer, better, and safer cars available. (Def.St., ¶ 34). Moreover, Mr. Gbur testified that when he asked why he was be assigned such a car, his sergeant told him it was a punishment. (Pl.St., ¶ 44; Gbur Dep., at 75). Especially given that context, it cannot be said that there is no issue that this action was not the type that would deter Mr. Gbur from engaging in protected activity in the future. The claim advanced by Mr. Gbur does not require repeated wrongdoing. Whatever vitality the old maxim that a dog is entitled to one bite has in current tort law, it has none in the context of the violation alleged in this case.
Finally, the defendants argue that Mr. Gbur cannot maintain a Monell claim because there is no evidence of an express policy or widespread practice of retaliation in violation of First Amendment rights. (Defendants' Memorandum, at 18). Mr. Gbur's response consists of his assert[ion] that "Chief Joshua and Mayor are policymakers in the City of Harvey" and "were intimately involved in police discipline." He does not mention this in connection with any Monell claim argument, but in connection with his attempt to establish a prima facie case of retaliation. (Plaintiff's Memorandum, at 10). Indeed, nowhere in his brief does Mr. Gbur even mention Monell, or cite any case law pertaining to a Monell claim, such as Valentino v. Village of South Chicago Heights,
The defendants' Rooker-Feldman motion is denied. The defendants' motion based upon res judicata is granted as applied to Mr. Gbur's claims for race discrimination and unlawful investigation, suspension and firing. The motion is also granted as to claims of a hostile work environment and discriminatory rehiring of non-white police officers — assuming that
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The parties have both filed motions addressing the Memorandum Opinion and Order of December 19, 2011, which granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. # 95). The plaintiff asks that the judgment be altered under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), while the defendants ask for reconsideration and clarification of the ruling.
The Plaintiff's Motion
To obtain relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), a party must demonstrate a manifest error of law or fact or present newly discovered evidence. Boyd v. Tornier, Inc.,
The error of the first argument that plaintiff was precluded from presenting his discrimination and retaliation claims in his administrative and appellate proceedings is obvious from the Illinois Appellate Court's opinion in his case, which plaintiff cites in his motion. (Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs Rule 59(e), at 4).
(Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Rule 59(e), Ex. A, Appellate Court Order, at 16).
So, clearly, plaintiff advanced his argument to the appellate court. The court didn't say that plaintiff was precluded from presenting such a claim, or that the
(Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Rule 59(e), Ex. A, Appellate Court Order, at 17). A different court might have decided differently, see LaBella Winnetka, Inc. v. Village of Winnetka,
Cases like Pirela v. North Aurora,
Next, plaintiff argues that he advanced a sufficiently supported argument to stave off summary judgment on his Monell claim on the issue of whether the mayor and the chief or police were policymakers for the purposes of finding municipal liability against the City of Harvey.
As the Memorandum Opinion and Order stated, the failure to support an argument
A good example of such a case is Harvey v. Town of Merrillville,
The Defendants' Motion
The defendants request certain clarifications of the Memorandum Opinion and Order. First, they ask that the court clarify what claims are precluded by res judicata. The scattershot nature of the plaintiffs complaint, along with the patchwork nature of the defendants' motion for summary judgment — claims were variously attacked as precluded by res judicata, Rooker-Feldman, as well as other legal and factual bases — led to a rather confusing hearing at which the parties and the court attempted to determine which claims were in and which claims were out in the wake of the Memorandum Opinion and Order. In discussing the issue, the plaintiff said: "Well, the mayor would still be a party and the chief would still be a party to — well, the chief probably would not be. The mayor would still be a party to the retaliation claim, though." (January 24, 2012 Transcript, at 19). Thus, the defendants' motion is a welcome opportunity to determine just what remains at issue in this case.
In their motion for summary judgment, the defendants argued that "[r]es [j]udicata... preclude[d] re-litigation of the claims that [plaintiff] suffered discriminatory or retaliatory investigation, suspension, or termination." (Dkt. # 70, at 4). Plaintiff had brought such claims under both Title VII — charging racial discrimination — and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 — charging retaliation for protected speech. The Memorandum Opinion and Order found that, under Pirela, Garcia v. Village of Mount Prospect,
Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding his hostile work environment and discriminatory rehiring claims, so those claims were eliminated under that doctrine. (Dkt. # 95, at 623-26). That left plaintiffs First Amendment retaliation claims regarding unsafe equipment assignments, threats of termination, denial of vacation days, unsafe work assignments, and not being invited to union meetings with the mayor. (Dkt. # 95, at 623-24). Plaintiff could identify only one day he was denied vacation time, and that was before he engaged in his alleged protected activity. (Dkt. # 95, at 634-35). The "union meeting with the mayor" was
The mistake in the Memorandum Opinion and Order was the failure to resolve the threats-of-termination claim. The defendants argued in their summary judgment memorandum that an unfulfilled threat, which results in no harm, is not considered a materially adverse employment action, relying on Ajayi v. Aramark Business Services, Inc.,
As the Memorandum Opinion and Order stated, then, the only claim left involves the assignment to the unsafe squad car. That being the case, the defendants use their clarification motion to reintroduce some arguments that were already rejected and others that ought to have been raised and developed in their summary judgment motion. That's improper and this portion of defendants' motion must be denied. In re Ray,
The Memorandum Opinion and Order concluded that there was at least an issue of fact as to the defendants' knowledge of the plaintiffs DOJ testimony and that, in fact, defendants had allowed the plaintiffs assertion in that regard to go uncontroverted. (Dkt. # 95, at 633).
For the foregoing reasons, the plaintiff's Rule 59(e) motion [Dkt. # 99] is DENIED, and the defendants' motion to reconsider and clarify [Dkt. # 97] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
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