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Simpkins v. Police Dep't of the City of East St. Louis

July 24, 2007


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


I. Introduction

On December 16, 2005, Plaintiff, Debra Simpkins, pro se, filed a complaint in this Court against the Police Department of the City of East St. Louis ("the Department") alleging sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and the common law of the State of Illinois.*fn1 Jury trial is set to commence on August 13, 2007, before the undersigned District Judge, with a final pretrial conference on July 20, 2007.

Now before the Court is the Department's summary judgment motion (Doc. 61), which is fully briefed and ready for disposition. Analysis begins with an overview of the key facts and recitation of the legal standard governing summary judgment motions in this Court.

II. Factual Background

On June 3, 2003, the Department hired Simpkins as a patrol officer. When Simpkins began with the Department, Ronald Matthews was the chief, and her immediate supervisor was Lieutenant Cole. Doc. 61, Exhibit FF, Simpkins Deposition 18:13-18. Simpkins became "romantically involved" with Cole in June, 2003. Id., 32:6-9. In May, 2005, James Mister was appointed Police Chief and affirmed interim Police Chief Linzie Stewart's appointment of Lieutenant Caroliss Childress to be in charge of the Patrol Division. Doc. 61, Exhibit A, Mister Affidavit ¶¶ 2, 3. Mister also assigned Cole to be in charge of Support Services Division, and, thus, Cole was no longer in the direct chain of command above Simpkins. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 4.

According to Mister, there is a general rule that Patrol Officers may not go on the second floor of the Police Department without permission. Mister Aff. ¶ 5. Simpkins disputes this, asserting that there is nothing in the East St. Louis Policy and Procedures that states that a police officer, when off-duty and in uniform, must go through the chain of command to go anywhere in the Department. Doc. 61, Simpkins' Subject Report, p. 2. Childress told Simpkins to conduct her personal business outside the Department and not to go to the second floor or to Cole's office while in uniform or off-duty without going through the proper chain of command. Id.

On June 9, 2005, Simpkins was on the second floor of the Department without authorization from her direct supervisor, Sgt. Simpson Sylvester, or anyone else in the direct chain of command. Doc. 61, Exhibit C, Sylvester Affidavit ¶ 8. Sylvester agreed with Childress's decision to send Simpkins home for insubordination on June 9, 2005. Id. Simpkins made her first oral claim of sexual harassment against Childress to Chief Mister on June 15, 2005. Simpkins Dep. 88:3-14. Chief Mister told her to put her complaint into writing, which she did. Id. 88:7-11.

Simpkins reported not only the incident which allegedly occurred on June 9, 2005, but also other alleged incidents of sexual harassment by Lt. Childress. In her deposition she stated that she filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on July 5, 2005.*fn2 Id. 107:11-17. Simpkins' reports of sexual harassment are the following.

Simpkins testified that the first incident of sexual harassment by Childress occurred in January, 2005. Exhibit D, Simpkins Dep. 32:22-25. Simpkins stated that Childress stopped her in a stairwell, looked her up and down, licking her lips in a sexual manner. Id. 33:4-9. Simpkins described the sexual nature of "licking of the lips" as "[s]ticking her tongue out, flicking it backwards and forwards." Id. 34: 33:2-7. During that incident, Childress did not say anything of a sexual nature, did not touch Simpkins and did not suggest a sexual relationship. Id. 34:10-16. Simpkins did not tell Childress that she thought she was sexually harassing her, did not tell Childress to stop what she found to be sexual harassment and did not report the incident to her supervisor, although she told two other officers and a sergeant. Id. 35:14-39:9.

In April, 2005, Simpkins was dispatched to a call at a house where there had possibly been a shooting. Exhibit E-1, Simpkins Dep. 35:11-14. Childress called her back and told her to stand with her and Officer Miles, another female, saying, "Let the guys handle that." Id. 35:16-19. Simpkins testified that no sexual harassment occurred, but she objected to "the gender thing" and saw no reason for not doing her job at that time. Id. 37:1-5. She said nothing to Childress and did not feel she was being sexually harassed at that time. Id. 37:6-11.

The next incident of sexual harassment alleged by Simpkins occurred in June, 2005.

Simpkins Dep., Exhibit F-1, 41:7-9. Simpkins testified that Childress questioned her about taking unscheduled vacation days. Id. 41:11-14. Childress put her hand on Simpkins shoulder, told her that she had taken a lot of unscheduled vacation and asked her who had given it to her. Id. 41:14-18. Childress's hand was on her shoulder for approximately four seconds, and Childress was smiling, licking her lips, flicking her tongue and looking her up and down. Id. 41:19-25, 42:1-6, 46:12-13. The smiling and flicking her tongue back and forth were sexual. Id. 43:1-6. Childress said nothing of a sexual nature to Simpkins. Id. 43:5-7. Simpkins told Childress that she was uncomfortable with being alone with her. Id. 44:10-12. Childress left the room, and there was no further interaction. Id. 44:19-25. The incident lasted approximately five minutes. Id. 45:8-9. Nothing else caused Simpson concern at this incident, and Childress did not sexually proposition Simpkins. Id. 46:24-25, 47:1-4.

On June 9, 2005, Childress had Simpkins come to her office with Gilda Johnson and Sylvester Simpson. Doc. 61, Exhibit G-1, Simpkins Dep. 47:8-10. The meeting was in reference to Simpkins' being on the second floor without permission. Id. 47:13-15. When Johnson and Sylvester were looking at each other, Childress began "twitching in her seat trying to get [Simpkins'] attention." Id. 47:22-24. When Simpkins looked at her, Childress again looked her up and down, flicking her tongue. Id. 47:24-25. Childress did not speak out loud but formed the words, "I'm going to get you. I'm going to show you what personal is." Id. 48:1-5.

There was no other sexual harassment by Childress after June 9, 2005. Id. 63:2-5. Childress did not sexually proposition Simpkins or touch her beyond the four seconds that she had her hand on her shoulder. Id. 63:6-15. Simpkins had heard rumors from other officers "cracking jokes," telling her that Childress "wanted some ass." Id. 63:22-24.

Simpkins did not return to work after the incident on June 9, 2005, until July 14, 2005. Doc. 61, Exhibit FF, Simpkins' Deposition 193: 19-20. On July 14, 2005, she met with Chief Mister, Assistant Chief Aubrey Keller, her Union representative and Detective Roy Mickens. Id. 195:4-7. She was placed on administrative leave while her claims of sexual harassment against Childress were investigated. Id. 195: 19-22. The Internal Affairs Department interviewed Simpkins on July 22, 2005, regarding her allegations against Childress; however, Simpkins refused to give a recorded statement at her interview, stating that she would stand on her written documents. Id. 206:3-7, 13-16; 208:7-12, 19-21. Simpkins' union representative was present with her. Id. 205:21-23.

According to Simpkins, when she refused to give a recorded statement, Assistant Chief Keller relieved her of her duties and terminated her employment. Id. 210:10-25, 211:1-2. Defendant asserts that, to the contrary, under the union contract, Simpkins could not have been terminated on July 22, 2005, but, rather, was placed on administrative leave.*fn3 Doc. 61, Exhibit Y, John Gilbert Affidavit. The Department states that Simpkins knew or could have easily ascertained through her union representative, who was present at the meeting, that she could not be terminated from her employment on July 22, 2005. Simpkins testified that approximately July 29, 2005, she ...

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