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Christian v. Illinois State Board of Education

July 19, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning U.S. District Court Judge


After 26 years of employment with the Illinois State Board of Education ("ISBE"), plaintiff Albert Christian sued the ISBE based on events occurring in 2004 and 2005, alleging that the ISBE discriminated against him and created a hostile work environment based on his race (African-American). The ISBE's motion for summary judgment is before the court. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Scope of the Charge

Mr. Christian filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on December 27, 2004. His fact statement describes, among other things, events which post-date his EEOC charge. The parties disagree as to whether these events are relevant for summary judgment purposes. According to Mr. Christian, the post-charge events are relevant because they are "like or reasonably related to the allegations of the EEOC charge" and grow out of his charge. In support, Mr. Christian directs the court's attention to Fernando v. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, 882 F. Supp. 119, 122 (N.D. Ill. 1995).

In that case, the plaintiff's EEOC charge and accompanying affidavit alleged that he was subject to different terms of employment based on his race. In his federal complaint, however, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had engaged in racial discrimination "in the form of an inherently discriminatory system and racial slurs." Id. The court repeated the well-known rule that a plaintiff may not bring claims in federal court which are beyond the scope of the EEOC charge because "[t]he condition precedent of an EEOC charge serves the dual purpose of preserving the primary jurisdiction of the EEOC and providing both the EEOC and the employer with an opportunity to settle the discrimination allegations without litigation." Id. It then concluded that the federal claims were "like or reasonably related" to the EEOC charge of being subject to different terms of employment because the federal and EEOC charges were all, in essence, disparate treatment claims.

Notably, however, the court excluded evidence of wrongs which post-dated the allegedly discriminatory events outlined in the EEOC charge because those incidents had not been presented to the EEOC. Id. at 123. This result is consistent with Seventh Circuit precedent holding that alleged instances of discrimination occurring after an EEOC charge is filed (other than claims of retaliation) cannot be raised in a federal case because they are outside the scope of the charge. See Conner v. Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, 413 F.3d 675, 680 (7th Cir. 2005) (district court correctly excluded evidence relating to the plaintiff's failure to receive a promotion in December of 2002 because it "was necessarily outside the scope of the EEOC charges" since the EEOC charges were dated November 1, 2002). This rule is based on the principle that the EEOC needs to have the relevant facts before it so it can investigate and attempt to resolve the plaintiff's claim prior to the filing of a federal action. Id. Accordingly, the court will not consider instances of alleged discrimination occurring after December 27, 2004 (the date that Mr. Christian filed his charge of discrimination with the EEOC).

B. Motions to Strike

The court next considers the parties' motions to strike portions of the opposing side's Rule 56 statements. In Mr. Christian's motion to strike, he contends that the ISBE's statements have multiple sub-parts in an improper attempt to circumvent the limitations on the number of paragraphs allowed in a statement of facts. He also argues that the total number of paragraphs prejudiced him because it forced his lawyer "to comb through lengthy subparagraph [sic] in an effort to provide a response consistent with the requirements of Local Rule 56.1." Plaintiff's Motion to Strike at ¶ 5.

The ISBE's grouping of facts into separate subparts occurs at paragraph 10, where the ISBE lists all of the factual bases for Mr. Christian's claim of racial harassment and Mr. Christian admits that the list is complete. The ISBE then uses each instance of harassment as a point heading and groups related facts together under that point heading.

As an initial matter, the court appreciates that this appears, at first blush, to be a logical way to proceed in organizing the facts. However, the court found this system to be very difficult to follow, as it spent a significant amount of time (ultimately, to no avail) trying to create a chronological summary of Mr. Christian's employment with the ISBE. Mr. Christian's 40 supplemental facts, which were presented without any point headings, did not help matters.

The parties' fact summaries in their briefs gave the court a general sense of what happened during Mr. Christian's tenure with the ISBE, but the court was reduced to flipping through the parties' Rule 56 statements in a constant and generally unsuccessful effort to match up the short chronological presentations of the facts in the briefs with the differently organized and far more comprehensive Rule 56 statements. Finally, Mr. Christian's consistent failure to cite to any specific facts in the argument section of his memorandum opposing summary judgment was the cherry on top of the sundae of confusion. The court respectfully suggests that in the future, counsel may wish to consider providing a chronological summary of all of the relevant facts, with point headings, in their Rule 56 fact statements. They can then group the facts -- with citations to the record -- in their briefs as they deem appropriate and tie the relevant facts into the applicable legal standards.

With this in mind, the court turns once again to Mr. Christian's motion to strike the ISBE's facts. The multi-part fact statement, as noted above, is a list of all of the alleged instances of discrimination. The ISBE expands on each instance in the remainder of its fact statement, and the multi-part fact was meant to serve as an overview of Mr. Christian's claims, as opposed to an attempt to circumvent the rules. Thus, Mr. Christian's motion to strike is denied.

The ISBE has also filed a motion to strike directed at Mr. Christian's statement of additional facts. The court will address the objections below:

Objection that ¶ 19 is speculative -- This paragraph summarizes a declaration from Michael Turk and states, among other things, that Mr. Turk observed Mr. Wolfe interact with Mr. Christian in a "hostile" way. The court assumes that this sentence is the subject of the objection, which is overruled as Mr. Turk is entitled to testify as he sees fit regarding his own observations.

Objection that ¶ 21 contains hearsay -- Mr. Christian states that he "observed that his employment under Robert Wolfe was becoming more stressful." The ISBE contends that this statement is conclusory as well as inadmissible hearsay. The court interprets it as stating Mr. Christian's opinion about his own employment under the supervision of Mr. Wolfe. As such, the ISBE's objections are overruled.

Objection that ΒΆ 39 is conclusory -- This paragraph is supported by Sydney Cochran's declaration and states "On February 4, 2004, Cochran approached Robert Wolfe and attempted to ask him a question concerning her work. Mr. Wolfe responded by yelling at Cochran. Mr. Wolfe yelled in a loud voice, "'What are you asking me for? I don't know.' Cochran never heard Mr. Wolfe used that tome [sic] of voice with any of the whiter [sic] Principal Consultants." The court assumes that the ISBE's objection centers on the last sentence of the above quote and the fact that it does not list names of the white Principal ...

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