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Joyce v. Chicago Park Dist.

January 9, 2006

ERIN JOYCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael T. Mason, United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Erin Joyce ("Joyce"), filed a three count first amended complaint (the "complaint") against her former employer, the Chicago Park District (the "Park District"), for violations of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq. ("Title VII") and for breach of contract. The Park District has filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Park District's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The Park District

The Park District is a local public entity that offers recreational programs and activities to the public, including activities at beaches and swimming pool facilities. The Park District's Division of Beaches and Pools ("Beaches and Pools") employs lifeguards and other employees who staff the public beaches and pools and develop community programs.

Joyce's Employment

Joyce began working as a lifeguard for the Park District in 1981. In 1991, Joyce was promoted to Natatorium Instructor in Beaches and Pools, and in the spring of 1995, Joyce was promoted to Aquatic Supervisor also in Beaches and Pools. In April 1999, Joseph Pecoraro ("Pecoraro"), the head of Beaches and Pools, promoted Joyce to Program Specialist in Beaches and Pools. Pecoraro retired in 2000. In 2001, Jaime Anderson became the Manager of Beaches and Pools, and Eric Fischer became the Assistant Manager of Beaches and Pools.*fn1 Both Anderson and Fischer supervised Joyce.*fn2

While working as a Program Specialist under Pecoraro, Joyce's duties included assigning lifeguards for lakefront coverage in the summer, assuring coverage of the Park District's year-round facilities, assigning lifeguards for special events and other administrative responsibilities. In March 2002, Anderson re-assigned the summer assignment and lifeguard coverage responsibilities from Joyce to Fischer. Shortly before August 2002, Anderson and Fischer assigned Marek Stankowski (a Lifeguard) to share Joyce's administrative responsibilities.

Presumably in August 2002, Joyce received an undated notice from Randy Ernst, Director of Program Services.The notice, entitled "[t]ermination [n]notice," stated the following:

Effective close of business, Monday August 12, 2002, your services as a Program Specialist for the Chicago Park District are no longer required.

As a former Career Service Natatorium Instructor, you will be allowed to exercise your right of return to the position of Natatorium Instructor.*** Francine Bailey, Director of Human Resources, sent Randy Ernst and Mary Donahue, Deputy Director of Program Services, a memorandum dated August 14, 2002. The memorandum stated, in relevant part, the following:

This is to memorialize the personnel activity of Erin Joyce. Program Specialist.

1. Terminated from Program Specialist (exempt "at will" status).

2. Offered former Career Service position of Natatorium Instructor.

3. Ms. Joyce accepts the position at a rate of $41,000 per year.*fn3 ***.

After Joyce left, Anderson, Fischer and Stankowski assumed Joyce's administrative responsibilities.

Joyce's Job Performance

From April 2001 through August 2002, neither Anderson nor Fischer evaluated Joyce's performance. Accordingly, Joyce's personnel file contains no formal written evaluations from Anderson or Fischer. The record indicates that the Park District initiated two disciplinary actions against Joyce. In the first instance, disciplinary action was taken against her in the spring of 2003 for failure to follow procedure "regarding staff scheduling." That charge was dismissed after Joyce attended a hearing and explained what had happened. In the second instance, Joyce was required to attend a Corrective Action Meeting ("CAM") on December 9, 2003for "failure to satisfactorily perform job duties as a supervisor by ensuring that employee timesheets reflected hours worked" and "for failure to discipline employees for following policies and procedures for completing timesheets as required." At the CAM, Joyce admitted that she "made a mistake," and she apologized. The Park District notified Joyce by letter dated December 11, 2003 that the Park District suspended Joyce for one day, December 10, 2003, for failure to satisfactorily perform her job duties as a supervisor and for the reasons stated above.

Although Joyce's personnel file does not contain any negative evaluations or memos, Joyce admits that she referred to Anderson and Fischer as "the boys," a practice she continued even after Fischer asked her to stop. Joyce also acknowledges that she "was told that [she] couldn't be trusted" by Anderson or Fischer and that she was told that her behavior created a destructive atmosphere that hindered the professional functioning of Beaches and Pools.

Joyce's Participation in Athenia Deanes' EEOC Complaint

In May 2002 Joyce participated in an investigation conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in connection with a claim of discrimination filed by Athenia Deanes, another Park District employee ("Deanes' EEOC investigation") against Anderson.*fn4 The Park District admits that Anderson was aware of Joyce's participation.

Joyce's EEOC Complaint

On October 4, 2002, Joyce filed a formal complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC (the "EEOC complaint"). In the narrative portion of the EEOC complaint, Joyce claimed that: in March 2002, her supervisor began to reassign her job duties to a less experienced male co-worker; in May of 2002, she participated in an EEOC investigation and the Park District was aware of her participation; in August of 2002, her position was eliminated; her job duties were assumed by a less-experienced male co-worker; she was demoted to the Natatorium Instructor position with a corresponding pay cut; and the initial Natatorium Instructor positions were located in unfavorable locations.

On November 15, 2002, Joyce amended the EEOC complaint adding the following:

Additionally, upon learning of my current participation in an EEOC investigation my supervisor Francine Bailey threatened me, and the Respondent improperly reduced my October 4, 2002 and October 18, 2002 paychecks without cause. On or about October 18, 2002 Ms. Bailey told me that I should "stop telling lies," that "I had better be an exemplary employee," and that she would "no longer stand between [me] and the street."****fn5

Joyce's Complaint

On December 9, 2004, Joyce filed the complaint alleging that the Park District, through Anderson and Fischer, discriminated against her based upon her gender (Count I) and retaliated against her (Count II) because Joyce participated in an EEOC investigation in May 2002 and because Joyce herself filed a complaint with the EEOC in October 2002.

In Count III of the complaint, Joyce alleges that the Park District breached an employment ...


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