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AGUILERA v. VILLAGE OF HAZEL CREST

December 18, 2002

OSCAR AGUILERA, PLAINTIFF,
V.
VILLAGE OF HAZEL CREST, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles Ronald Norgle, Sr., United States District Court.

    OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

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 Harold Moore.

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 training.

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 officer 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 reports.

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 the warning.

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 ...


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