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SIMON v. CITY OF NAPERVILLE

March 7, 2000

BROOKE M. SIMON, PLAINTIFF,
V.
CITY OF NAPERVILLE, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bucklo, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Brooke Simon was hired as a police officer with the City of Naperville, Illinois (the "City"), in November 1997. During her training under Officer Glen Gurski, from November 25 to December 4, 1997, she endured a constant stream of uninvited lewd comments and aggressively suggestive physical contact and gestures. Officer Gurski withheld her performance evaluations during training. The stress of the situation caused her emotional distress, symptoms of which including vomiting before going to work. She complained to fellow officers, who reported the misconduct, and was taken out from under Officer Gurski's supervision. The City ultimately suspended Officer Gurski on February 2, 1998, and removed him from training duties, but Ms. Simon was threatened with retaliation. In addition, Officer Gurski and Ms. Simon were scheduled to work the same beat on a future date. Ms. Simon quit the police department on February 24, 1998, and after timely filing her EEOC charges, sued the City for sexual harassment under Title VII and the Illinois Human Rights Act and for retaliation under both. The City moves for summary judgment on the sexual harassment claims, and I deny the motion.

I.

The City's motion for summary judgment on Ms. Simon's Illinois Human Rights Act claim, see 775 ILCS 5/2-102(D), is unsupported by any argument whatsoever. The entire discussion of this cause of action in the City's memorandum in support of its motion is limited to a request that I grant it summary judgment on Ms. Simon's "pendent state law claim." The City gives me no reason to grant this request. The motion is therefore denied with respect to this claim. The City does not request summary judgment on Ms. Simon's retaliation claims. I now turn to the Title VII claim.

II.

Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), protects employees against unwelcome sexual advances that create an offensive or hostile working environment. Meritor Savings Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57, 64, 106 S.Ct. 2399, 91 L.Ed.2d 49 (1986). Harassment encompasses all forms of conduct that unreasonably interfere with an individual's work performance or create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Id.; Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Co., 42 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 1994). Under a hostile environment theory, the harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to alter the conditions of the victim's employment and to create an abusive working atmosphere. McKenzie v. Illinois Dep't of Transportation, 92 F.3d 473, 479 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Meritor, 477 U.S. at 67, 106 S.Ct. 2399). Employees may also sue on the basis of quid pro quo harassment, which occurs when tangible employment benefits are conditioned upon compliance with a harasser's sexual demands. Bryson v. Chicago State Univ., 96 F.3d 912, 915 (7th Cir. 1996). The Supreme Court has recently stated that "[t]he terms quid pro quo and hostile work environment are helpful, perhaps, in making a rough demarcation between cases in which threats are carried out and those where they are not or are absent altogether, but beyond this are of limited utility." Burlington Indus., Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 751, 118 S.Ct. 2257, 141 L.Ed.2d 633 (1998).

A.

The City argues, first, that Officer Gurski's actions did not descend to the level of obnoxiousness and pervasiveness required for a sexual harassment claim. The concept of sexual harassment is "designed to protect working women from the kind of male attentions that can make the workplace hellish for women." Baskerville v. Culligan Int'l Co., 50 F.3d 428, 430 (7th Cir. 1995). "Isolated or trivial remarks" of a sexual nature "do not satisfy the definition of sexual harassment." Rennie v. Dalton, 3 F.3d 1100, 1107 (7th Cir. 1993). Conduct that is "too tepid or intermittent or equivocal to make a reasonable person believe that she has been discriminated against on the basis of sex" is not actionable. Galloway v. General Motors, 78 F.3d 1164, 1168 (7th Cir. 1996). It is not enough that a supervisor fails to treat a female employee with sensitivity, tact, and delicacy, uses coarse language, or is a boor. Minor v. Ivy Tech State College, 174 F.3d 855, 858 (7th Cir. 1999).

In light of this, the City asks me to hold that the following conduct is not extreme enough to constitute sexual harassment:

1. Officer Gurski would touch Miss Simon and place his arm around the back of her head and shoulders while driving.
2. He spent about 80% of his time with Ms. Simon asking her about personal matters, including boyfriends and previous sexual relationships.
3. He would continually tell dirty jokes and sing songs on duty with perverted words, including reference to "little girlies" and "she is gay."
4. He would continually comment on how "slutty, seductive, and easy" other officers were, and remark on their attire.
5. He discussed how he would feel tempted by other women police officers, accompanying these statements by making a gesture with his ...

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