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HUGLEY v. ART INST. OF CHICAGO

April 24, 1998

RAYMOND L. HUGLEY, Plaintiff, THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, RICHARD HALL and MARION ELLIS, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CASTILLO

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 Plaintiff Raymond Hugley sues his former employer, the Art Institute of Chicago ("AIC"), alleging that his termination was racially motivated and prompted by false and defamatory statements. Count I of Hugley's complaint claims that his termination violated both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Count II contends that AIC and two of its employees, Richard Hall and Marion Ellis, defamed Hugley by falsely accusing him of threatening a fellow employee's life. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on both counts. For the reasons that follow, we grant summary judgment on Count I; Count II is dismissed without prejudice to its presentment in state court.

 RELEVANT FACTS *fn1"

 A. Background

 Raymond Hugley worked for the Art Institute of Chicago for about eight years. He was hired in February 1987 as a locksmith in the Department of Protection Services ("DOPS"). Under the supervision of DOPS Director Bob Koverman, Hugley was promoted to lead locksmith, a position Hugley held until his termination on November 21, 1995. Hugley's wife, Desiree Hugley, also worked at the Art Institute, but in another department as a housekeeping supervisor. Hugley's suit arises from a series of unfortunate events that occurred at the AIC on November 15, 1995. That day, Mrs. Hugley issued a reprimand to a housekeeping employee under her authority, Richard Hall. According to Mrs. Hugley, she wrote-up Hall for disorderly conduct, insubordination and failing to police the bathrooms. Def.'s Facts P 13; Pl.'s Dep. 110-112. Mrs. Hugley intended to write-up Hall for being intoxicated at work that morning as well, but never did so because the decision was not supported by her manager, Housekeeping Supervisor Ron Pushka. Def.'s Facts P 16.

 B. The Confrontations

 Later that day, Hall had two separate confrontations with Mr. Hugley. Def.'s Facts PP 9, 20. The first occurred around noon. According to Hugley, Hall approached both him and Mrs. Hugley as they met for lunch in a corridor near their offices. Pl.'s Facts P 9. Hall and Hugley exchanged heated remarks. Hugley claims Hall was upset because Mrs. Hugley had called him a "junkie" while reprimanding him; Hall allegedly began cursing and yelling that Mrs. Hugley was not going to talk to him "that way." Def.'s Facts P 9; Pl.'s Dep. 84-90. Hugley considered Hall's remarks disrespectful to Mrs. Hugley, but not threatening. Pl.'s Facts P 9; Pl.'s Dep. 91-92.

 Shortly after this exchange, Hugley tried to call DOPS Director Bob Koverman and DOPS Supervisor Fred Venhuizen, in accordance with procedures that had been established as a result of previous encounters between Hugley and his wife's subordinates. *fn2" Def.'s Facts P 8. Hugley was able to reach only Venhuizen, and the two met shortly afterwards to discuss the incident. Venhuizen told Hugley that he would take care of the situation. Pl.'s Facts P 8. Venhuizen then met with Hall. Def.'s Facts P 17. While Hugley was still eating lunch, Venhuizen called him and explained that there was nothing Venhuizen could do, and that Hugley should contact Assistant Personnel Director John Feery and Housekeeping Supervisor Ron Pushka instead. Hugley tried calling them both, and left messages requesting return phone calls. Def.'s Facts PP 14-17.

 Hugley's second confrontation with Hall occurred around 2:45 p.m., when Mrs. Hugley was preparing to leave work. Pl.'s Dep. 114-115. According to Hugley, he was working at his desk when he noticed Hall pacing back and forth outside his office. Pl.'s Facts P 13. Hugley and Hall again exchanged words in the hallway. Def.'s Facts P 21. Hugley testified that he told Hall to leave him and his wife alone. Pl.'s Dep. 120-121. He claims that Hall mumbled and cursed in response. Id. at 121.

 Hall, however, claims that Hugley threatened his life during the confrontation. Hugley allegedly said that he would "bust a cap" in Hall -- a phrase Hall translated as threat to shoot him. Hall Dep. 39-40. Hugley vehemently denies ever having threatened to "bust a cap" in Hall. Pl.'s Dep. 126.

 The parties also disagrees as to who witnessed this second confrontation. Hall claims that two other employees, Bruce McGee and Marion Ellis, were in the hallway at the time. Def.'s Facts P 22. Ellis testified that she was escorting another worker near the area where Hugley and Hall were arguing. *fn3" Pl.'s Facts P 18. Hugley denies having seen Ellis in the hallway until after the confrontation ended, see Pl.'s Facts P 17, and claims that McGee did not enter the hallway until the encounter was well under way. Pl.'s Dep. 120. Hugley also questions the accuracy of Ellis' perception, pointing out that Ellis testified she could only hear, not see, the altercation. Pl.'s Facts P 19.

 Following the second confrontation, Hall went into the locker room and allegedly told McGee that Hugley had threatened to "bust a cap" in him. Def.'s Facts P 23. Hall also claims that on his way home from work, he told another AIC employee, Joyce Hathaway, *fn4" that Hugley had threatened him during the second confrontation. Id. P 24. Finally, Hall says he mentioned the confrontations and Hugley's threat during a conversation he had with Ellis and Hathaway some time after the incidents. *fn5" Pl.'s Facts P 56.

 C. The AIC's Investigation

 The next day, November 16, Hall told Pushka and Feery that Hugley had threatened him the day before. Def.'s Facts PP 26-27. Hall gave Feery the names of several employees who might have seen and heard the confrontation. Def.'s Facts P 27. On November 29, 1995, Hall signed a memo recounting his version of the events. Def.'s Exh. B5. Hall's memo explained that Mrs. Hugley had insulted him during her reprimand, accusing him of being "wasted" when he was not, and that Mr. Hugley later accosted Hall in the corridor, calling him a "junkie," and threatening to "kick his ass" and "bust a cap" in him. Id.

 That afternoon, Feery, Marion Alt (Director of Personnel), Venhuizen, Pushka and another AIC administrator met and decided to investigate these incidents. They also decided to place Hall and the Hugleys on paid leave pending investigation. Pushka and Venhuizen were assigned responsibility for talking to potential witnesses from their respective departments. Def.'s Facts P 28.

 DOPS Supervisor Venhuizen and DOPS Director Koverman interviewed Hugley, Ellis and other DOPS employees identified as potential witnesses. Def.'s Facts P 29. McGee and Ellis submitted written statements. Ellis' statement corroborated Hugley's threat, which she claimed to have overheard during the second confrontation. Def.'s Facts P 33. McGee's statement confirmed that Hugley's mood during the confrontation was aggressive and hostile, and that Hall had tried to disengage from the confrontation. Def.'s Facts P 30. Koverman interviewed Hugley. After the interview, Koverman prepared a memo stating that Hugley had said he was too angry to ...


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