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Bottoms v. Illinois Dep't of Human Services

March 9, 2007

CAROLYN BOTTOMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, AND CHICAGO-READ MENTAL HEALTH CENTER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Carolyn Bottoms ("Bottoms" or "Plaintiff") is a black female who was employed for nearly nine years by the Illinois Department of Human Services ("IDHS"), most recently at its Chicago-Read Mental Health Center facility ("Chicago-Read," together with IDHS, "Defendants"). After a series of workplace incidents involving Bottoms, her supervisors ordered her to submit to a "fitness-for-duty" examination on June 4, 1999. On November 16, 1999, Bottoms was discharged for her repeated failure to attend that examination. Bottoms brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq., contending that: she suffered an adverse employment action -- termination -- on account of her race; and Defendants' reason for terminating her was to retaliate against her for having previously opposed Defendants' alleged discriminatory practices.

Defendants now move for summary judgment on Bottoms's Title VII claim. Defendants argue that: (1) Bottoms has presented no direct evidence of either race discrimination or retaliation;

(2) Bottoms cannot establish a prima facie case of race discrimination or retaliation because she has not identified any similarly-situated non-black employees who were treated more favorably; and (3) even if Bottoms could establish a prima facie case of race discrimination or retaliation, there were legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for her termination.

This Court finds that Plaintiff has not presented any direct evidence of either race discrimination or retaliation and that Plaintiff has not demonstrated the existence of a genuine issue of material fact bearing on whether Defendants treated any similarly-situated non-black employees more favorably than Plaintiff or whether Defendants' articulated reasons for ordering Bottoms to submit to a fitness-for-duty examination and for discharging her were a pretext for discrimination or retaliation. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Bottoms, a black female, was employed by Chicago-Read for nearly nine years before she was terminated on November 16, 1999. (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 1; Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 5.)*fn1 From October 1998 until her termination, Bottoms was an Office Assistant in the General Stores division of Chicago-Read, where her responsibilities included office-related duties such as typing, working with computers and answering the phone. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 6.)*fn2 Plaintiff's supervisor in General Stores was Marilyn Targos ("Targos"), who is white. (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶¶ 2, 6.)

Bottoms previously sued Defendants in 2000, alleging violations of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 11.); see also, Bottoms v. Illinois Dep't of Human Services, 174 F. Supp.2d 758 (N.D. Ill. 2001) ("Bottoms I"). Before filing Bottoms I, Bottoms filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge against defendants, dated June 14, 1999, alleging discrimination and retaliation in the form of constant harassment, placement on administrative leave in May 1999 and the order to report for a fitness-for-duty examination on June 4, 1999.*fn3 Bottoms also discussed her problems concerning Chicago-Read management with the statewide Equal Employment Opportunity officer during work hours. (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 19).

The Relationship Between Bottoms and Targos.

The relationship between Bottoms and Targos was strained from its inception. Upon the commencement of Bottoms's employment in General Stores, Targos "took note" of Bottoms and began logging the times Bottoms was absent from her work area without first advising anyone as to where she would be even though Targos did not log the times other employees briefly left their work stations without telling anyone. (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 10.) Within the first two weeks of her tenure at General Stores, Bottoms refused to speak directly to Targos and requested that Targos provide all instructions regarding her job duties in writing. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 15; Bottoms Dep. p. 39:23-24, 40:1-13, 41:13-23.) At approximately the same time, Targos began performing certain of Bottoms's job duties. (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that Targos took her job duties away from her without any warning or explanation. (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 13, 16-17.) Defendants deny that any of Bottoms's job duties were taken from her and instead argue that Targos was forced to perform certain of Bottoms's job duties because Bottoms was either unwilling or unable to perform those duties herself.*fn4 (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 16-17; Def.'s Response ¶ 16-17. It is not disputed that during Bottoms's tenure at General Stores, she was idle for approximately 70% of her work day. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 17; Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 17.)

Targos met with Dr. James Brunner ("Brunner"), Hospital Administrator at Chicago-Read, to discuss the problems she was having with Bottoms. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 18.) Brunner suggested that Targos hold weekly supervisory meetings with Bottoms to review assignments. (Id.) At Brunner's urging, Targos advised Bottoms in March of 1999 that Bottoms would be required to attend twice-weekly supervision meetings with Targos. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

Bottoms advised Joan Bashaw ("Bashaw"), the Equal Employment Opportunity officer at Chicago-Read, that she objected to having supervisory meetings with Targos. (Id. at ¶ 20.) Bottoms insisted that a union representative be present at her first supervision meeting with Targos even though union representatives are not permitted at meetings where an employee is not being disciplined. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Bottoms's insistence upon the presence of a union representative prevented Targos from holding the first supervisory meeting she had scheduled with Bottoms. (Id.) Targos issued a written reprimand to Bottoms for her failure to attend the supervisory meetings scheduled for March 17, March 19, and March 24, 1999 and for failing to properly distribute mail to Targos. (Id. At ¶ 24.; Targos Affid. ¶ 12.)

On the day of the March 19, 1999 supervisory meeting, Bottoms alleges that Targos intentionally hit her with a locker door. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶22.) Targos testified at her deposition that she did not intentionally hit Bottoms with the locker door. (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 25; Targos Dep. p. 47:9-14.) Bashaw investigated the incident but the results of her investigation were inconclusive because there were no witnesses to the incident aside from Bottoms and Targos and Bottoms did not report any injury. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 22; Bashaw Dep. P. 39:2-24; 40:1-9.) On the day of the March 24, 1999 meeting, Bottoms alleges that Targos "aggressively came after [Bottoms]." (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 23; Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶26; Bottoms Dep. p. 187:15-20.) Bottoms called the police to complain about the incident, but did not file a police report. (Id.) Bottoms also alleges that Targos attempted to "close in Ms. Bottoms between a door and its gate." (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 27.) Defendants do not dispute Bottoms's testimony with respect to either the March 24, 1999 incident or the incident involving the door and gate.*fn5 There is no evidence that Targos was disciplined as a result of these incidents.

On May 7, 1999, Targos attempted to meet with Bottoms and Bottoms threatened to call the police again if Targos attempted to speak with her at that time or in the future. (Id. at ¶ 26; Targos Affid. ¶ 15.) Thereafter, management at Chicago-Read issued Bottoms a one day suspension for failure to participate in additional supervisory meetings scheduled for April 28 and April 29, 1999. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 25; Targos Affid. ¶ 14 and Exh. 2 thereto.)

The Amoruso Memorandum and Bottoms's White Gloves.

In late March and April of 1999, a representative of the IDHS Office of Internal Audit, Jack Amoruso ("Amoruso"), occupied an office adjacent to Bottoms while conducting an audit of property, equipment and inventories at General Stores. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 28; Brunner Affid. ¶ 20.) On April 30, 1999, Amuroso sent an unsolicited memorandum to Brunner outlining his observations of Bottoms. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 28; Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 30.) Amoruso advised Brunner in the memo that he had observed Bottoms doing very little work, behaving rudely towards her supervisor (Targos), and spending work time on personal matters. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 28)

Amoruso's memorandum to Brunner also notes that Bottoms wore white gloves while at work "because she doesn't want to touch anything that any of the white employees touch." (Amoruso Memorandum at Def.'s Exh. D1; Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 31. Targos also was told that Bottoms wore the gloves to avoid touching anything that white employees had touched, though Targos cannot recall whether she received that information directly from Bottoms or from another source. (Pltf.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 32.) For her part, Bottoms testified that she is allergic to dust and that she wore the gloves to protect her hands from cuts and paper dust. (Id. at ¶ 33.) Bottoms never told anyone -- including Amoruso -- that she wore gloves to avoid touching things that had been touched by white employees. (Id. at ¶34.)

Bottoms is Placed on Paid Administrative Leave for Injuring a Co-Worker.

In May 1999, one of Bottoms's co-workers, Thomas Mathew ("Mathew") entered Bottoms's office to access a file cabinet. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 29.) Bottoms asked Mathew three times to close the door to her office. (Id.) When Mathew did not respond, Bottoms rose from her desk, reached around him and closed the door. (Id.) Matthew testified that Bottoms was somewhat angry when she got up to close the door. (Id. at ¶ 31.) Mathew testified that the door hit him on the elbow when Bottoms closed it which caused him to react with a "painful sound." (Id. at ¶ 33.) ...


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