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
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
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.
A. Graham Correctional Center and Illinois Department of
Title VII, § 2000e-2(a)(1) provides: (a) It shall be an
unlawful employment practice for an employer —
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any
individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any
individual with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment, because of
such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or
The initial step in a Title VII case is to determine whether
plaintiff has presented a prima facie case. Baz v. Walters,