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Thompson v. Jackson County

January 23, 2007


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


The Court heard arguments on Jackson County's pending motion on January 19, 2007. For the reasons set forth on the record at the hearing and below, Defendant Jackson County is entitled to summary judgment.


Plaintiff, an African-American, was employed as an Emergency Medical Technician Paramedic (EMT) with the Jackson County Ambulance Service. He claims that he suffered racial discrimination in employment which led to his constructive discharge.

In Illinois, emergency medical systems are comprised of: 1) vehicle service providers, 2) hospitals, and 3) personnel. In this case, the vehicle service provider is Jackson County Ambulance Service (JCAS), and the hospital is Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. The relationship between these entities is governed by the Illinois Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems Act at 210 ILCS 50/1, et seq.

When responding to an ambulance call, EMTs must often provide emergency medical treatment such as a needle injection or an intravenous treatment (IV). Thus, EMTs must operate under a medical license and can function only under the direction of a licensed Medical Director. Here, the EMS Medical Director was Dr. Doolittle. Dr. Doolittle was responsible for overseeing the medical services administered by Defendant's EMTs, including the medical services that were provided by Plaintiff. Under Dr. Doolittle was Paula Bierman, an EMS Coordinator. As EMS Coordinator, Ms. Bierman was responsible for overseeing compliance issues, skill deficiencies, and training of Defendant's EMTs. Although Dr. Doolittle and Ms. Bierman were part of the same EMS system as Defendant, neither Doolittle nor Bierman were employed by Defendant.

Plaintiff began working for JCAS in October 1996. In 2000, he expressed interest to Ms. Bierman in becoming a Supervisor. Bierman told him that to become a Supervisor, he must first become a "Preceptor." (A "Preceptor" is a person who mentors and monitors other EMTs). Plaintiff then told Bierman that he wanted to become a Preceptor, and she responded that he must first obtain some teaching experience. Plaintiff then asked Bierman for some teaching experience but she did not give him a teaching assignment. Plaintiff did, however, receive a teaching opportunity from an instructor at John A. Logan College which Plaintiff rejected.

On September 29, 2003, Plaintiff responded to an ambulance call where a woman had lapsed into a diabetic coma. After arrival, Plaintiff injected her with glucose and started her on an IV but failed to contact Medical Control personnel. Applicable protocol required that anytime an EMT administers medicine or an IV, the EMT must contact Medical Control.

Plaintiff's failure to contact Medical Control was reported to Paula Bierman. Ms. Bierman reported the incident to Dr. Doolittle and recommended that Plaintiff be suspended. Dr. Doolittle rejected Ms. Bierman's recommended suspension. Instead, Dr. Doolittle placed Plaintiff on ninety (90) days of probation beginning October 6, 2003.

In mid to late October, Plaintiff applied for an open Supervisor position. On October 28, 2003, JCAS Director Dottie Miles sat down with Plaintiff and discussed his application. Plaintiff was not promoted to Supervisor. On November 11, 2003, Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge of discrimination against Defendants. In December 2003, Plaintiff took a leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) due to job stress. When Plaintiff returned, he was informed that because he took FMLA leave in December 2003, he had interrupted the completion of his 90-day probationary period, and he still had six-weeks left on probation. Shortly thereafter, in February 2004, Plaintiff began taking general leaves of absence on a monthly basis. On July 7, 2004, Plaintiff resigned by sending a letter to Dottie Miles indicating that he would not return to employment.


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. Schneiker v. Fortis Ins. Co., 200 F.3d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir. 2000); Baron v. City of Highland Park, 195 F.3d 333, 337-38 (7th Cir. 1999). 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).

To avoid summary judgment on his discrimination claims, Plaintiff must present facts from which a reasonable juror could find that Defendant discriminated against him because of his race. Plaintiff has sued under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983. 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 . terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1)). The anti-retaliation provision also forbids employers from taking an adverse employment action against an employee for opposing discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). The same standards apply under Title VII, § 1981, and § 1983. Steinhauer v. DeGolier, 359 F.3d 481, 483 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Friedel v. City of Madison, 832 F.2d 965 (7th Cir.1987)) ("When the plaintiff alleges intentional discrimination . it is clear that the same standards in general govern liability under sections 1981, 1983, and Title VII").

Upon review of the record and after hearing argument, Plaintiff's claims against JCAS cannot survive summary judgment. Plaintiff claims that Defendant discriminated against him by creating a hostile work environment that led to his constructive discharge. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that in 1996 he saw "KKK" scribbled on a picnic table outside Defendant's premises. When Plaintiff complained about it, Defendant remedied the situation. Plaintiff also complains that during the year 2000 he heard second-hand (i.e., not in Plaintiff's presence) that one of Defendant's Supervisors, Gerald Lence, used the word "nigger" and allowed an EMT under his supervision, Gary Bartlo, to refer to African-Americans as "coons" and "niggers," ...

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