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PAXSON v. COUNTY OF COOK

February 19, 2004.

REID M. PAXSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF COOK, ILLINOIS, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Reid M. Paxson, filed suit against Defendant, County of Cook, Illinois ("Cook County"). Plaintiff alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and an Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claim. Presently before the Court is Cook County's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, Cook County's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.

LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Flanders Elec. Motor Serv., Inc., 40 F.3d 146, 150 (7th Cir. 1994). "One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. . . ." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Thus, although the moving party on a motion for summary judgment is responsible for demonstrating to the court why there is no genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must go beyond the face of the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on Page 2 file to demonstrate, through specific evidence, that a genuine issue of material fact exists and to show that a rational jury could return a verdict in the non-moving party's favor. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-27; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 254-56 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 923 (7th Cir. 1994).

  Disputed facts are material when they might affect the outcome of the suit. First Ind. Bank v. Baker, 957 F.2d 506, 507-08 (7th Cir. 1992). When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, a court must view all inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the opposing party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48; Popovits v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 185 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 1999). However, a metaphysical doubt will not suffice. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. If the evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative or is no more than a scintilla, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-250.

  BACKGROUND

  The undisputed facts, for the purposes of this motion, taken from the parties' Local Rule 56.1(a) & (b) statements of material facts (referred to herein as "Pl.'s 56.1" and "Def.'s 56.1") and exhibits, are as follows.

  Plaintiff, a Caucasian male, works for Cook County as a "Business Manager II" at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (the "Center"). Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 2. Clara Collins is Superintendent and Plaintiff's supervisor at the Center. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 3; Pl's 56.1 ¶ 2. As Superintendent of the Center, Collins is responsible for managing the facility and making sure that the County's policies and procedures are carried out. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 3. Collins has the Page 3 authority to request the transfer of an employee who has expressed concerns regarding his or her physical safety at the Center. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 10.

  In 2001, the racial makeup of the Center workforce was approximately 90% African-American and approximately 5-10% Caucasian. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 6. Around that time, the racial makeup of Center residents was approximately 75% African-American, 20% Hispanic, and 5% Caucasian. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 7.

  On May 9, 2001, a regularly scheduled labor-management meeting was held, and a discussion of payroll issues took place. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 4. Ray Bialek — an African-American Field Representative for the Fraternal Order of Police — Collins, and Plaintiff attended this meeting. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 5-6; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 16. On May 16, 2001, Bialek wrote a letter to Collins complaining that the conduct of Plaintiff at the meeting was unprofessional, abusive, threatening, and unstable and that Plaintiff battered him. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 6; Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 14-15.

  On May 18, 2001, Plaintiff wrote a memorandum to Collins complaining about what occurred at the meeting. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 7. On June 15, 2001, Plaintiff sent a second memorandum to Collins requesting that Bialek's allegations be formally refuted in writing. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 8. Although Collins decided that Bialek's description of the events that transpired at the meeting lacked merit, Collins did not take any steps to refute those allegations, side with Plaintiff, or attempt to meet with Plaintiff to discuss his requests. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 14, 16. On July 3, 2001, Plaintiff sent a memorandum to Collins complaining that she had both failed to investigate the allegations made by Bialek after the labor-management meeting and write a letter formally refuting the allegations. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 12. Page 4

  Although Collins was aware soon, after she started working at the Center, from conversations with two other Center employees, of remarks that Plaintiff was holding Ku Klux Klan meetings in his office, she believed the allegations of Klan activities there was a joke. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 22-23, 28. Collins, as Superintendent of the Center, has the authority to initiate an inquiry into possible misconduct by county employees at the Center. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 27. Collins did not discuss the allegations with Plaintiff. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 24.

  On or about June 26, 2001, after hearing unspecified remarks from individuals suggesting that Ku Klux Klan ("KKK") meetings were being held in Plaintiff's office, Collins asked Assistant Superintendent Willie Ross if he knew anything about the rumors. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 10. Ross then went to Plaintiff's office and asked Plaintiff if he was running the KKK out of his office. Plaintiff asked Ross about where he heard this information, and Ross revealed that Collins was the source. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 11.

  Upon hearing from Ross that Collins was discussing allegations of KKK activities, Plaintiff immediately contacted Collins by phone to discuss the issue. Plaintiff was very upset about the rumors. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 31. On July 3, 2001, Plaintiff sent a memorandum to Collins complaining that she had failed to investigate the allegations that there were KKK meetings in Plaintiff's office and that she had failed to investigate the allegation that he was allied with Ross and a third employee in a "character assassination" of one of the floor managers. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 12. However, at no time did Collins take any additional steps to investigate the allegations herself. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 26, 34.

  Administrative leave with pay is a type of leave available for Cook County employees under unique circumstances where an individual is placed on leave for Cook County's interest. Page 5 Pl.'s 56.1 ¶ 17. Administrative leave is granted on a case-by-case basis and is based upon the recommendation of an administrator where the affected employee is either a danger to the institution or there is some other reason the person should be removed immediately before any other process is initiated. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 17-18. These reasons could include instances where the affected employees ...


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