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Hobbs v. City of Chicago

June 21, 2007

KELLY HOBBS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion for summary judgment in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Kelly Hobbs ("Hobbs") alleges that she is an African-American female. Hobbs alleges that in 1988 she began working for the City of Chicago Department of Transportation ("CDOT") as a Motor Truck Driver and in 1994 she was taken off truck duty and given the duties of the Lot Supervisor at the 4th district yard. Hobbs claims that although she was given the duties of a Lot Supervisor, she retained the title of Motor Truck Driver.

According to Hobbs, in 1997 she applied for and interviewed for the position of Foreman, but the position was given to a Caucasian male instead of Hobbs. Hobbs also claims to have applied for and interviewed for a Foreman position in 2000, but that the position was given to Defendant Joseph Senese ("Senese"), a Caucasian male. In October 2004, Hobbs allegedly learned that Defendant Pat Quinn ("Quinn"), a Caucasian male, had been promoted to the position of Acting Foreman in August 2004. Hobbs claims that the Foreman position opening was never posted for CDOT employees.

In January 2005, Hobbs allegedly filed a charge of discrimination against the CDOT ("EEOC Charge") with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). In the EEOC Charge, Hobbs alleged that she was denied a promotion to the Foreman position because of her race and gender. According to Hobbs, in April 2005, in retaliation for the filing of the EEOC Charge, her supervisors gave her an oral reprimand for an alleged violation of the "swipe in/out policy" and in May 2005, her supervisors gave Hobbs a three-day suspension for alleged insubordination. (Compl. Par. 28, 32).

Hobbs also alleges that in April 2005 her personal vehicle was vandalized in the CDOT parking lot and that Quinn's personal vehicle was near her vehicle. Hobbs claims that she complained to Senese about the vandalism, asserting that Quinn was a possible suspect for the crime. Senese allegedly dismissed the allegations made against Quinn and did not properly investigate Hobbs' vandalism complaint. Hobbs also contends that in April 2005, she was assigned certain work duties in order to humiliate her and that Quinn and other Caucasian male employees repeatedly "congregated outside her office door . . . in order to intimidate her as she entered or exited her office." (Compl. Par. 30(b)).

Hobbs brought the instant action and includes in the complaint a claim brought against all Defendants alleging race discrimination and retaliation claims based upon a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") (Count I), a claim brought against the City alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count II), a Title VII gender discrimination claim brought against the City (Count III), hostile work environment claims brought against the City (Counts II, III, and IV), a Title VII retaliation claim brought against the City (Count IV), and a claim brought against all Defendants alleging equal protection and gender discrimination claims based upon a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983")(Count V).

On December 6, 2006, we granted the City's motion to dismiss the Section 1981 claims (Count I) and Section 1983 claims (Count V) brought against the City. We also granted the City's motion to dismiss Hobbs' Title VII claims to the extent that they are based upon the alleged failure to promote Hobbs in 1997 and 2000 and to the extent that the Title VII claims are based upon the alleged harassment suffered by Hobbs at work prior to the filing of the EEOC charge. Defendants now move for summary judgment on the remaining claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment, the moving party must identify "those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party.

Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I. Title VII and Section 1981 Discrimination Claims (Counts I-III)

Defendants move for summary judgment on the Title VII gender and race discrimination claims (Counts II and III) and the Section 1981 discrimination claims (Count I). A plaintiff bringing a Title VII discrimination claim seeking to defeat a defendant's motion for summary judgment can proceed under the direct method of proof or the indirect method of proof. Brewer v. Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ill., 479 F.3d 908, 915 (7th Cir. 2007). Under the direct method of proof, a plaintiff must present sufficient direct evidence or sufficient circumstantial evidence to establish a "'convincing mosaic' . . . that could permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the employer acted with discriminatory intent. . . ." Id.

Under the indirect method of proof, a plaintiff asserting a failure to promote claim must first establish a prima facie case by showing that: "'1) she is a member of a protected group; 2) she was qualified for the position sought; 3) she was rejected for the position; and 4) the employee promoted was not a member of the protected group and was not better qualified than the plaintiff.'" Sublett v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 463 F.3d 731, 737 (7th Cir. 2006)(quoting Johnson v. Nordstrom, Inc., 260 F.3d 727, 732 (7th Cir. 2001)). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the defendant is required to present a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the promotion decision. Id. If such a reason is provided, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the given reason is a pretext. Id. A court applies the same type of analysis that is applied to Title VII discrimination claims to Section 1981 discrimination claims. See Fane v. Locke Reynolds, LLP, 480 F.3d 534, 538 (7th Cir. 2007)(stating that the Court has "applied the same prima facie requirements to both Title VII and § 1981 discrimination claims"); Sublett, 463 F.3d at 736 (stating that "'[a]lthough section 1981 and Title VII differ in the types of discrimination they proscribe, the methods of proof and elements of the case are essentially identical'")(quoting Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, Ind., 91 F.3d 922, 940 (7th Cir. 1996)).

A. Direct Method of Proof

Hobbs does not argue that she can prevail under the direct method of proof and instead contends only that she can prevail under the indirect method of proof. (Ans. 5). Even though Hobbs has not addressed the direct method of proof, we have considered all of the evidence in the record in its totality and it is clear that Hobbs cannot present sufficient direct evidence or sufficient circumstantial evidence to establish a "'convincing mosaic' . . . that could permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the employer acted with discriminatory intent. . . ." Brewer, 479 F.3d at 915. The evidence clearly shows that Quinn was promoted instead of Hobbs based upon Quinn's prior work experience, enthusiasm for work, and the fact that Quinn had favorably impressed Senese with his prior work performance. There is an absence of evidence that shows any animus held against Hobbs due to her gender or race. Thus, Hobbs cannot prevail under the direct method of proof.

B. Prima Facie Case Under the Indirect Method of Proof

Defendants acknowledge that Hobbs is a member of a protected class, that she had the requisite qualifications for a promotion to the Acting Foreman position, and that she was denied a promotion. Defendants contend, however, that the undisputed evidence clearly shows that Quinn was more qualified than Hobbs. Brian Murphy ("Murphy"), the First Deputy Commissioner, testified at his deposition that Senese told Murphy that Senese needed a foreman to help him with his duties and Murphy asked Senese if he had a recommendation for the position. (D SJ Ex. O 15). Hobbs has not pointed to sufficient evidence to draw into question Murphy's testimony. Although Hobbs attempts to dispute that "Murphy suggested that Senese immediately assign an acting foreman," (R SF Par. 25), Hobbs does not dispute the fact that Senese asked for a foreman to assist him or that Murphy asked Senese if he had a recommendation for the position. (R SF Par. 25). Neither does Hobbs dispute the fact that the Acting Foreman was going to be "required to report directly to Senese." (R SF Par. 25). Hobbs admits, pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, that Senese recommended Quinn for the Acting Foreman position and Murphy approved the recommendation. (R SF Par. 26, 27).

1. Prior Experience Working With Quinn

The undisputed evidence shows that the Acting Foreman was going to need to assist Senese in his duties and work directly with Senese. An individual that Senese believed he could work effectively with and in whom he had confidence would be a prime candidate for the Acting Foreman position. Hobbs admits, pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, that prior to Quinn's promotion to the Acting Foreman position, Senese had known Quinn for thirteen years, had worked with Quinn at one point "on the streets," and that Senese was impressed with Quinn's prior work performance and ...


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