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Holliday v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University

June 11, 2007


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


A. Factual History

From January 1994 until her termination in March 2003, pro se plaintiff L.D. Holliday worked as a deejay for WSIE-FM, a radio station owned and operated by the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University governing Southern Illinois University Edwardsville ("SIUE Board").

Holliday first began working with WSIE in approximately January 1994, as an unpaid volunteer (see Doc. 99, Exhibits 1-5, Transcript of L.D. Holliday ("TR") at 25). Subsequently, Holliday became a contract vendor before ultimately being hired as an employee, effective April 1, 1997 (TR 27, 31, 35-36, 40-43). As an employee, Holliday received a monthly salary, but did not receive health insurance or otherwise participate in any retirement benefit program (TR 39).

After Holliday became a full-time employee, she was classified as a term appointment, meaning that she was employed for a specified period of time. Each term appointment was consistent with the fiscal year for SIUE (July 1 through June 30). After Holliday completed her initial term appointment on June 30, 1997, she was subsequently renewed with every fiscal year, through and including the 2002-2003 fiscal year.

Throughout the period that she was an actual employee of WSIE, Holliday reported to the General Manager of WSIE, Defendant Frank Akers (TR 35, 43-45). Defendant Thomas Dehner was only responsible for the news department and otherwise did not supervise Holliday's performance as an on-air personality at WSIE (TR 33-34, 47, 51, 53-54, 73).

The events that ultimately resulted in Holliday's termination arose from her broadcast on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2003. Specifically, while on the air, Holliday read a quiz entitled "Are You A Lazy Lover?" which consisted of six (6) multiple choice questions -- on topics ranging from personal hygiene, to preferred sexual positions, to the proper way to perform oral sex -- together with a suggested commentary for the correct answer to each question (TR 64-65).

While Holliday alleges that Defendant Akers reviewed some of the materials that she had planned for the "special" broadcast on Valentine's Day, she neither showed Mr. Akers the "Are You A Lazy Lover?" quiz, nor did she specifically obtain his approval to read the contents of this quiz on the air (TR 71-72). Nevertheless, Holliday saw nothing inappropriate in reading the "Lazy Lover" quiz on the air because, in her judgment, it was an educational discussion based on what she "quoted and paraphrased" from other "professionals" (TR 75-76). Accordingly, Holliday believed that it was appropriate to discuss oral sex, in general, and specifically, the proper technique, because this discussion dealt "with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (TR 79-81).

Following that broadcast, Holliday had a meeting on February 21, 2003, with Darren Cannon, Associate Director, Human Resources for SIUE, and Defendant Akers, at which time she was informed that she was being placed on administrative leave, with pay, pending completion of an investigation related to the broadcast (TR 96-103, 107-108). Defendant Dehner was not present for this meeting (TR 103).

Subsequently, SIUE afforded Holliday a pre-disciplinary hearing on March 10, 2003 (TR 109-114). During her pre-disciplinary hearing, A. G. Monaco, the Director of Human Resources for SIUE, was present, along with Mr. Cannon (TR 115). During this meeting, Holliday was questioned regarding the Valentine's Day broadcast, and was specifically informed that the Chancellor of SIUE, Defendant David Werner, had heard the broadcast and had complained about the contents (TR 86, 113, 115-116). The discussion with Holliday included questioning about her broadcast and the discussion of oral sex techniques (TR 119-120). Following that hearing, Holliday was advised by letter dated March 11, 2003, that her employment was terminated, effective at the close of business on March 14, 2003 (TR 132-133; see Doc. 99, Exhibit 10).

Notably, Holliday's termination letter mentioned that the decision to terminate her employment was the result of the February 14, 2003 broadcast "in conjunction with ... numerous violations of University rules of conduct in the past ..." (Doc. 99, Exhibit 10). That statement was a reference to the fact that prior to the February 14, 2003 broadcast, Holliday had been placed on "final warning" status (TR 178-179; see Doc. 99, Exhibit 13). The events that led to her final warning status occurred on January 9, 2003, and involved a dispute involving Holliday, Karen Johnson, a black female student at SIUE (TR 88), and Defendant Dehner (TR 167-169).

Regarding that incident, Holliday acknowledges that she removed an audio tape from the recorder in the on-air booth, which was being used by Karen Johnson and another student to record the news broadcast (TR 168, 170-171). While Holliday disputed the accusation, Johnson reported to Mr. Dehner that Holliday had thrown the tape at her after removing it from the tape recorder (TR 171-173). After Johnson reported this incident to Defendant Dehner, both he and Holliday had a "verbal altercation" regarding her behavior directed towards Johnson and the other student (TR 173- 176). Subsequently, Holliday contacted the SIUE police, who prepared an incident report. After reviewing the circumstances of the January 23, 2003 incident, Mr. Akers issued Holliday a "final warning" regarding her conduct as an employee on that date (TR 178; see Doc. 99, Exhibit 13).

B. Procedural History

In April 2004, Holliday filed suit in this Court, naming the SIUE Board and WSIEFM radio station as her "employer"/defendant. The sole legal claim alleged by Holliday in her original complaint was premised uponTitle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII").

On August 2, 2004, Holliday filed an amended complaint, alleging several additional claims for relief. Holliday's amended complaint contains eight counts. Counts I -- V are brought against Holliday's "employer," whom she pleads as collectively consisting of WSIE-FM, SIUE, and the Board of Trustees of SIU ("SIU Board") (Doc. 5, ¶¶ 5-9). Although Holliday chose to name each of these three entities as separate defendants, WSIE-FM is "wholly owned and operated by the [SIUE Board]," which is simply that contingent of the SIU Board that manages specifically the affairs of SIUE (Doc. 5, ¶¶ 5, 8). Accordingly, this Court construes Counts I -- V as directed only towards the SIUE Board. See generally 110 ILCS 520/7 (Board of trustees has the power to sue and be sued). Accord Hoffman v. Yack, 57 Ill.App.3d 744, 747 (Ill. App. Ct. 1978).

Count I alleges that the SIUE Board discriminated against Holliday based on her gender and seeks redress pursuant to Title VII. Count II alleges that the Board discriminated against Holliday based on her race and seeks relief under Title VII. Count III asserts that the SIUE Board's discrimination violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA"). Count IV alleges that the SIUE Board's actions entitle Holliday to redress pursuant to the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). Finally, Count V alleges that the Board unlawfully retaliated against Holliday in contravention of Title VII, the ADA, and the Equal Pay Act.

In addition to those claims brought against the SIUE Board, Holliday's amended complaint contains three separate counts (Counts VI -- VIII) premised upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Holliday asserts these counts against the six "managing agents for [the SIUE Board]" -- David Werner, Sharon Hahs, Kent Neely, Angelo Monaco, Franklin Akers, and Tom Dehner -- in both their official and individual capacities. Count VI alleges that the six individuals engaged in conduct motivated by Holliday's race (African-American), in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Count VII asserts that Holliday is entitled to relief, because the conduct of the six individuals was motivated by her gender and "constituted a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment ..." (Doc. 5, ¶ 69). Count VIII is nearly identical to Count VII, asserting a violation of Holliday's equal protection rights but asserting more specifically a violation of her "right to be free from gender discrimination" (Doc. 5, ¶ 78).

On December 7, 2005, this Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss (Doc. 52) and dismissed a number of Holliday's claims (see Doc. 61). As set forth therein, the following are the only remaining claims at issue in this proceeding: (1) Holliday's Title VII Claims against SIUE in Counts I, II, and V; (2) Holliday's Equal Pay Act Claims against SIUE alleged in Counts IV and V; and (3) Holliday's claims in Counts VI, VII and VIII against the individual defendants.

Now before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 99), requesting that this Court enter judgment in favor of Defendants on each of Holliday's remaining claims. Holliday has filed her response, a "motion in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment" (Doc. 113), to which Defendants have filed a reply (Doc. 121). This matter being fully briefed, the Court now rules as follows.

C. Standard of Review

Defendants' various arguments for summary judgment are premised upon FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 56(c). Pursuant to that rule, summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, interrogatory answers, admissions, and affidavits leave no genuine issue of material fact, and the ...

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