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Wallen v. City of Belleville

January 16, 2007

KATHLEEN WALLEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF BELLEVILLE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, Chief District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendant City of Belleville ("the City") has filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to take the remaining claims in this sexual discrimination suit from a jury.*fn1 According to the City, it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A hearing was held on November 6, 2006, and after carefully considering all of the pleadings and the arguments of counsel, the Court agrees with the City.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Kathleen (Kathy) Wallen ("Wallen") is currently employed as a patrol officer with the City's police department. Wallen, a female, has held the rank of patrol officer with the City since 1997. In late 2002, she expressed interest in being reassigned from the patrol division to the narcotics unit. Sergeant David Ellis recommended Wallen for the assignment because he wanted to have a female officer working undercover to purchase illegal narcotics. The Chief of Police had the ultimate decision on whether the reassignment would occur.

On January 6, 2003, Wallen transferred to the narcotics unit. At the time, Sergeant Ellis, Lieutenant James Goodwin, and Armand Harris were the only members of the narcotics unit. There was no set time period for how long the reassignment would remain effective. Wallen's job responsibilities included buying narcotics from suspected drug dealers, writing reports on buys, and taking statements from confidential informants.

There are differing accounts concerning Wallen's performance as a member of the narcotics unit. According to the City, there were numerous problems with her performance which the Court finds it unnecessary to explore, as explained below. Not surprisingly, Wallen disputes the details of the various incidents and points out that she was never disciplined for any such conduct.

The pleadings reveal that Ellis fell far short of being a politically correct, sensitive, and diplomatic supervisor. Wallen alleges that he would easily get worked up, yelling at her and others -- even his computer. Among the insults that Wallen alleges that Ellis hurled at her are the phrases "dumb bitch" and "fucking retard".

At all relevant times, the City had a policy against harassment and discrimination. Wallen signed an acknowledgment form indicating that she had received and read the policy within the first few days of her employment. The policy requires an employee who has a complaint of harassment to go to his/her supervisor, the City Attorney, or the Director of Human Resources.

Wallen went to Lieutenant Goodwin in April or May of 2003 and talked with him about Ellis's incessant yelling. Wallen did not, however, complain specifically that she was being harassed because of her sex or gender. Instead, it appears she was simply complaining about Ellis's cursing and basic obnoxious behavior, personality attributes which Goodwin recognized but did not consider to in any way invoke the policy against sexual harassment and discrimination.

Even when Wallen was assigned to the narcotics unit, her rank remained as patrol officer. The salary of a patrol officer is based on a union contract, and her pay did not change when she was reassigned. The reassignment was not a promotion; the promotion from patrolman is to sergeant, and that is done based upon the results of a written test, education, an oral interview with the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners (three individuals appointed by the mayor), and military preference.

DISCUSSION

Summary judgment may be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). In considering a summary judgment motion, a court must review the entire record and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-America, Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 234 (7th Cir. 1995); Enquip, Inc. v. Smith-McDonald Corp., 655 F.2d 115, 118 (7th Cir. 1981). On summary judgment a court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence, because these are tasks for a factfinder. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Betaco, Inc. v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 32 F.3d 1126, 1138 (7th Cir. 1994). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial." Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994).

Title VII forbids certain employers "to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-2(a)(1)). The anti-retaliation provision also forbids ...


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