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Hefley v. Village of Calumet Park

May 12, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge


Plaintiff Travis Hefley, who is white, was a part-time police officer for the Village of Calumet Park. The Village terminated Hefley, contending that he had failed to pass the police department's annual firearm qualification test and thus was unqualified to possess a gun. Hefley unsurprisingly sees things different. According to Hefley, who is proceeding pro se, he was a victim of reverse discrimination because minority officers received preferential treatment from the Village. Hefley contends that the Village and its Chief, Mark Davis, violated his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq., and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. §1981a. The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment and several motions to strike are before the court. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted, Hefley's motion for summary judgment is denied, and the motions to strike are stricken as moot.

I. Background

The basic facts are straightforward: Hefley was a part-time officer with the Village of Calumet Park. The Rules and Regulations of the Calumet Park Police Department require all officers to qualify their shooting proficiency at least once each calendar year. After Hefley failed to pass the firearms qualifications test in 2004, and failed to pass when given a second chance to take the test, the Village terminated him. Curtis Smith, a minority part-time officer, also did not pass the 2004 examination or the re-examination, and was also terminated. Smith eventually passed the firearms examination and was rehired. Hefley has not pointed to any evidence showing that he reapplied for employment as a part-time officer or that he ever passed the firearms examination.

II. Discussion

A. Standard on a Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of any material fact." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Valenti v. Qualex, Inc., 970 F.2d 363, 365 (7th Cir. 1992), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Moreover, a court should grant a motion for summary judgment only when the record shows that a reasonable jury could not find for the nonmoving party. Valenti v. Qualex, Inc., 970 F.2d at 365; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248.

The determination as to what facts are "material" in employment discrimination cases depends upon the substantive law of employment discrimination, and the burden of proof applicable under the law. Williams v. Williams Electronics, Inc., 856 F.2d 920, 922 (7th Cir. 1988). When considering motions for summary judgment in discrimination cases, the court applies these criteria with added rigor because the matters of intent and credibility are crucial issues. See Sarsha v. Sears, Roebuck, & Co., 3 F.3d 1035, 1038 (7th Cir. 1993).

B. Reverse Discrimination

To establish a prima facie case of reverse discrimination, Hefley must show: (1) "background circumstances" that support an inference that the Village is "one of those unusual employers who discriminates against the majority;" (2) that he was meeting his employer's legitimate expectations at the time of his termination; (3) that he suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) that similarly situated employees outside of the protected class, i.e. non-whites, were treated more favorably. Mills v. HealthCare Serv. Corp., 171 F.3d 450, 455-457 (7th Cir. 1999); Phelan v. City of Chicago, 226 F.Supp.2d 914, 921 (N.D. Ill. 2002). The court's analysis begins and ends with its finding that Hefley failed to point to evidence establishing that he was meeting his employer's legitimate expectations or that the defendants used different standards to evaluate white and non-white employees.

In this case, Hefley blends these two elements together as he concedes that he was not qualified because he failed to pass a firearms test as required by state law. See 50 ILCS § 710/2.5 (under the Illinois Peace Officer Firearm Training Act, all peace officers must satisfactorily complete an annual range qualification). According to Hefley, Smith (who is a minority) is similarly situated as he and Hefley were both part-time Village of Calumet Park police officers who failed their firearms tests and were terminated. See Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600,610 (7th Cir. 2006) ("Employees are similarly situated if they are directly comparable in all material respects"). He then notes that the Village eventually reinstated Smith and contends that it should also have reinstated him.

It is true that Hefley and Smith were at one point facing a similar challenge, as they both flunked the annual firearms qualification test on their first try and second tries. However, Smith eventually passed, and it is undisputed that Hefley never did so. Moreover, Hefley has not pointed to evidence showing that any specific officer failed to pass the firearm qualifications test and nevertheless remained employed by the Village. Thus, no evidence supports Hefley's claim that the Village treated him differently than a similarly situated minority officer. Accordingly, Hefley has failed to establish a prima facie case, so the court need not reach the defendants' remaining arguments.

In the interests of completeness, however, the court will briefly address Hefley's other arguments. First, Hefley contends that under 65 ILCS 5/10-2.1, et seq., the Village was required to provide written notice and an opportunity to be heard before it could terminate him. The cited statute is part of the Illinois Municipal Code and is entitled "Board of Fire and Police Commissioners." It explicitly applies "only to full-time fireman and full-time policemen of a regularly constituted fire or police department and not to any other personnel of any kind or description." 65 ILCS 5/10-2.1-26. It is undisputed that Hefley was a part time officer, so this section is inapplicable.

Second, Hefley directs the court's attention to 65 ILCS ยง 5/3.1-30-21 and claims that this section prevented the Village from ...

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