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Regner v. City of Chicago

April 23, 1986


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 83 C 6957 -- Nicholas J. Bua, Judge.

Author: Cudahy

Before CUDAHY and POSNER, Circuit Judges, and GRANT, Senior District Judge.*fn*

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

Erlinda Regner, a Chicago librarian, brought suit under Title VII against the Chicago Public Library System. She alleged that promotion practices used at the City's main library had a disparate impact on minorities and offered evidence showing that the percentage of minorities promoted at the main building was substantially less than the percentage of minorities in the total library work force. The City of Chicago, the operator of the library, countered that one could not look solely at promotion statistics for one library location when the system as a whole showed minorities receiving a fair granted the City's summary judgment motion. While this case is perhaps unnecessarily complicated by the way statistics were offered and legal theories presented, we find summary judgment inappropriate and therefore reverse.

Regner, a Filipino woman, has been employed by the Chicago Public Library since 1977. Between 1979 and the time of filing of this suit, she had worked as a Librarian I in the Business/Science and Technology Department of the main library of the Chicago Public Library system. Plaintiff has a master's degree in library science and considers business, science and technology her specialties. Prior to filing suit, plaintiff applied for four promotions in the Business/Science and Technology department of the main library. Two of these were to Librarian II positions and two were for Librarian I positions that were to be upgraded to Librarian II. She was denied all these promotions and they were given instead to caucasians.

Employees throughout the Chicago Public Library system may apply for promotion at any branch. To be a Librarian II, an individual must at least have a master's degree and one year of experience. To be a Librarian III, an applicant needs a master's degree and at least two years of experience.

Somewhat subjective criteria are used for evaluating candidates for promotion at the public library. A panel of reviewers -- usually including the unit head and the unit head's supervisor -- prepares a job description and an evaluation of the abilities required for the job. The reviewers compose a list of interview questions and, as a panel, interview the candidates. The interviewers are free to ask as many questions as they like and to weight the questions and answers as they deem best. Following the interview, the panel fills out rating sheets and then agrees on a candidate.

Library procedures call for the Director of Library Personnel to review the rating sheets and interview questions and to refer all questions concerning problems with the interview process to the Librarian II and III Committee. In fact, with respect to the four promotions for which Regner applied, the Director of Library Personnel did not review the interview questions prior to their use.

Plaintiff believed that the main library's promotion practices had a disparate impact on minorities. She therefore filed suit in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e. She introduced evidence showing that of twenty-five promotions and upgrades from Librarian I to Librarians II and III at the main library between 1981 and 1983 twenty-four of those promoted were white while one was black. The percentage of minorities promoted at the main library, plaintiff argued, was greatly disproportionate to the percentage of minorities qualified for promotion throughout the Chicago library system. The case for discrimination against minorities became more apparent, plaintiff contended, when one examined time-in-grade statistics for the library system. Plaintiff presented statistics showing that looking at the last one hundred promotions within the system it took whites an average of 3.9 years to rise from Librarian I to Librarian II. Blacks waited an average of 5.13 years, Hispanic librarians 6.08 years and Asian librarians, such as Regner, 7.08 years before being promoted.

The City of Chicago responded that since any librarian could apply for promotion anywhere in the system and since movement among the branches was fluid, the relevant labor market was the library system as a whole. Thus looking at the sixty-one promotions that took place in the library system between 1981 and 1983, minorities were promoted in proportion to their representation in the work force. In fact, the percentage of minorities receiving promotions within the system was slightly higher than their representation in the work force.

At the district judge's urging, both sides filed motions for summary judgment. Upon reviewing defendant's motion, plaintiff reached the conclusion that genuine issues of fact remained in controversy. Regner's Reply Memorandum in Support of Her motion for Summary Judgment and In Opposition to Defendant's Motion notes several factual issues that remain in dispute.

For example, the sides did not agree on the relevant labor market. Plaintiff argued that promotions at the main library were more prized plums that made them qualitatively different from promotions at branch libraries. The main library offered the opportunity to specialize, more experienced staffs, larger collections and bigger budgets, even though the pay for Librarian II was uniform throughout the system. Similarly, while defendant noted that minorities received a fair proportion of promotions, plaintiff intimated that this was achieved through impermissibly segregated work forces, which minorities being promoted in the branches and whites concentrated in the main library. Also, defendants did not rebut plaintiff's expert testimony that the main library's selection criteria were wrongfully subjective and inefficacious at measuring potential job performance.

Despite plaintiff's, protests, the district court denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granted defendant's. The judge concluded that plaintiffs tried to "gerrymander the statistics" by pointing to the entire library system to show that a large pool of minority applicants was available for promotion and then looking only to the main library to show that minorities were denied promotion. The court also rejected plaintiff's time-in-grade statistics, in part because they covered a period longer than the period during which discrimination was alleged.

Plaintiff's motion to reconsider the grant of summary judgment was denied and this appeal followed. Because we consider this an inapt case for ...

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