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Watson v. Potter

May 15, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar


Plaintiff Cecil Watson brought this action against Defendant John E. Potter ("Defendant"), Postmaster General of the United States, for race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At issue were the actions and events surrounding the implementation of this court's September 3, 2002 Memorandum Opinion and Order ("Order"), intended to redress the acts of discrimination committed by Defendant as Plaintiff's employer. The instant matter proceeded to bench trial on October 30, 2006.

At the close of trial, both parties submitted post-trial memoranda on the subject of liability. Based on the trial, and parties' pre-trial and post-trial submissions, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. To the extent that any findings may be deemed conclusions of law, they shall also be considered conclusions. To the extent that any conclusions may be deemed findings of fact, they shall also be considered findings. See Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S. 104, 113-14 (1985).


A. Plaintiff's Placement Under the Order

1. On October 30, 2006, a trial was held before this Court regarding the above captioned case, in which Plaintiff Cecil W. Watson ("Watson") represented himself as a Pro se plaintiff.

2. On September 3, 2002, this Court issued a decision related to Plaintiff's prior discrimination complaint (96 C 7044), ruling that Plaintiff was entitled to additional relief. This Court's memorandum opinion and order in that decision stated, in relevant part, that the Postal Service shall "immediately plac[e] Watson in an EAS 21 position with commensurate salary."

3. William Simmons ("Simmons"), who was the Postal Service's Manager of Human Resources for the Northen Illinois District, was responsible for locating an EAS-21 position for Watson in accordance with the court's order.

4. On September 28, 2002, Watson received a letter from Alexander Perchorowicz ("Skip Perch"). The letter stated that Plaintiff was being reassigned to the Hoffman Estates branch office ("Hoffman Estates branch") of the Schaumburg IL Post Office ("Schaumburg PO"), where he would be working as Manager, Customer Services ("branch manager").

5. Plaintiff commenced work at the Hoffman Estates branch on October 7, 2002.

B. Organization of Postal Service Employees

6. Simmons did not consider Watson for placement in any positions outside of the Northern District of Illinois. Around the time of this Court's order on September 3, 2002, there was a EAS 21 position available at the Great Lakes Area Office for which Plaintiff was not considered.

7. Around the time of this Court's order on September 3, 2002, another EAS 21 position was open at the St. Charles IL Post Office ("St. Charles PO"). That position was officially filled on September 7, 2002 by Ralph Atchue, after a placement process that had begun before this Court rendered its opinion and order. The announcement of Atchue's appointment was made September 18, 2002.

8. At the time Plaintiff was placed in the Hoffman Estates position, it was held as a permanent position by another employee by the name of Timothy Adam ("Adam"). Adam was not physically situated at the Hoffman estates branch, but was instead working on "detail" at the Schaumburg PO.

9. The detail system is an informal, unregulated employment network through which Postal Service employees find positions which are preferable to their permanent position for some period of time. The detail system is frequently used to shift employees between positions within the Postal Service.

10. A detail assignment can be terminated at management's discretion, in which case the employee is generally allowed to return to his or her permanent position.

11. An employee working on detail assignment retains some right to return to his or her permanent position.

12. Adam had been working on detail in the Schaumburg branch for six or seven years prior to this Court's order. There is no indication that he was expected to return to the Hoffman Estates branch at any time in the future.

13. The Postal Service retains the ultimate right to reassign its employees.

14. The Postal Service will generally shift employees and policies in order to accommodate a court order.

15. It is not customary practice to place permanent employees into positions that are held by other employees on a permanent basis.

16. The Postal Service uses a system for monitoring the number of employment positions that are authorized at each postal facility. The staffing complement for the Hoffman Estates branch prior to 2002 allotted one manager.

C. Conditions of Plaintiff's placement

17. PS Form 50s ("Form 50"s) are Postal Service forms used to monitor and record changes in employment status. They are not generated for detail positions. The code for reassignment and promotion on a Form 50 is only used for permanent placements.

18. A PS Form 50 was generated for Plaintiff on October 5, 2002. That form indicates that Watson was being reassigned and promoted, that Watson's duty station was the Hoffman Estates branch, that Watson's position would be branch manager, that Watson's rate and grade was EAS 21, and that Watson was to be paid $67,807 per year.

19. Watson's PS Form 50 contains the following words: "Consistent with Court Ruling in Case 96 C 7044." In addition, the form contains language representing Plaintiff's race and sex, as well as an indication that he is disabled in some manner.

20. It is not typical Postal Service practice to indicate past EEO activity or legal actions related to discrimination on an employee's Form 50. It is not typical practice to include incorrect information referencing an employee's disabilities.

21. Plaintiff was paid the EAS 21 salary appropriate for branch manager. At all times he was stationed at Hoffman Estates, he was expected to perform the duties of that position and did, in fact, perform those duties.

22. For approximately the first two years Plaintiff worked at the Hoffman Estates branch, his immediate supervisor was Michael Victor ("Victor"), the Postmaster of the Schaumburg PO. Following that period of time, plaintiff's immediate supervisor was Kenneth Michalowski ("Michalowski").

23. At the time Plaintiff was placed at the Hoffman Estates branch, Simmons sent a copy of this court's September 3, 2002 order to Victor.

24. There were no significant interpersonal problems between Plaintiff and Victor during Plaintiff's time at the Hoffman Estates branch.

25. On January 7, 2003, Plaintiff sent a letter to Lynn Smith, Lead Executive/District Manager for the Northern IL District of the Postal Service. In that letter, Plaintiff sought redress of the problems being considered in the instant case.

26. At no time did Adam attempt to reclaim the duties or physical situation of his permanent position as Hoffman Estates branch manager.

D. EEOC Complaint Process

27. On October 7, 2002, Plaintiff commenced EEOC proceedings. These proceedings were based upon the EEO and discrimination action information that was shared with Plaintiff's co-workers and supervisors, as well as the fact that his position did not appear to be vacant.

28. On March 13, 2003, Plaintiff received a notice of Final Agency Decision from the EEOC. This letter stated that Plaintiff "filed a civil action with the United States District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, Case No. 96 C 7044, which was settled on September 3, 2002. Your complaint is dismissed since the issue(s) ...

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