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THIEL v. VILLAGE OF LIBERTYVILLE

December 16, 1996

ANN THIEL, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF LIBERTYVILLE, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORGLE

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

 CHARLES R. NORGLE, SR., District Judge:

 This court conducted a bench trial in which Plaintiff Ann Thiel ("Thiel") sought to recover against Defendant Village of Libertyville ("Village"). She alleged that she endured sexual discrimination and sexual harassment while serving as a police officer with the Village's police department.

 I. LEGAL STANDARDS

 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals differently based on, among other immutable characteristics, their gender. *fn1" After trial, the traditional burden-shifting issue of Title VII analysis becomes moot. Melendez v. Illinois Bell Tel. Co., 79 F.3d 661, 667 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Allen v. Seidman, 881 F.2d 375, 379 (7th Cir. 1989)). "Once the lawsuit has been tried, the relevant inquiry simplifies to whether the evidence presented at trial supports a finding of a Title VII violation." Id.

 II. FINDINGS OF FACT *fn2"

 Following are the relevant facts based upon the testimony of witnesses and documentary evidence:

 Thiel received a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Loyola University Chicago in 1988. On July 10, 1989, the Village hired her as a police officer. Police officers hold dangerous jobs, their primary mission being to protect the public. At the time the Village hired Thiel, it employed a total of thirty-six other police officers; including Thiel, two of those officers were female. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Village employed four female probationary officers, including Thiel.

 In the Village Police Department ("Department"), newly-hired officers remain on probation for a period of one year, which is extendable for three additional months. By Department policy, the officers may be terminated at will, including for no reason at all, during that period of probation.

 Between July 10 and September 29, 1989, Thiel successfully completed a ten week program at the Police Training Institute ("Institute") in Champaign, Illinois. The Department does not expect that new officers will acquire all necessary knowledge at the Institute; rather, the Department expects that the probationary period will provide new officers with practical experience and skills necessary for police work. After Thiel completed the Institute, the Director of the Institute called Stricker. The Director informed Stricker that Thiel was the most negative person who ever attended the Institute, and that she had a propensity to complain about any-and-everything.

 Thiel began working for the Department on October 1, 1989, as a probationary police officer. At that time, Thiel received a training manual and a copy of the Department's general orders. Shortly thereafter, Stricker met with Lieutenant Bruce Scheibler ("Scheibler"), Commander Charles Bouland ("Bouland"), and Thiel regarding the Institute Director's comments.

 Sergeant Erv Schamal ("Schamal") was one of Thiel's immediate supervisors. All other non-probationary officers that worked Thiel's shift were also considered her supervisors. Schamal was under the command of Bouland. Schamal has worked for the Department for over twenty-nine years. Schamal took a two-week course on how to supervise in 1983. Along with his knowledge from this course, he used his experience, rather than a written manual or order, when determining how to supervise probationary employees. In 1989, Schamal had not taken any seminars or training regarding sexual discrimination. However, he was generally familiar with sexual discrimination laws and the Village's policy concerning sexual discrimination.

 Early in Thiel's tenure, various supervisors in the Department became concerned about her performance because various officers who worked with her found her performance deficient. For example, she exposed her gun during a traffic stop in violation of Department rules. Also, in October, Thiel and Officer Hein were partners on a shift. They stopped three minors for possession of alcohol in a local park. While Hein arrested the first perpetrator, the other two ran from the scene; for an unknown reason, Thiel neglected to chase them.

 When Schamal rode with Thiel, he reprimanded her verbally the first time she rolled through a stop sign. When she continued to do so, he did not discuss the matter further with her. In her monthly evaluations, Schamal repeatedly reprimanded Thiel for continually rolling through stop signs.

 Schamal and Scheibler prepared Thiel's October 1989 evaluation. Schamal prepared the evaluation based upon his personal observations of her work, and his conversations with other officers. Thiel signed this evaluation, as she did her subsequent monthly evaluations. Although she states that her signature did not indicate agreement with the content of the evaluations, she never discussed the content of the evaluations with her supervisors or complained, despite the opportunity to do so at the time of each signing. She simply sat across the desk and said nothing, while her supervisor awaited some reaction. Further, she never documented her disagreements with the content of the evaluations during her tour with the Department. Thiel did document those disagreements after she resigned.

 In early November 1989, the Department began evaluating Thiel on a daily basis. The Department had not found it necessary to use this procedure before, but did so for Thiel in an effort to train, evaluate, and monitor her. None of the other (male) probationary officers received daily reviews. However, there is no evidence that any of them were having difficulties similar to Thiel's.

 Schamal told the officers riding with Thiel to record everything they observed while on patrol with Thiel on a Daily Progress Report. The daily reports were summarized in Thiel's monthly evaluations, and she was given the opportunity to discuss them with her supervisors, although she chose not to do so. Officers Hein, Hershey, Mack, Schamal, Bouland, Smith, and Stricker discussed Thiel's performance with her personally. Her response was essentially to listen unemotionally.

 Officer Sandra Pierce ("Pierce") *fn3" generally did not assist in training officers. However, on November 13, 1989, Schamal asked her to ride with Thiel and to report on what occurred during their ride. Schamal testified that he asked Pierce to ride with Thiel in order to get "another woman's ...


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