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Carlson v. Illinois Community College Dist. 525

November 15, 2006

JUDY A. CARLSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT 525 AND PETER COMANDA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant Illinois Community College District 525's ("ICC") motion for reconsideration of this court's ruling on September 27, 2006, denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we deny the motion for reconsideration.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Judy A. Carlson ("Carlson") alleges that she was employed by Joliet Junior College ("JJC") where she worked as a part-time records clerk and dispatcher for the JJC Campus Police Department ("Police Department"). According to Carlson, as of December 2002, Commander Melvin Cornelius ("Cornelius") was her immediate supervisor. Peter Comanda ("Comanda") was the JJC Chief of Campus Police. Defendants claim that prior to June 2003, Carlson's work performance was poor and she was reprimanded on several occasions for misconduct at work. Defendants also contend, and Carlson admits, that in June 2003 she sent an anonymous letter ("Letter") to a co-worker ("Co-worker"). In the Letter, Carlson indicated that the Letter had been sent on behalf of the entire Police Department staff. Carlson personally attacked the Co-worker in the Letter, complaining about the Co-worker's behavior and attitude at work. Carlson admits that Comanda questioned her concerning her involvement with the Letter and that she lied to Comanda on four occasions, denying that she had sent the Letter. Carlson admits that she finally confessed to writing the Letter when Comanda informed her that her fingerprints had been found on the Letter. Comanda then called a meeting on July 16, 2003, with Carlson and the Co-worker to discuss the Letter. According to Carlson, during the meeting Comanda used the word "bitch" four times, which offended Carlson. Carlson claims that after the meeting she sent an email ("July 16 Email") complaining about Comanda's alleged conduct to Alan Hardersen ("Hardersen"), the JJC Vice President of Student Services. After Carlson complained to Hardersen, Comanda discovered that Carlson had been discussing the Letter investigation with other employees at the Police Station and Comanda ordered Carlson to refrain from discussing the Letter investigation further with any employees at the Police Station. Defendants claim that Carlson disobeyed Comanda's order and Comanda suspended Carlson and sent her home as a disciplinary measure on July 17, 2003. Defendants contend that sometime during that same afternoon Comanda decided to seek Carlson's termination. According to Defendants, Carlson's termination was then deferred until the matter could be discussed with Hardersen and the JJC President, and on the next day Comanda instituted a reprimand and five-day suspension. Carlson's employment was terminated on August 6, 2003.

Carlson includes in her complaint a claim alleging a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I), a claim alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") (Count II), a Title VII gender discrimination claim (Count III), and a Title VII retaliation claim (Count IV). Defendants moved to dismiss the Section 1983 claim (Count II), Carlson indicated that she did not oppose the motion, and on April 14, 2006 we granted the motion to dismiss Count II. On September 27, 2006 we granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the gender discrimination claim (Count III), granted the motion for summary judgment on the hostile work environment claim (Count I), and granted the motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim brought against Comanda (Count IV). We denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim brought against ICC (Count IV). We also denied without prejudice Defendants' motion to strike the request for punitive damages. ICC has now filed a motion requesting that the court reconsider the September 27, 2006 ruling.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion for reconsideration may be brought "to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269-70 (7th Cir. 1996). Such motions cannot be used as a "vehicle to produce new evidence that could have been" produced earlier or as a vehicle to "rehash[] previously rejected arguments."

Id.

DISCUSSION

ICC argues that the court erred by failing to recognize the protected activity that Carlson mentioned in her EEOC complaint. In our prior ruling we noted that there is evidence that shows that Carlson sent the July 16 Email complaining about Comanda on July 16, 2003, and that Defendants admitted that Comanda did not decide to terminate Carlson's employment until July 17, 2006. (9/27/06 OP 13-14).

Such evidence indicates that it is at least possible that Comanda decided to seek Carlson's termination because of the July 16 Email. ICC argues in the instant motion that the court incorrectly considered the July 16 Email as protected activity and that the only activity by Carlson that can be considered protected activity was an email later sent by Carlson to Hardersen on July 28, 2003 ("July 28 Email") complaining about Comanda. ICC argues that the court cannot consider the July 16 Email because it was not mentioned in Carlson's EEOC charge.

I. Lack of Clarity Concerning Subject of Motion For Reconsider

ICC's motion to reconsider is deficient on its face because ICC fails to clearly delineate what aspects of the court's prior ruling ICC is challenging. ICC indicates in its motion that it "moves this court to reconsider that portion of its September 27, 2006 ruling denying summary judgment to defendant on Count III (Retaliation) of the complaint." (Recon. 1). Count IV of the complaint includes a retaliation claim, but Count III of the complaint in this action does not include a retaliation claim. (Compl. 4, 6). ICC also states in its motion for reconsideration that "Plaintiff filed a three-count complaint on October 13, 2005, alleging Gender Discrimination (Count I), Hostile Work Environment (Count II) and Retaliation (Count III)." (Recon. 1). This statement is also inaccurate. On October 13, 2005, Carlson filed a complaint that contains four counts that are clearly delineated with headings that include "COUNT I," "COUNT II," "COUNT III," and "COUNT IV" and each of the headings indicate what claims are included in each count. (Compl. 1, 3, 4, 6). ICC states that it seeks to challenge the court's ruling in regard to "Count III (Retaliation)," but it is not clear from such a statement whether ICC seeks to challenge the court's ruling in regards to Count III or the retaliation claim in Count IV, or both. ICC should not have any such confusion concerning the claims at issue in this case, because the claims are clearly delineated in the complaint and this court laid out the claims in the complaint count by count in its prior ruling. (9/27/06 OP 3). It appears ...


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