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Graham v. Division of Rehabilitation Services of the Dep't of Human Services of the State of Illinois

May 5, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge


Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss by Defendants Illinois Department of Human Services, Robert O'Brien, and Janet Wilson. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [#7] is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.


The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claims asserted arise pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.


The following background facts are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

Plaintiff Valentino Graham ("Graham") is a 6'2" black male, weighing 240 pounds. Graham is employed in the Division of Rehabilitative Services of the Department of Human Services of the State of Illinois and has been since 1999. In 2002, a reduction of force was undertaken in the Peoria office of the Division, and as a result, Graham was laid off. He applied and was reassigned to the position of Rehabilitation Counselor in the Pekin, Illinois, office. Graham received a favorable employment evaluation on March 21, 2003, and allegedly performs his job in accordance with the legitimate expectations of his employer.

Graham suffers from migraine headaches and was directed by his doctor to wear tinted glasses indoors when he had a migraine headache or felt the symptoms of a headache. Graham wore tinted glasses to work, and Defendant Robert O'Brien, Resource Service Supervisor/Public Service Administrator informed Graham on September 3, 2003, that there had been customer complaints about his tinted glasses and directed Graham to stop wearing them. During this conversation, Graham asked O'Brien for a copy of the customer complaint and informed O'Brien that he was wearing the tinted glasses pursuant to doctor's orders. O'Brien refused to give Graham the customer complaint. From O'Brien's manner on September 3, 2003, and the following two weeks of harassment that Graham received from O'Brien in the form of constant criticism of his employment performance, Graham believed his problems with O'Brien were because he was a large black man who needed to wear tinted glasses.

On September 4, 2003, a written directive was issued to Graham directing him to cease wearing the glasses unless a medical excuse was provided. Graham responded by requesting an accommodation on September 9, 2003, and attached his doctor's report confirming that the doctor had instructed Graham to wear tinted glasses for his migraine headaches.

On September 16, 2003, Graham filed an internal equal employment opportunity ("EEO") complaint with the Division of Rehabilitative Services complaining of racial discrimination and harassment and medical and disability harassment. O'Brien responded by conducting a counseling session with Graham on October 31, 2003. O'Brien titled the meeting "conduct unbecoming a professional" and told Graham to consider it a counseling session. O'Brien allegedly told Graham that the counseling session was because O'Brien needed to be able to account for Graham's time.

O'Brien also regularly objected to Graham's performance. At a team-building exercise with a former Equal Employment Opportunity Officer on November 13, 2003, all of the employees of the Pekin Office were given the opportunity to complain about Graham. When complaints about O'Brien's conduct were made, the EEO Officer ended the meeting and did not receive complaints about anyone other than Graham.*fn1

On December 1, 2003, Graham sent Defendant Janet Wilson, the Division Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, an e-mail complaining of O'Brien's harassment and the fact that he solicited complaints from support staff and customers about Graham's performance in order to discipline Graham.

On December 10, 2003, Defendant Wilson sent Graham a resolution agreement stating that the matter was closed and informing Graham that the September 4, 2003, letter from O'Brien, which directed Graham not to wear tinted glasses at work, and another letter that referred to the September 4, 2003, letter were removed from Graham's file. Graham claims that Wilson did nothing to investigate his complaints that O'Brien was harassing him and that she did nothing to remedy the harassment.

Graham informed Wilson that he wanted to appeal her December 10, 2003 letter. Wilson directed him to write to Mr. Derrick Davis. Graham instead wrote to the Secretary of Human Services. Graham received a response from the Chief of Administrative Hearings that stated that the case outcome must be described. Wilson sent Graham an e-mail on February 9, 2004, stating that the September 16, 2003, complaint had been resolved. Graham claims that this was contrary to Division rules because a complaint can only be resolved at Wilson's level by agreement with the Plaintiff and Graham did not agree.

Graham alleges that he regularly endured severe and repeated acts of harassment after he filed the internal EEO claim with the Division on September 16, 2003. Plaintiff states that these repeated acts of harassment created a hostile work environment from September 16, 2003, to the ...

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