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BLAIR v. GRAHAM CORRECTIONAL CENTER

February 10, 1992

MERL E. BLAIR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GRAHAM CORRECTIONAL CENTER, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, AND AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE, COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES (AFSCME), DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:

  OPINION

Are a penal institution, the Illinois Department of Corrections and the prison employees' union liable under Title VII for failing to give Plaintiff a premium schedule to accommodate his religious beliefs when Plaintiff was not entitled to such a schedule under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement?

Of course not!

Summary Judgment for Defendants

I. FACTS

Graham Correctional Center is a prison located in Hillsboro, Illinois with an inmate population in excess of 1,000. Its inmates consist of men between the ages of 17 to 60 with a full range of offenses including a large percentage of Class X felons. There have been violent incidents at the institution in the past. Consequently, Graham Correctional Center requires a full staff of corrections officers every hour of every day, including sabbaths and holidays.

Blair was employed as a corrections officer by the Illinois Department of Corrections beginning in May of 1984. He is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist religion which requires that its members not work from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown in order to observe the Sabbath. Blair alleges that he informed the warden of Graham Correctional Center of his religion's requirement during the employment interview. He was hired and put on probationary status which meant that he was given time off to observe his sabbath. Once the probationary period ended, Blair became a member of AFL-CIO Local 2856 and was subject to the labor agreement between his union and employer.

The labor agreement allows employees with greater seniority to "shift bump" employees with lesser seniority. Consequently, because Fridays and Saturdays are the premium days off, Blair was bumped from having his sabbath day off.

Graham Correctional Center's warden attempted to accommodate Blair's religious beliefs by contacting the union and attempting to have him placed in another job or agency. However, the union's seniority requirements prevented Blair from obtaining a different job with his sabbath off and he was not offered a job at another agency. Nevertheless, Blair allegedly used personal days, sick days and compensatory holidays in order to observe his sabbath. Blair was ultimately disciplined, then discharged on June 9, 1988, for excessive absenteeism.

Subsequently, Blair brought suit against his employers and union under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) alleging that they intentionally and willfully engaged in unlawful employment practices by discriminating against him on the basis of his religion. The Graham Correctional Center and the Illinois Department of Corrections filed a motion for summary judgment on Count I contending that they reasonably attempted to accommodate Blair's religious beliefs. The union (AFSCME) moved for summary judgment on Count II on the basis that it did not have a duty to alter the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement with the state in order to accommodate Blair.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment shall be granted if the record shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Black v. Henry Pratt Co., 778 F.2d 1278, 1281 (7th Cir. 1985). The moving party has the burden of providing proper documentary evidence to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510-11, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Unquestionably, in determining whether a genuine issue of material facts exists, the evidence is to be taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence, not mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, which demonstrates that there is a genuine issue for trial. Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639 (7th Cir. 1988).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Graham Correctional Center and Illinois Department ...


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