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Doggett v. County of Cook

November 3, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge


Plaintiff David Doggett ("Doggett") brings the present three-count Second Amended Complaint alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel against Defendants Cook County ("Cook County" or the "County") and Cynthia Przislicki ("Przislicki").*fn1 Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion in its entirety.


I. Parties

In June of 1992, Cook County hired Doggett as a part-time emergency room technician ("ERT") at Cook County Hospital, now known as John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

(R. 56-1, Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts, ¶ 5.) Originally, Doggett's schedule was from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. with a minimum of 20 hours per pay period. (Id.) When the County hired Doggett, he was also a full-time employee at the Chicago Fire Department. (R. 68-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Add'l Stmt. Facts ¶ 12.) In 1993, Doggett became a full-time ERT at Cook County Hospital. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 9.) As an ERT, Doggett's job duties included stocking, taking patients' vital signs, lab transport, patient transport, monitoring of patients, and the movement of patients within the emergency room. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 1.) At some point between 1993 and 1995, Doggett became a member of the Service Employees International Union ("SEIU"). (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 3.) In 2003, Doggett became a union representative. (Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 3.)

In October of 2001, Defendant Przislicki became the Director of Emergency Nursing, Pediatric Emergency Nursing, and the Observation Unit at Cook County Hospital. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 12.) As Director, Przislicki is responsible for directing the activities of these departments and their coordinators to ensure that the patients coming through these departments receive excellent care. (Id. ¶ 13.) Przislicki supervises 275-300 employees in the job titles of nurse coordinator, assistant director of nursing, steno, administrative assistant III, clinical nurse II, clinical nurse I, licensed nurse practitioner, and ERT. (Id. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 26.)

II. Doggett's Memoranda to Przislicki

On May 20, 2004, Doggett wrote a memorandum to Przislicki complaining of patient confidentiality issues in the front triage area. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 27.) Attached to this memorandum was another memorandum to Przislicki; Keri Fei, Assistant Divisional Director; Dr. Simon, Department of Emergency Medicine Chairman; Dr. Levine; Nurse Coordinators - All Shifts; Birdge Givens, Labor Management; and Local 73, from the ERTs regarding patient care in the front triage area. (Id.) Dr. Simon responded to Doggett's memorandum in writing addressing Doggett's and the other ERTs' patient confidentiality concerns. (Id. ¶ 28.)

On May 25, 2004, Doggett was working as the flow ERT, and thus had to insure that patients were taken to the proper area for treatment based upon their triage category. (Id. ¶ 15.) At that time, Doggett handled a patient that a nurse from the emergency room had walked to the resuscitation room. (Id. ¶ 16.) Thereafter, Doggett wrote a memorandum to Przislicki; Dr. Simon; James Dyson, Labor Relations; and Local 73 about this incident, indicating that patients should not be walked to the resuscitation room and that the individual nurse involved in this incident should be disciplined for his failure to follow proper policy. (Id. ¶ 17.) Doggett believed that it was necessary to complain about this practice to provide quality patient care. (Id. ¶ 18.)

Also in May 2004, Doggett wrote a memorandum to Przislicki claiming that a nurse -- Joann Jariel -- told him that she was going to write him up for his failure to respond to an overhead page when a patient had collapsed in the pharmacy and had to be taken to the resuscitation room. (Id. ¶ 20.)

On June 4, 2004, Roger Farquharson, a nurse coordinator, orally reprimanded Doggett because he did not take his 8:00 a.m. break on time. (Id. ¶ 22.) In a memorandum dated June 6, 2004, to Przislicki, Dr. Simon, Dyson, and Local 73, Doggett complained that the ERTs were assigned to take breaks at 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon, which conflicted with their task of taking patients' vitals at 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon. (Id. ¶ 23.) Przislicki received this memorandum on June 24, 2004 and responded in writing on July 1, 2004, stating that the nurse coordinators would adjust the break times to accommodate the taking of the patients' vitals every 4 hours. (Id. ¶ 24.)

On June 25, 2004, Doggett wrote a memorandum to Przislicki identifying concerns about the direct observation of psychiatric patients and the use of a specific patient room during shutdowns. (Id. ¶ 25.)

III. Flex-Time

In 2004, Denise Little became the Staff Coordinator for the emergency room at Cook County Hospital and is responsible for preparing the schedule for the ERTs and nurses. (Id. ¶ 29.) Also in 2004, Little advised Przislicki that it was difficult to staff the emergency room with ERTs because of their flexible start times. (Id. ¶ 34; R. 72-1, Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶ 34.) On June 21 and 22, 2004, Przislicki conducted meetings with the ERTs to discuss various issues, including flex-time scheduling. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 36.) At these meetings, Przislicki informed the ERTs that effective August 8, 2004, flex-time privileges would be canceled due to both the problem of scheduling the ERTs and the operational needs of the hospital. (Id. ¶ 37.) On July 21, 2004, Przislicki issued a memorandum to all ERTs confirming the cancellation of flex-time schedules effective August 8, 2004. (Id. ¶ 38.)

Nevertheless, on January 10, 2005, Doggett complained to Little because she denied his proposed schedule to work six days of the first week of a pay period and four days of the second week of the pay period. (Id. ¶ 30; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 7.) Further, Doggett asked Little to review the union's collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") and gave Little a copy of the CBA regarding overtime. (Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 8.) Pursuant to Article III, Section 8 of the CBA for ERTs, flex-time schedules are granted for legitimate and compelling personal reasons when consistent with the operational needs of the hospital. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 35.) Also under the CBA, the employer may cancel or suspend flex-time privileges for legitimate operational reasons or due to misuse by employees. (Id.)

IV. Absconded Patient

On December 24, 2004, Farquharson was the Nurse Coordinator for both the Observation Department and Emergency Department and Doggett was assigned to work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 39-41; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 9, 12.) On that same day, Farquharson testified that a patient had absconded from the hospital. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 42.) Moreover, Farquharson claimed that after the patient absconded, Doggett exited the hospital telling Farquharson that he was going to look for the patient. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 45, 46.) At his deposition, however, Doggett testified that the patient was never out of his care from the time he took over until the time the patient was transferred to another facility and that he never left the hospital. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶¶ 42, 45, 46; Pl.'s Stmt ¶ 13.) In addition, the parties dispute whether a clerk contacted Police Officer Caldwell to report that at 9:30 a.m. that morning, a patient was missing from Room 99. (Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 14, 15.)

In the meantime, Farquharson called the missing patient's home to determine if the patient went there. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 48.) The parties dispute whether the patient's wife, Helen Phillip, told Farquharson that Doggett was at their home. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 49; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 16.) Farquharson further testified that he called Przislicki and notified her that ...

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