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RODRIGUEZ v. CITY OF CHICAGO

August 11, 1997

ANGELO RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, a municipal corporation, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAROVICH

 Plaintiff Angelo Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") filed this action against Defendant City of Chicago, Department of Police (the "City") for religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., as amended, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1(c) et seq. Both parties now move for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Rodriguez's motion for summary judgment and grants the City's motion for summary judgment.

 BACKGROUND

 Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed. Since September 1980, Rodriguez has served as a patrol officer in the Chicago Police Department's 14th District. Located within the 14th District are two clinics at which abortions are performed: (1) the Central Medico Pan American Clinic, located at 3412 W. Fullerton Ave. ("the Fullerton Clinic"), and (2) the American Women's Medical Center, located at 2744 N. Western Ave. ("the Western Clinic").

 Following a demonstration at the Fullerton Clinic on October 23, 1993, the Police Department began to assign one or more officers to abortion clinics throughout the City to protect the clinics' property and to assure the safety of the clinics' employees. According to the City, the purpose of the assignments is to keep the peace between demonstrators. Rodriguez was one of the officers assigned to maintain a presence outside the Fullerton Clinic.

 On the first day of his new assignment, Rodriguez reported to the Fullerton Clinic and performed his duties. Roughly two or three weeks later, when he was again assigned to the Fullerton Clinic detail, Rodriguez similarly reported and fulfilled his monitoring obligations. Rodriguez testified that following his second assignment to the Fullerton Clinic, however, he became convinced that his presence at the clinic facilitated the ongoing activities of the abortion clinic and, consequently, conflicted with his Roman Catholic beliefs.

 On January 29, 1994, Rodriguez informed his watch commander, Captain William Guswiler ("Guswiler"), of his religious opposition to serving on the Fullerton Clinic detail. Rodriguez told Guswiler that he did not have any problem going to the clinic in an emergency situation, but other than that he did not want to be assigned to abortion clinics. Guswiler told Rodriguez that he would try not to assign him to abortion clinics, but that he (Guswiler) could not give Rodriguez any guarantee or formal "exemption" from such work. Rodriguez agreed to be available at the clinics in the event of any emergency. For four months thereafter, Rodriguez was not assigned to the Fullerton Clinic watch.

 On April 25, 1994, Rodriguez tore his left Achilles tendon and was placed on medical leave. Upon returning to work in September 1994, Rodriguez sought to assure that he would not again be assigned to active duty at either the Fullerton Clinic or the Western Clinic. To this end, Rodriguez sent a memorandum dated October 7, 1994 to 14th District Commander Jose Velez ("Velez") in which Rodriguez stated that his "religious belief that human life begins at conception and that abortion is the intentional killing of a human being prohibits my participation in keeping abortion clinics open." The memorandum requested that Rodriguez be exempted from future assignments at abortion clinics because of these religious beliefs. *fn1"

 Upon receipt of the memorandum, Guswiler spoke with Velez and they agreed that Rodriguez was not free to refuse an assignment. The City maintains that Guswiler and Velez further agreed that, depending on operational needs, Guswiler would, when possible, avoid assigning Rodriguez to clinic duty. In any event, Rodriguez never received a written response to his memorandum from Velez or anyone else at the City.

 Subsequently, on November 19, 1994, Police Officer Tietz, who was assigned to one of the abortion clinics in the 14th District, requested a replacement to take a "personal." *fn2" Rodriguez was assigned to replace Officer Tietz, and directed to report to the abortion clinic detail. Rodriguez then requested a personal and went to speak to his supervisor, Sergeant Ronald Grimes ("Grimes"), in the 14th District station. Rodriguez informed Grimes that he objected to the abortion clinic assignments, but Grimes responded that Rodriguez could not refuse the assignment. *fn3" Under protest Rodriguez agreed to, and did report to the Western Clinic for approximately one-half hour until the assignment was canceled. Rodriguez asserts, and the City denies, that the situation ultimately forced Rodriguez to choose between his job and his religious beliefs. Rodriguez has not been assigned to any further abortion clinic details since November 1994.

 Rodriguez brought this suit against the City alleging that the City violated his rights under Title VII, RFRA, and the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago ("Municipal Code"). On January 12, 1996, the Court granted the City's motion to dismiss the claim under the Municipal Code, and denied its motions to dismiss the claims under Title VII and RFRA. Pursuant to the recent United States Supreme Court decision in Boerne v. Flores, 138 L. Ed. 2d 624, 117 S. Ct. 2157 (1997), which held RFRA unconstitutional, both parties have agreed to the dismissal of the RFRA claim, leaving only the Title VII claim.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Standards for Summary Judgment

 Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, answers to interrogatories, admissions, affidavits, and other materials show that there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact" and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Only genuine disputes over "material facts" can prevent a grant of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). "Material facts" are those that might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Id. A "genuine issue" exists if there is "sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Id. at 249. When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts, and all ...


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