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Perlman v. Cook County Board of Commissioners

May 2, 2007

SHARON J. PERLMAN PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Sharon Perlman, the former Chief of Dental Services for the Cook County Department of Public Health ("CCDPH"), sued the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Stephen Martin, CCDPH's Chief Operating Officer, and Timothy Egan, Hearing Officer for the Bureau of Human Resources for Cook County. According to Dr. Perlman, her termination from CCDPH violated state and federal law because the defendants deprived her of a property interest without procedural due process and violated the Shakman decree, which prohibits the City of Chicago from considering political affiliation and activities when making employment decisions. The defendants seek to dismiss Dr. Perlman's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and (6). For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

I. Background

The following facts are drawn from Dr. Perlman's complaint and are accepted as true for the purposes of the motion to dismiss.

A. The Parties

The CCDPH is a county agency responsible for providing health care services for residents of Cook County. Plaintiff Sharon Perlman is the former Chief of Dental Services for the CCDPH. Defendant Cook County Board of Commissioners is the legislative arm of Cook County government. Defendant Stephen Martin is the Chief Operating Officer of CCDPH and has been sued in his official capacity. Defendant Timothy Egan is a Hearing Officer for the Bureau of Human Resources of Cook County and has been sued in his official capacity.

B. Dr. Perlman's Employment at the CCDPH

Dr. Perlman began working for the CCDPH in 1995, and served as the Chief of Dental Services for the CCDPH through April 2006. From 1995 through 2002, Dr. Perlman's position was administrative, as opposed to clinical, in nature, and she reported to Dr. Karen Scott, the Director of CCDPH. During that time period, Dr. Perlman received high job performance evaluations.

In 2002, Dr. Martin became the Chief Operating Officer of the CCDPH. Soon afterwards, he lowered Dr. Perlman's position in the administrative hierarchy and told Dr. Perlman "I inherited you." In 2004, Dr. Martin began to discuss altering the duties and responsibilities of Dr. Perlman's position. He gave Dr. Perlman a list of new duties which gave her less desirable administrative responsibilities but no clinical responsibilities. In 2005, Dr. Martin gave Dr. Perlman a performance evaluation which rated her work as "good" or "very good" in each category.

Later that year, Dr. Martin asked Dr. Perlman to list clinical dental procedures that she could perform without additional training. She listed 34 procedures she could perform without additional training and specified additional training which would be of assistance. In June of 2005, Dr. Martin asked Dr. Perlman to spend several days per week performing clinical duties at a dental clinic. Dr. Martin told her not to pursue additional training, but Dr. Perlman nevertheless participated in an informal retraining by observing another dentist at the clinic.

At that point, Dr. Perlman began spending all of her working hours at the dental clinic. In March 2006, Dr. Martin sent Dr. Perlman a letter to indicate that the CCDPH wanted her to spend approximately 75% of her time at the dental clinic and asked whether she had received any additional training as they had previously discussed. Dr. Perlman said she had not pursued additional formal training because he had told her not to do so, but that she remained willing to do so.

On April 21, 2006, Dr. Perlman met with Dr. Martin and another employee. During this meeting, Dr. Martin outlined some of the problems they had encountered with Dr. Perlman's work and terminated her employment. Dr. Perlman states that she did not receive prior notice or warning. At the meeting, Dr. Martin told Dr. Perlman that she was being terminated because she did not take initiative in clinical training and was not qualified to spend over 50% of her time on direct patient care. Dr. Perlman responded by stating that she had been spending 100% of her time providing patient care and working in a clinical setting. Dr. Martin then ended the meeting and told Dr. Perlman to leave the premises that day.

C. Dr. Perlman's Grievance

Dr. Perlman filed a timely grievance of her termination and was given a termination hearing before Hearing Officer Tim Egan of the Cook County Bureau of Human Resources on August 1, 2006. Dr. Perlman was allowed to present witnesses and evidence at the hearing, and her former employer, Dr. Martin, and her lawyer attended. At the hearing, Dr. Perlman was denied the use of a court reporter to transcribe the proceedings, though she offered to pay for the expense herself. She also requested that two co-worker witnesses be given time off to testify on her behalf. Dr. Martin said that they would need to take personal time to participate. Dr. Perlman claimed that the potential witnesses ...


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