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Pratt v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

May 3, 2007

JAMES PRATT, CARLA MURRAY, AND ERIK GRIFFIN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND TERRY MCCANN, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 4). The plaintiffs have responded to the motion (Doc. 8). For the following reasons, defendants' motion will be DENIED.

BACKGROUND

James Pratt, Carla Murray, and Erik Griffin are current and former Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) employees, who, during the period relevant here, worked as correctional officers at the Shawnee Correctional Center, an IDOC prison. Pratt, Murray, and Griffin are black. They allege that during their "entire tenure at Shawnee . . . they were subjected to a racially hostile work environment and racial discrimination which included but was not limited to pervasive racially derogatory and offensive remarks." (Compl. at 3).

I. Pratt

On June 30, 2003, Pratt told his superior officer that he witnessed a white officer, Herbert L. Garris, use excessive force against an inmate. Pratt's report spawned an investigation by the Illinois State Police, Division of Internal Investigation. Once the investigation began, Pratt's superiors and white co-workers asked him to change his testimony. When Pratt refused, the white officers increased the frequency of their discrimination and began retaliating against him. They did not retaliate against white officers that similarly refused to change their testimony. Shawnee discharged Garris as a result of the conduct Pratt reported.

After receiving threats from Garris and other white officers, Pratt wrote a letter of complaint to Shawnee's Chief of Staff, Dennis R. Cooper. Cooper "acknowledged Pratt's concerns of harassment," but did nothing. (Compl. at 4). Defendant Terry McCann, the warden at Shawnee, retaliated against Pratt by transferring him to different IDOC prisons. After Pratt had surgery on his knee in September 2005, his superiors denied him light duty work. When white officers were hurt on the job, their supervisors assigned them light duty work. Because his superiors refused to assign him light work, Pratt had to quit his job.

II. Murray

Sometime in 2003, Murray applied for a "Corrections Clerk II position." The only black applicant, Murray was the eighth person on the eight-person list of applicants. Shawnee staff advised her by a memo dated October 2, 2003, that "she was next in line to fill the Corrections Clerk II position for 70 days, beginning October 20, 2003." (Compl. at 5). On October 17, 2003, however, she received another letter stating that the position had been terminated. Shawnee denied her the position because she is black. The seven other officers, all white, received the position.

Murray filed a claim of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and retaliation on October 30, 2002.*fn1 After she filed her complaint, staff at Shawnee started retaliating against her. Among other things, her supervisors brought her before the Employee Review Board (ERB) for "leaving a mandated overtime shift early and abandoning her post." (Compl. at 5). White employees were not, as Murray was, required to continue working after they completed their mandatory overtime. Though the ERB recommended a written reprimand, McCann overrode the decision and gave her a three-day suspension. McCann did not have this authority. McCann did not suspend white employees who acted as Murray did. Murray's supervisors also denied her and other black employees' requests for "turn-arounds and half shifts when posts were sufficiently covered for the shift." (Compl. at 6).

III. Griffin

Griffin witnessed (and was offended when) white correctional officers, including Roy Neely and Kelly Parker, refer to black inmates as "boy " and interracial inmates as "half-breeds" or "breeds." (Compl. at 6-7). In January 2004, Griffin applied for a "Correctional Counselor I & II" position in the Clinical Services Department. Though Griffin has a bachelor's degree, thirty hours of credit toward his Master's, and had received an A on his official competitive promotional examination (OCPE), Shawnee officials chose "a significantly less qualified white officer" for at least one of the jobs. (Compl. at 7). Shawnee officials denied Griffin the job because he is black.

On May 24, 2004, Griffin complained to McCann of the racism at the prison and told him he felt he was denied the position because he is black. In response, McCann said, "I don't believe racism exists and it is just an excuse." (Compl. at 7). Griffin filed an incident report regarding this comment on July 15, 2004. IDOC did not investigate Griffin's report.

On September 8, 2004, the Illinois Youth Center (IYC) offered Griffin a position. Griffin could not begin working for IYC, however, before it reviewed his employment record at Shawnee. Shawnee refused to release the records, claiming it would not do so unless he "resign[ed] for other reasons than discrimination and retaliation." (Compl. at 8). Because Griffin tendered a "generalized resignation," Shawnee staff significantly delayed the release of his records. This delay kept Griffin from ...


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