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Hilt-Dyson v. City of Chicago

February 27, 2002

JUDITH HILT-DYSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 99 C 6307--James F. Holderman, Judge.

Before Coffey, Ripple and Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ripple, Circuit Judge

ARGUED DECEMBER 5, 2001

Judith Hilt-Dyson, an officer with the Chicago Police Department ("CPD"), filed this action against the City of Chicago ("the City") alleging that the conduct of her supervisor, Lieutenant William Sutherland, constituted sexual harassment in violation of Title VII. Ms. Hilt-Dyson also alleged that Sutherland retaliated against her for reporting his purported discriminatory conduct to the CPD. The district court entered summary judgment for the City on both claims. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

In 1998, the CPD stationed Ms. Hilt-Dyson, a female police officer, in its Evidence and Recovered Property Section ("ERPS"). Operating in a caged area with four vaults and several offices, the ERPS functions as a repository for confiscated property including narcotics and weapons. In February 1998, the CPD appointed Lieutenant William Sutherland as the commanding officer of the ERPS.

On March 24, 1999, Sutherland approached Ms. Hilt-Dyson as she worked on a computer located in the ERPS. He rubbed the middle of her back with his left hand. Sutherland then slid his left hand to Ms. Hilt-Dyson's right shoulder and squeezed it. The contact between Ms. Hilt-Dyson and Sutherland lasted less than a minute. A third officer, Walter Bland, was present during this incident. On the following day, March 25, 1999, while Ms. Hilt-Dyson ate lunch with several of her co-workers in the ERPS' mail room, Sutherland approached her. Once again, Sutherland rubbed the middle of Ms. Hilt-Dyson's back and touched her shoulder.*fn1 After Sutherland removed his hand from Ms. Hilt-Dyson, she addressed him and stated, "Lieutenant, you like touching me." R.27 at 9. Sutherland denied his subordinate's accusation and contended that he merely was trying to get her attention. When Ms. Hilt-Dyson indicated her disapproval of the contact, Sutherland stated, "I won't touch you anymore." R.27 at 9. After these two incidents, Sutherland never touched Ms. Hilt-Dyson again.

On March 26, 1999, Ms. Hilt-Dyson filed a "To-From Report" with the CPD in which she contended that Sutherland's actions constituted sexual harassment. Pursuant to department regulations, the CPD's Office of Professional Standards ("OPS") began an investigation into the two incidents. The OPS sustained Ms. Hilt-Dyson's complaint with regard to the March 25 contact and recommended a suspension for Sutherland. Upon reviewing the case, CPD officials disagreed; they concluded that the complaint was not sustained*fn2 and overruled the determination of the OPS.

In May 1999, two months after the back rubbing incidents, the CPD directed unit commanding officers--including Sutherland--to conduct an inspection of their subordinates' spring dress uniforms. During an inspection, the commander seeks to ensure that his subordinates' uniforms fit properly, comply with CPD standards and are not worn out. Moreover, in the ERPS, the commanding officer attempts to conduct the inspection in such a manner as to enable members of the division to return to work as quickly as possible.

On May 6, 1999, Sutherland complied with the CPD's order and reviewed simultaneously the uniforms of his four subordinates--including Ms. Hilt-Dyson. Because of limited space in the ERPS, Sutherland held the inspection in the hallway adjacent to the division's administrative offices. His four subordinates formed a line in the hallway. Although Ms. Hilt-Dyson occupied the second position in this line, Sutherland reviewed her uniform first.*fn3 According to Ms. Hilt-Dyson, Sutherland stared at her chest during the inspection. He then informed Ms. Hilt-Dyson that her uniform blazer fit too snugly; he ordered her to raise her arms. After the inspection, a male officer described this latter order as demeaning. During previous inspections, however, Sutherland, as well as other commanders, had required male and female officers to lift their arms to determine if their blazers fit properly.*fn4 Continuing with the inspection, Sutherland asked Ms. Hilt-Dyson to remove her uniform hat; he noted deficiencies in the condition of the hat including scratches on the brim as well as a dull shield. He next ordered Ms. Hilt-Dyson to open her blazer. After inspecting Ms. Hilt-Dyson's service revolver, Sutherland told Ms. Hilt-Dyson to correct the problems with her uniform and then dismissed her from the inspection. Shortly after the inspection, Ms. Hilt-Dyson ordered a new blazer, uniform hat and shield. Sutherland did not touch Ms. Hilt-Dyson in any manner during the inspection.

Ms. Hilt-Dyson promptly requested that the CPD initiate a Complaint Register ("CR") against Sutherland. Specifically, she alleged that the orders directing her to raise her arms and remove her hat during the inspection constituted sexual harassment. The OPS agreed and recommended that the CPD suspend Sutherland for two days. Upon reviewing this determination, CPD officials disagreed with the OPS' findings and concluded that the complaint was not sus tained.

Six months after the inspections--January 8, 2000--an incident occurred between Ms. Hilt-Dyson and a fellow officer, Ellen Rake. According to Ms. Hilt-Dyson, Rake became involved in a verbal dispute with a CPD property custodian over the possible location of a missing item. Rake called for Ms. Hilt-Dyson and inquired whether anyone had recovered the item during Ms. Hilt-Dyson's shift. After approaching Rake, Ms. Hilt-Dyson contends that she briefly touched Rake's elbow and then immediately apologized for the contact.*fn5

Immediately after the incident, Sutherland met with both officers in his office. He inquired whether Rake wished to file an Injury on Duty ("IOD") report and to initiate a CR against Ms. Hilt-Dyson. Rake initially declined this invitation. However, while gathering paper to write a To-From Report on the incident, Rake experienced tenderness in her back. Because she had a pre-existing back injury, Rake believed that she needed "to cover" herself and thus requested that an IOD report be completed.*fn6

Once Rake requested the IOD report, a CR had to be initiated against Ms. Hilt-Dyson pursuant to CPD regulations. According to Ms. Hilt-Dyson, Rake approached her shortly after requesting the IOD and stated, "He [Sutherland] told me I have to get a CR number." R.27 at 23. After investigating the complaint, the OPS recommended that the CPD suspend Ms. Hilt-Dyson for seven days. A review panel, however, disagreed; ...


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