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AGUILERA v. VILLAGE OF HAZEL CREST
December 18, 2002
OSCAR AGUILERA, PLAINTIFF,
VILLAGE OF HAZEL CREST, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles Ronald Norgle, Sr., United States District Court.
Before the court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the
following reasons, the motion is granted.
Oscar Aguilera filed this suit claiming that the Village of Hazelcrest
discriminated against him on the basis of race and national origin.
Aguilera is an American born Hispanic male of Cuban-Mexican descent. In
1994, Aguilera applied to become a police officer in the Village of
Hazelcrest ("the Village"). On November 14, 1994, the Village sent a
letter to Aguilera, stating that he had successfully passed the
"Village's written examination to become a police officer. Shortly
thereafter, Aguilera was interviewed and hired by then Police Chief
Village policy requires newly hired inexperienced police officers to
attend formal training at the Illinois State Police Academy. After
successful completion of the Academy's training program, the officers
report for a probationary training period with Village police officers.
The Village's training period is a twelve week field training program
that has several layers of training officers.
During field training, probationary officers work one on one with an
experienced officer, and will do so with three different officers during
the twelve week program. The training officers, in turn, report to the
field training coordinator, who is a sergeant and is responsible for
managing the day to day activities of the field training program. The
coordinator reports to a lieutenant, who serves as the training officer
for the entire police department, and is responsible for all officer
Aguilera entered the Illinois State Police Academy on January 15,
1995, and successfully graduated March 24, 1995. Aguilera reported for
duty as a probationary police officer on March 27, 1995. Two other new
police officers reported for duty as probationary officers at the same
time. Shortly after Aguilera began his field training, Police Chief Moore
retired, and Peter Fee became the Chief of Police for the Village.
Aguilera experienced difficulties during his field training. The three
field training officers that worked with Aguilera, Officers Murray,
Peters and Peers, expressed some positive feedback about Aguilera, most
notably in his attitude and work ethic. However, the field training
reports expressed great concern about progress in certain areas,
such as Aguilera's oral and written communication skills, ability to
handle stressful situations, radio skills, and navigation skills. Of
these claimed deficiencies, Aguilera's communication skills were of the
greatest concern, as the reports indicated that Aguilera had difficulty
with the EngLish language. Aguilera disputes the conclusions of these
To address Aguilera's perceived communication problems, the Village and
Aguilera agreed that Aguilera would take English classes at a local
college. Aguilera performed well on the college's English proficiency
exam. In the school setting, Aguilera tested at an advanced level and his
pronunciation was good.
At the end of the twelve week field training program, the two officers
that started the program with Aguilera graduated, but Aguilera did not.
Chief Fee was of the opinion that Aguilera was not sufficiently prepared
to become a full time police officer. The Village extended Aguilera's
field training program for an additional four months. During this four
month period, Aguilera was evaluated by three different officers, Arme,
Preston and Nelson, all of whom expressed mixed reviews about Aguilera's
performance. Similar to the initial twelve week field training session,
the second set of reviewing officers reported that Aguilera's
communication skills continued to be a major problem.
Aguilera saw his performance differently. Throughout the field
training, Aguilera claims that he was subject to discriminatory remarks
from other officers. Aguilera asserts that numerous officers made
derogatory remarks about Aguilera's ability to speak English, and other
officers often told him his English was awful, that he could not speak,
and he could not write. Aguilera also says that an officer embarrassed
him by ordering him to speak into a loudspeaker, and by ordering him to
write reports in a certain manner and then ordering him to re-write the
reports in a different manner. Aguilera says that certain officers said
he was not American enough, that he should become a police officer where
there were more minorities, and that he should move to an Hispanic
neighborhood and open a coffee shop. Aguilera did not complain to anyone
about this alleged harassment.
In July of 1995, the Village had a mandatory meeting for police
officers that Aguilera failed to attend. This resulted in a verbal
warning for Aguilera, which was accompanied by a written verification of
Aguilera's tenure as a probationary officer with the Village came to an
end in October 1995. Early in the month, Aguilera missed another
mandatory meeting for police officers. Aguilera claimed that he did not
know about the meeting, and no one told him about it or told him to
attend. Also during early October, Aguilera had on-going difficulties in
his relationship with his girlfriend, with whom Aguilera shared an
apartment in Tinley Park, Illinois. Tinley Park police responded to
domestic problems at Aguilera's apartment at least three times during
October 1995. On one of these occasions, Tinley Park police took Aguilera
into custody after he made threatening motions with his service weapon
towards his girlfriend.
On October 12, 1995, Police Chief Fee asked for Aguilera's
resignation. Around the same time, Chief Fee recommended that the Board
of Fire and Police Commissioners terminate Aguilera's employment with the
Village. Aguilera did not tender a resignation, and was terminated
effective October 20, 1995.
On August 2, 2001,*fn1 Aguilera filed this suit, claiming that he was
subject to a hostile work environment and that the Village terminated his
employment because of his race/national origin. The Village now moves for
summary judgment, arguing that there is no evidence of a hostile work
environments Aguilera cannot demonstrate a prima facie case of disparate
treatment, and there is no evidence that the decision to ...