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HARRIS v. CITY OF HARVEY

February 17, 1998

DOLORES HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HARVEY, an Illinois Municipal Corporation, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVIN

 Pending is the Defendant City of Harvey's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Dolores Harris ("Harris") began working for the City of Harvey (the "City") in December of 1993 in a part time clerical position in the Streets Department. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 1; City 12(n) P 1.) Plaintiff held that position, wherein she earned approximately $ 5.00 an hour, until March 1994. (City 12(m) P 2; Pl. 12(n) P 2; Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 3; City 12(n) Resp. P 3.)

 Plaintiff asserts that, during the term of her clerical position, her male co-workers made rude and demeaning sexually based comments. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 23.) Plaintiff states that she and another co-worker complained of the males' behavior to the Superintendent of the Department of Streets and Public Improvement, Charles Givines ("Givines"). (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 24; City 12(n) Resp. P 24.) The City acknowledges that Givines received a written complaint about the males' behavior and asserts that Givines thereafter told the men not to bother the women. (City 12(m) P 17.)

 After the union posted a notice on the bulletin board stating that people with a Commercial Driver's License ("CDL") could apply for a position as driver, Harris applied for the position. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts. P 5; City 12(n) Resp. P 5.) When Harris applied, Givines suspected that there might be "resistance" to hiring a female driver (as Harris would be the first female driver hired by the City). (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts PP 22, 25; City's 12(n) Resp. PP 22, 25.) Because of Givines' (and apparently the mayor's) concerns regarding whether Harris could do the work performed by the garbage crews, Givines assigned Harris as a street sweeper. (City 12(m) P 11; Pl. 12(n) P 11; Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 6.) *fn1"

 Although the parties agree that, starting in March of 1994, Harris worked full time on the street sweeper performing the same job duties as other drivers (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts PP 9-11; City 12(n) Resp. PP 9-11), the parties disagree regarding what was Harris' work title. The City says that Givines hired Harris as a "driver-trainee" because she did not have the proper CDL (one that covered air brakes). (City 12(m) PP 13, 15-16; Pl. 12(n) PP 15-16.) Harris, on the other hand, states that she was a "driver" (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 9), and that, after she applied for a driver position, Givines told her that she would be paid as a driver (between $ 20,000 and $ 30,000 annually) (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts PP 7, 8).

 Nevertheless, working as a street sweeper, Harris continued to be paid at the rate of $ 5.00 per hour. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 12; City 12(n) Resp. P 12.) Harris complained to Givines and to the union (of which she was a member) about her unequal rate of pay, requesting to be paid as a driver. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 19; City 12(n) Resp. P 19; City 12(m) P 18; Pl. 12(n) P 18.) In July 1994, Harris received an increase in pay (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 20; City 12(n) Resp. P 20), but, even with this increase, she earned less than the male drivers. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 21; City's 12(n) Resp. P 21.) The City states that Harris' smaller paycheck was due to a seniority system for employees in the Public Works Department administered by the union (City 12(m) PP 18, 69; Pl. 12(n) P 18), and the fact that many employees had more seniority than Harris (City 12(m) PP 3-9, 70; Pl. 12(n) PP 3-9, 70).

 In addition to being paid less, Harris claims she suffered abusive incidents as a driver for the City. During her first week of work as a driver, Harris alleges that a co-worker took her to a remote location and told her "this is where the white guys take the black women for sex, and I treat my black women right, unlike other white men." (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 27; City 12(n) Resp. P 27.) Plaintiff did not immediately report this incident to her supervisors because, according to her, when she had previously complained about the male co-worker's behavior, her supervisors had done nothing to stop it. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 28; City 12(n) Resp. P 28.) Harris notified her supervisors about the alleged incident in a letter submitted to Givines in November 1994. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 40, Ex. 10; City 12(n) Resp. P 40.)

 Harris also alleges that, on April 19, 1994, a co-worker reached down her pants and touched her buttocks while helping her get on her raincoat. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 30; City 12(n) Resp. P 30.) Plaintiff did not complain to her supervisors about this incident. (City 12(m) P 26; Pl. 12(n) P 26.)

 Plaintiff further alleges that, sometime in November 1994, a different co-worker fondled her breasts while Harris was in a truck with him. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 30; City 12(n) Resp. P 30.) Harris did complain to her immediate supervisor, Charles Harper ("Harper"), about this incident whereupon Harper notified Givines about the incident and forbade the accused co-worker from being on a truck with Harris (and, in fact, the accused co-worker did not work on a vehicle again with Harris). (City 12(m) P 44-45; Pl. 12(n) P 44-45.)

 Plaintiff asserts that, on another occasion, a different co-worker pushed her down on a mattress. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 32.) It is unclear from the record when Harris' supervisors became aware of this allegation, although it appears that they first received notification about this allegation during an employee meeting on December 8 or 9, 1994. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 47; City's 12(n) Resp. P 47.)

 In addition to the above particular incidents, *fn2" Harris alleges that her co-workers cursed at her (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts PP 33-36), and talked to her about and showed her sexual related magazines and pictures which were around the garage (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts PP 37-38; City 12(m) PP 31, 36). Harris states she verbally complained to Givines and Harper about the sexual related materials and about the men's comments (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 39), although the City states that Harper, at least, did not receive complaints about the materials (Pl. 12(m) P 39).

 Sometime after November 21, 1994, Harris submitted a written complaint to Givines. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 40, Ex. 10; City 12(n) Resp. P 40.) In that correspondence, Harris complained of a "hostile, degrading, appauling [sic] enviornment [sic]" and described: (1) the incident which allegedly occurred her first day driving, (2) the alleged injury she suffered by being hit by a vehicle, (3) sexual gestures she allegedly received from some co-workers, and (4) the alleged fondling by her co-worker in a truck. (Id.) Harris claims that, in response, Givines called Harris a "hell-raiser." (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 40.)

 On December 8 or 9, 1994, there was a meeting of all of the garage employees, including Harris, wherein Givines told the male employees about Harris' complaints. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 43; City 12(n) Resp. P 43.) The meeting was heated and there were threats of violence directed against Harris. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts PP 45-46; City 12(n) Resp. PP 45-46.) After hearing an accusation against him, one male co-worker said to Harris, "I'm going to kick your ass bitch" and had to be restrained. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 47; City 12(n) Resp. P 47.) At this meeting, Givines told the men to get rid of the pornography and stop swearing (City 12(m) P 49; Pl. 12(n) P 49), and at least one employee testified that, after the meeting, he did not see any more pornographic material (City 12(m) P 56; Pl. 12(n) P 56).

 Plaintiff alleges that, shortly after the meeting, the City retaliated against her. First, Harris states that Harper assigned her to defective vehicles and assigned her to "clean up the kitchen" and do other menial tasks. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 50.) The City denies that it assigned Harris defective vehicles and states that, if Harris received vehicles less desirable than other workers, it was because she had less seniority. (City 12(m) PP 46-47.) In addition, the City contends that Harper only asked Plaintiff to perform menial tasks when she had nothing else to do and that Harper asked other drivers to perform such work. (Id. PP 62-64.)

 Harris additionally states that the City then demoted her to a "grueling" janitorial position at City Hall which had a different work shift. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts PP 51-52; City 12(m) PP 57, 61.) The parties dispute why the City transferred Plaintiff. The City states that it made the decision to transfer Harris in conjunction with occurring layoffs and that Harris' transfer prevented her being laid off. (City 12(m) P 58.) The City further states that it chose to transfer Harris because she did not have the proper CDL and had the lowest seniority of the drivers. (Id.) On the other hand, Plaintiff states that Harper and Givines told her that she was being transferred "for her safety," and that neither Harper nor Givines told Harris that she was being transferred because of cut-backs or lay-offs. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts PP 61-62.)

 On September 6, 1995, the City placed Harris on administrative leave without pay. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 59; City 12(n) Resp. P 59.) Harris never returned to work. The City terminated Plaintiff's employment on December 14, 1995. (Pl. 12(n) Add. Facts P 60; City 12(n) Resp. P 60.)

 Plaintiff filed this suit against the City for sexual discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) and for violation of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1). ...


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