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NEBEL v. CITY OF BURBANK

March 27, 2003

JOAN E. NEBEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF BURBANK, BURBANK MAYOR HARRY KLEIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, BURBANK CHIEF OF POLICE WILLIAM M. KUJAWA, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, LIEUTENANT WAYNE YOUNG AND SERGEANT TIMOTHY ABBOTT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan B. Gottschall, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Joan E. Nebel sued the City of Burbank, Illinois (the "City"), Mayor Harry Klein, Chief of Police William M. Kujawa, Lieutenant Wayne Young, and Sergeant Timothy Abbott for engaging in gender discriminatory employment practices in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and/or 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Nebel sued Klein, Kujawa, Young, and Abbott both individually and in their official capacities. Defendants jointly filed a motion to strike and dismiss portions of Nebel's second amended complaint ("complaint") pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

Background

Nebel was employed by the City as a police officer from 1989 until her termination on April 10, 2001, and she alleges that while employed as a police officer, she performed to the reasonable satisfaction of the City at all times. Nebel claims the City and the individual defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her sex (female) by subjecting her to different terms and conditions of employment than male officers. Nebel further alleges, against the City only, that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and retahated against for opposing gender discrimination.

According to Nebel, "Chief Kujawa and [Nebel's] supervising officers under Chief Kujawa's authority and direction subjected [Nebel] to a continuous course of materially adverse terms and conditions of . . . employment relative to similarly situated male police officers." (Sec. Am. Comp. at ¶ 14.) For example, beginning in March 1999, Lieutenant Young, Chief Kujawa, and Mayor Klein refused to authorize overtime pay to Nebel to which she believes she was entitled. In June 1999, Chief Kujawa suspended Nebel without pay for writing parking violations under a particular citation section number, yet similarly situated male officers received no discipline for the same conduct. Chief Kujawa also prohibited her from driving a squad car without justification, ordered her to answer telephones at the police station even though no similarly situated male officers were ever assigned phone duty, and unfairly suspended her for failing to log found property. In addition, Sergeant Abbott "subjected [Nebel] to unfounded and discriminatory write-ups, reprimands, and adverse notations to her personnel file" which resulted in her being suspended without pay in June 1999. (Id. at ¶ 14(c).) In October 1999, Nebel's "supervising officer [wrongfully] issued a written reprimand to her and Chief Kujawa later [wrongfully] suspended [her] for purportedly failing to respond to a call," even though she was never dispatched to the call. (Id. at ¶ 14(f).)

In July 2000, Lieutenant Young and Chief Kujawa initiated disciplinary charges against Nebel, in an effort to get her suspended for twenty-one days; according to Nebel, such disciplinary charges were not initiated against similarly situated male officers who engaged in the same conduct. Prior to a hearing before the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners ("the Board") regarding these disciplinary charges, "Chief Kujawa encouraged police officer Herbert to lie at the Board hearing if he had to in order to secure [Nebel's] suspension." (Id. at ¶ 14(b)). Chief Kujawa again initiated disciplinary action against Nebel in August 2000, "exceeding any discipline levied against similarly situated male police officers. . . ." (Id. at ¶ 14(a).)

Nebel "continuously reported and opposed the gender discriminatory harassment and disparate treatment she was experiencing" and opposed the disciplinary charges levied against her. (Id. at ¶ 16.) She reported through the chain of command up to Chief Kujawa and through a series of grievances and unfair labor practice complaints. In addition, Nebel filed Charges of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on January 19, 2000 (amended September 12, 2000), and on June 22, 2001. Nebel claims that "no action was taken to rectify the discriminatory treatment" she received, and that "the result of [her] reports and opposition to gender discrimination only heightened the discriminatory conduct" she had to endure while employed by the City. (Id. at ¶ 16.) For example, "[b]eginning in or around early 1999 through her termination, Chief Kujawa assigned [Nebel] to the most active and demanding beat requiring the most paper work," and Nebel was not rotated between assignments as her male counterparts were. (Id. at ¶ 26(a).) In addition, "Chief Kujawa and Mayor Klein maligned and criticized Plaintiffs performance and conduct as a Burbank police officer through various public media in order to demean, degrade, and humihate [her]." (Id. at ¶ 26(c).) Also, "Chief Kujawa and Mayor Klein exerted compelling influence over the Board and were the effective cause of Nebel's termination from the police force on April 10, 2001." (Id. at ¶ 15.)

The United States Department of Justice issued Nebel a Notice of Right to Sue with regard to her first EEOC charge on May 23, 2001. The EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue with regard to her second EEOC charge on September 20, 2001. These notices entitled Nebel to bring a civil action within ninety days of her receipt of them. On August 17, 2001, Nebel filed a pro se complaint in federal court, which was subsequently amended twice. Defendants then filed a motion to strike and dismiss with prejudice portions of Nebel's second amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

Analysis

I. Standard of Review

"[A] complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Under the notice pleading standard of the federal courts, the complaint need only give a "short and plain statement showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief, the purpose of which is to give the defendant notice of the claims brought against him and the grounds they rest upon." Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Regulation. 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163 (1993)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8. Moreover, when evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 1 2(b)(6), courts must accept the well-pled allegations of a complaint as true and construe any ambiguities in favor of the plaintiff. Thompson, 300 F.3d at 753.

II. Motion to Dismiss the Individual Defendants Named in their Official Capacities from Nebel's § 1983 Claims

Counts IV and V of Nebel's second amended complaint bring § 1983 claims against the City*fn1 and against Chief Kujawa, Mayor Klein, Lieutenant Young, and Sergeant Abbott in their individual and official capacities. But as defendants correctly argue, suing both the City and the individual defendants in their official capacities is redundant. "[S]uits against municipal agents in their official capacities are actually suits against the municipality." Tabor v. City of Chicago, 10 F. Supp.2d 988, 991 (N.D. Ill. 1998) (citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 14 (1985)). Nebel does not contest this ...


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