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Joyce v. Chicago Park District

April 16, 2007

ERIN JOYCE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael T. Mason

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Michael T. Mason, United States Magistrate Judge: Plaintiff Erin Joyce ("Joyce" or "plaintiff") sued her employer, the Chicago Park District ("Park District" or "defendant"), claiming that the Park District retaliated against her for participating in the investigation of a colleague's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") complaint when it demoted her on August 12, 2002.*fn1 In addition, Joyce alleged that the Park District demoted her on the basis of her gender.

The case went to trial. After plaintiff rested, the Park District orally moved for judgment as a matter of law. That motion was denied. At the close of all the evidence, the Park District orally renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law. That motion was also denied. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Joyce on both claims and awarded her $42,750.00. After the entry of judgment on the jury's verdict, the Park District filed this Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b). For the reasons set forth below, defendant's post-trial motion is denied in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

The Chicago Park District is a local public entity that offers recreational facilities and activities, including swimming facilities. Sports and Recreation is a department within the Park District. Beaches and Pools ("Beaches and Pools") is a division of the Sports and Recreation department.

Erin Joyce began working as a lifeguard in Beaches and Pools in 1981, and she has worked in some capacity in Beaches and Pools ever since. In 1991, Joyce was promoted to Natatorium Instructor. In 1995, Joyce was promoted to Aquatic Supervisor. In April 1999, Joseph Pecoraro ("Pecoraro"), the head of Beaches and Pools at the time, promoted Joyce from Aquatic Supervisor to Program Specialist. The promotion to Program Specialist moved Joyce from "out in the field" to the administrative office of Beaches and Pools located in downtown Chicago. Joyce's duties included assigning lifeguards for the summer, assuring coverage of the Park District's year-round facilities, payroll, assigning lifeguards for special events and other administrative responsibilities.*fn2 A 1999 performance review from Joe Pecoraro indicated that Joyce was exceeding the Park District's expectations. In 1999, Joyce earned $47,588.00 per year.

Pecoraro retired early in 2000.*fn3 Following his retirement, Beaches and Pools had several management changes. Kay Tahlberg took over for five or six months. After that, Eric Fischer ("Fischer") became the Acting Manager of Beaches and Pools for a few more months in 2000. Then in 2001, Jaime Anderson ("Anderson") became the Manager of Beaches and Pools, and Fischer became the Assistant Manager of Beaches and Pools.*fn4

At the time that Anderson became Manager, Randy Ernst ("Ernst") was the Director of the Sports and Recreation Department. Mary Donahue ("Donahue"), Deputy Director, worked immediately under Ernst. As the head of Beaches and Pools, Anderson reported to Ernst and Donahue. Within Beaches and Pools, Anderson supervised Fischer and Joyce, among others.

In early 2002, Marek Stankowski ("Stankowski"), a Lifeguard at the time, was asked by Fischer and Anderson to work in the downtown administrative office. In March 2002, Anderson reassigned Joyce's summer assignment and lifeguard coverage responsibilities. Toward the end of March 2002, Joyce participated in an EEOC investigation, and Anderson was aware that Joyce was participating in the EEOC investigation. After Joyce participated in the EEOC investigation, Anderson reassigned more of Joyce's job responsibilities. In early August 2002, Joyce received an undated notice from Ernst.The notice, entitled "[t]ermination [n]notice," stated the following:

Effective close of business, Monday August 12, 2002, your services as a Program Specialist for the Chicago Park District are no longer required.

As a former Career Service Natatorium Instructor, you will be allowed to exercise your right of return to the position of Natatorium Instructor.*** Francine Bailey, Director of Human Resources, sent Ernst and Donahue a memorandum dated August 14, 2002. The memorandum stated, in relevant part, the following:

This is to memorialize the personnel activity of Erin Joyce, Program Specialist.

1. Terminated from Program Specialist (exempt "at ...


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