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SIMMONS v. VILLAGE OF WILLOW SPRINGS

MICHAEL SIMMONS, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF WILLOW SPRINGS, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GERALDINE SOAT BROWN, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Michael Simmons ("Simmons") brought this action against Defendant Village of Willow Springs ("Willow Springs") alleging that Willow Springs discriminated against him on the basis of his race (African American) when it failed to hire him as a part-time police officer in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). (Compl. ¶ 1 [dkt 1]; Pl.'s LR Resp. ¶ 1 [dkt 26].) Willow Springs has moved for summary judgment. [Dkt 18.] The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Dkt 12, 13.] For the reasons set forth below, Willow Springs' motion for summary judgment is denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

  A. The Application Process with the Willow Springs Police Department

  Applications for employment with the Willow Springs police department are accepted on a rolling basis. (Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 20.) One officer with the Willow Springs police department, Phillip Wiseman, testified that openings for part-time officer positions at Willow Springs are "continual" and that the Chief of Police, Jerome Schultz, was "constantly bringing in part-time police officers . . . to fill in voids" caused by "a lack of manpower." (Pl.'s LR App. Ex. E, Phillip Wiseman Dep. at 21-22; Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 20.)*fn2 Wiseman stated that part-time positions were offered not on the basis of how many were open, but on the basis of "whom [the Chief] wanted," because there was no "set number of positions." (Wiseman Dep. at 33.)

  The first step in applying for a part-time police officer position, according to Chief Schultz, was to fill out an application. (Schultz Dep. at 42-43.) Due to the "financial bind" Willow Springs was in, the police department preferred applicants who had received state certification and prior training. (Schultz Dep. at 45; Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 17; Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 17.) After an application was submitted, it was forwarded to Chief Schultz, regardless of whether it had been dropped off at the village hall or the police department. (Schultz Dep. at 44.) Next, either Schultz or someone on his staff would conduct a background/criminal check of the applicant. (Schultz Dep. at 44-46; Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 31.) In addition, if the applicant had taken any of the tests required for applicants for full-time employment, such as agility, general aptitude, or physical fitness tests, those scores would be verified. (Schultz Dep. at 38-39, 45.) After the background check, if the candidate was still eligible, Schultz would set up and conduct an interview of the candidate. (Id. at 46; Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 32.)

  Following the interview, Schultz would determine if the candidate was "qualified" or not. (Schultz Dep. at 47.) If the candidate was "qualified," Schultz would recommend the person to the Police and Fire Committee (Schultz Dep. at 47-49; Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 34), who, in turn, would make a recommendation to the Village Board based on Schultz's recommendation. (Schultz Dep. at 49; Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 36.)*fn3 According to Schultz, he alone had the authority to make recommendations with respect to candidates. (Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 38; Schultz Dep. at 47-48, 51-52.) If Schultz did not deem an individual to be qualified (and thus did not give his recommendation), that person's application would not be forwarded to the Police and Fire Committee or, in turn, to the Village Board, and therefore the applicant could likely never be offered a position. (Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 37; Schultz Dep. at 50; Def.'s Mem. at 6.) Gary Carr, a former Willow Springs police officer, testified that when the Chief made a recommendation to the Board regarding hiring, that recommendation was basically "rubber stamp[ed]." (Pl.'s LR App. Ex. G, Gary Carr Dep. at 21-22.) However, Schultz testified that the Police and Fire Committee (whose Chairman is part of the Village's Board of Trustees) was the entity ultimately responsible for the hiring of part-time officers. (Def.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 14; Schultz Dep. at 41, 48; Wiseman Dep. at 34.)*fn4

  B. Simmons' First Application for Employment

  In December 2001, Simmons submitted an application for part-time employment with the Willow Springs police department. (Pl.'s LR Resp. ¶¶ 3, 13; Pl.'s LR App. Ex. A & Def.'s LR App. Ex. C, Michael Simmons Dep. at 25, 28.) Simmons gave the application to Officer Wiseman, whom he had met during a prior job. (Simmons Dep. at 18, 26-27; Wiseman Dep. at 45.) Wiseman testified that Simmons included the necessary diplomas with his application. (Wiseman Dep. at 25, 47.) Wiseman further testified that he (Wiseman) took the employment application to Chief Schultz's office and "hand[ed] it to him." (Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 22; Wiseman Dep. at 25-27, 44-45.)*fn5

  Wiseman testified that Chief Schultz later told Wiseman that he (Schultz) had left a message for Simmons regarding his application. (Wiseman Dep. at 28, 45-46.) Some time thereafter, Simmons advised Wiseman that he had not heard anything regarding his application. (Id. at 28.) When Wiseman advised him that Chief Schultz had left a message for him, Simmons replied that he had not received any messages from Schultz. (Id. at 28.) Wiseman told Simmons that he would check into the matter with Schultz. (Id. at 28-29.) Wiseman later asked Schultz what was going on with Simmons' application, and Schultz indicated that he had either misplaced it or lost it. (Id. at 29.)*fn6

  C. Simmons' Second Application for Employment

  On approximately January 14, 2002, Simmons filled out a second application for part-time employment with Willow Springs. (Pl.'s LR Resp. ¶ 4; Simmons Dep. at 29-30; Wiseman Dep. at 36-37; Def.'s Mem. at 1.) Simmons did not tender his application directly to Schultz. (Pl.'s LR Resp. ¶ 6.) Instead, he again submitted it to Wiseman in the lobby of the Willow Springs police station. (Id. ¶ 5; Simmons Dep. at 29-30, 35-36.) The application was then handed to Lieutenant John Lynn. (Pl.'s LR Resp. ¶ 4; Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 24; Simmons Dep. at 38; Pl.'s LR App. Ex. D, John Lynn Dep. at 25.)*fn7 According to Wiseman, Lynn reviewed the application and concurred that the documents which were needed to show state certification were present. (Wiseman Dep. at 47, 50.) Lynn testified that he then either "handed it to [Chief Schultz] personally or put [it] in his office or . . . handed it to his aide to put it in his office, one or the other, because [employment applications] were all forwarded to [Chief Schultz's] office." (Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 25; Lynn Dep. at 26; Wiseman Dep. at 36-37.)

  Willow Springs admits that Lynn testified that he gave Simmons' application to Chief Schultz, but denies that Chief Schultz ever received the application. (Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 25.) Schultz testified that he never "receive[d] an application for either part-time or full-time employment of Michael Simmons" and has no recollection of "the name of Michael Simmons on any application." (Def.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 16; Schultz Dep. at 71-72.) Schultz further testified that he does not recall ever being approached by Lynn regarding Simmons. (Schultz Dep. at 72; Def.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 28.) Lynn believes Schultz received Simmons' application based on a conversation between them wherein Lynn commented that Simmons seemed like a pretty good guy and Schultz "acknowledged what [he] said." (Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 26; Lynn Dep. at 29-30.)

  Wiseman then took Simmons on a tour of the police department building. (Simmons Dep. at 36; Wiseman Dep. at 32.) Wiseman and Simmons state that during this tour, Simmons met Chief Schultz, as well as Lieutenant Lynn. (Simmons Dep. at 36-37, 59; Wiseman Dep. at 36.) As he was leaving the building, Simmons ran into the Chief again in the parking lot. (Simmons Dep. at 39-40.) Lynn and Wiseman were also there, along with Bobby Sims, another Willow Springs police officer. (Simmons Dep. at 40; Wiseman Dep. at 38-39; Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 27.) According to Simmons, during their encounter, Schultz asked Simmons whether he would be available to work weekends and holidays. (Simmons Dep. at 40-41, 59.) Simmons responded that he would be available. (Id. at 42.)

  Sims testified that he heard Schultz tell Simmons in the parking lot that he was "going to hire him." (Pl.'s LR App. Ex. F, Bobby Sims Dep. at 23.) Wiseman similarly testified that Schultz told Simmons in the parking lot that he intended to hire him and would call him. (Wiseman Dep. at 38-39.) Willow Springs disputes that testimony, arguing that Simmons never even had a formal interview with Schultz. (Simmons Dep. at 80, 85-86; Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 27.)

  Simmons testified that approximately one week after the tour, he called Schultz to check on the status of his application. (Pl.'s LR Resp. ¶ 6; Simmons Dep. at 42-43.) He was advised by Chief Schultz that he would be hired after some badges "come in." (Pl.'s LR Resp. ¶ 6; Simmons Dep. at 43, 59.) Simmons told Schultz that he would check back with him, and proceeded to call him again approximately one month later. (Simmons Dep. at 44-46.) During that conversation, Schultz told Simmons that some of his full-time officers were going to be moved into part-time slots. (Id. at 47-48, 60.)*fn8 Simmons responded that he would check back with Schultz again, but admits that he never did. (Id. at 48, 60.) During that time period, Wiseman also followed up with Schultz and Lynn regarding Simmons' application. (Wiseman Dep. at 41-43.) He testified that he made approximately twelve inquires regarding Simmons' application — six to Lynn and six to Schultz. (Id. at 43; Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 29.)*fn9 According to Wiseman, "every time [he] tried to inquire with the chief, he never had time." (Wiseman Dep. at 41-42; Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 28.)

  Simmons concedes that he has no direct knowledge that Chief Schultz ever received his employment applications. (Pl.'s LR Resp. ¶ 6.) Simmons also concedes that he never had a formal interview with the Willow Springs police department. (Id. ¶ 7.) He asserts, however, that he had an informal interview with Chief Schultz during his tour of the facility with Wiseman. (Pl.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 15.) Wiseman, however, who was with Simmons during that meeting, testified that Simmons did not have a formal interview with the Chief that day, and that it was basically just a "meet and greet." (Wiseman Dep. at 37-38.) Likewise, Chief Schultz testified that he never conducted an interview of Simmons, although he testified regarding an informal face-to-face meeting they had in his office. (Def.'s LR Stmt. ¶ 15; Schultz Dep. at 55-56, 71.)

  D. Simmons' Background and Qualifications

  Simmons became certified to be a police officer in Illinois in 1997, after attending the Northeastern Metropolitan Regency Training Agency for a year. (Def.'s LR Resp. ¶¶ 18, 19; Simmons Dep. at 14-15.) He began working as a part-time police officer with the Village of Summit at that time. (Simmons Dep. at 14.) Prior to that, Simmons had worked for two years as a part-time police officer with the Robbins police department. (Def.'s LR Resp. ¶ 19; Simmons Dep. at 15-16.)

  At the time he submitted his employment applications with Willow Springs, Simmons was still working as a part-time police officer with the Village of Summit, and was also working full time at a company called Consolidated Freight, which appears to be ...


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