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Traylor v. Brown

July 12, 2002


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 99 C 7568-W K. , Judge. *fn1

Before Coffey, Manion, and Evans, Circuit Judges.

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

ARGUED MAY 14, 2002

Cynthia Traylor sued her employer, the Illinois Department of Transportation ("IDOT"), alleging that it had violated Title VII by discriminating against her on the basis of her sex and race when it refused to permit her to perform certain clerical and blacksmith duties. IDOT moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted its motion, concluding that Traylor had not established a prima facie case of discrimination, or alternatively, that she had failed to rebut IDOT's legitimate reasons for denying her requests to perform the duties. Traylor appeals, and we affirm.


Cynthia Traylor, a college graduate, has been employed by the Illinois Department of Transportation as a "highway maintainer" since November 16,1993. Highway maintainers are responsible for the preservation and upkeep of the state highway system, and their duties include: repairing and maintaining roads, drainage facilities, guardrails, bridges, traffic signs and other delineators; operating and servicing trucks, snow plows, mowing machines, and other highway equipment; and performing routine housekeeping duties at department headquarters. Additionally, a highway maintainer may be asked to do paperwork or act as a crew leader. These duties, with the exception of the last two, are generally rotated among all of the highway maintainers.

During all of the time relevant to this lawsuit, Traylor worked at the Watseka facility located in Iroquois County, Illinois. Traylor was the only black and the only female employee at the Watseka facility. From her hire date in 1993 until April 1996, Traylor's direct supervisor was Emory Alred, the "field technician" responsible for overseeing the team at the Watseka facility. Gary Dean replaced Alred in 1996 and served as the Watseka facility field technician until March 1998 when James Gromer replaced him. In addition to the field technician, the Watseka facility includes a "lead lead worker", Timothy Fortino, a "lead worker", Timothy McGinnis, and seven highway maintainers, including Traylor. The field technician advises the lead workers on daily job assignments, which the lead workers then communicate to the highway maintainers.

In her lawsuit, Traylor alleges that, from June 1997 through December 1998, IDOT discriminated against her based on her race and sex by refusing to allow her to perform certain clerical and blacksmith duties that white, male employees were allowed to perform. Traylor claims that she asked her supervisors, Tim McGinnis and Tim Fortino, a number of times to permit her to perform these extra duties. They effectively denied her requests by telling her to ask the field technician, by saying "we'll see" and walking away, or by saying that they would let her help if they needed her. She also claims that she asked Alred and Gromer, the field technicians, if she could perform these duties, but that Alred simply ignored her and walked away, while Gromer responded by asking her whether she minded getting her hands dirty at the blacksmith shop. When she said no, Gromer said that he would think about it, and a few days later, when she asked him specifically whether she could perform office duties, he said, "I don't have to let you in that office." Traylor admits that no one ever stated that she could not perform the extra duties because of her race or sex. Rather, she contends that when she repeatedly asked for these assignments, she was always turned down without explanation.

As to the clerical duties, which primarily included paperwork associated with time cards, IDOT explained that Alred assigned these duties to Mark Cluver, another highway maintainer, sometime in 1987 because the employee who previously performed those duties had retired. At that time, IDOT had just begun using a new database system. IDOT maintained that Cluver remained the only person allowed to perform the office duties because he had effectively performed the duties since 1987 and he had developed familiarity with the database system. Traylor claims that this explanation is pretextual and that she is more qualified than Cluver to perform these duties because she has a college education and past clerical experience.

As to the blacksmith duties, two other highway maintainers, Todd Fletcher and Mark Peterson, performed those duties, which required them to prepare, maintain and repair IDOT equipment. While every team member, including Traylor, had performed these blacksmith duties on occasion when a machine broke down, IDOT explained that Fletcher and Peterson generally perform these duties. Alred claimed that he assigned Peterson and Fletcher blacksmith duties in 1995 because each had previous experience involving the repair and maintenance of similar equipment. Traylor disputed this as well, arguing that she was more qualified to learn blacksmith work than Peterson or Fletcher who are not college educated. It is undisputed that Cluver, Fletcher and Peterson were never compensated at a higher rate or promoted because they performed these extra duties.

On November 19, 1999, Traylor filed a complaint against IDOT, alleging that it discriminated against her on the basis of race and sex in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., by refusing to allow her to perform the clerical and blacksmith duties.*fn2 The district court granted IDOT's motion for summary judgment, concluding that Traylor had not demonstrated that she had suffered an adverse employment action because, even though other employees were allowed to do certain tasks outside the duties of a highway maintainer, Traylor's pay was not affected, she was not denied an assignment to which she was entitled, and there was no evidence that her career advancement prospects were impaired. Additionally, the district court concluded that, even if Traylor had established a prima facie case, IDOT had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions which Traylor failed to rebut. Finally, the district court dismissed the remaining claims in Traylor's complaint, finding that they were outside of the allegations in her initial complaint to the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and untimely.*fn3


We review de novo the district court's decision to grant summary judgment to IDOT, construing all facts, and drawing all reasonable inferences from those facts, in favor of Traylor, the nonmoving party. Hall v. Bodine Elec. Co., 276 F.3d 345, 352 (7th Cir. 2002). Summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, 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).

Title VII makes it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to [her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin." 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e2(a)(1). Because Traylor presents no direct evidence of discrimination, we examine her Title VII claim under the burden-shifting analysis established by the Supreme Court in McDonnell ...

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