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Dyson v. Streamwood Behavioral Health Center

September 25, 2007

TERRANCE DYSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STREAMWOOD BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CENTER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Terrance Dyson ("Dyson") has filed a one-count complaint against his former employer, Streamwood Behavioral Health Center ("Streamwood"), asserting that Streamwood violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (2006) when it terminated him for insubordination. Specifically, Dyson claims that Streamwood subjected him to unequal discipline and less favorable working conditions on the basis of his sex. Compl. ¶ 16. Streamwood has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, Streamwood's motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Streamwood provides health and counseling services in a secure and locked hospital facility to children and adolescents with significant psychological and behavioral problems.

Dyson was employed by Streamwood from 1999 to 2005. He worked with pediatric and adolescent patients with severe behavioral and psychiatric problems ranging from bipolar disorders to sexual abuse. At the time he was terminated, Dyson was employed as a mental health counselor. He worked primarily with children with mental issues. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11. One of his duties was to respond to patients in crisis. Because many patients at Streamwood pose a threat to themselves and others, Dyson received Crisis Prevention Intervention Training, the purpose of which is to educate employees on the proper techniques to use during a patient "crisis." A "crisis" occurs when a patient acts out in a way that may cause harm to herself or others. Dyson admits that "all mental health counselors were required to assist with crisis situations if necessary or called upon." Dyson Decl. ¶ 4. There is also no dispute that both male and female staff at Streamwood respond when a patient is in crisis. Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 12.

On June 29, 2005, K.R., an eight year old pediatric patient, began throwing things, slamming doors, and hitting his head on the door. Rachel Greenspan, a female worker, was covering the unit where K.R. was located and concluded that K.R. was in crisis. She asked her co-worker, Kristin Smith, another female worker, for assistance. Smith and Greenspan attempted to manage the crisis for several minutes. Smith eventually suggested to Greenspan that she ask Dyson for help because K.R. responded well to him, he had a good relationship and rapport with K.R., and he was close and available. Elaine Shemroske, the nurse manager, testified that K.R. also responded better to males because, based on his family history, he hated females. Greenspan asked Dyson to help with K.R.'s crisis but Dyson refused.

Dyson admits that he took Greenspan's request for help seriously and had no reason to doubt that there was an actual crisis or that his help was actually needed. Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 25. However, he refused because he had other responsibilities, "was spent and just couldn't do it," and was under "mental duress" because of his stressful day.*fn1

On her way back to the pediatric unit, Greenspan ran into Shemroske and reported that Dyson had refused to help her. Shemroske approached Dyson and asked him to assist with the crisis involving K.R. Dyson refused. Shemroske avers that she responded, "you know, if you don't go, it's insubordination." Dyson denies that she said this but admits that he knew Shemroske was giving him an order to help with the crisis situation and that failure to obey a direct order could result in termination. Dyson Dep. 101; Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 31. Dyson refused to help and Shemroske instructed him to collect his belongings and clock out.

Dyson does not dispute that Shemroske's decision to terminate his employment for insubordination was based on his refusal to respond in a crisis situation. Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 34. Nor is he aware of any female mental health counselors who have refused a supervisor's directive to assist in a patient crisis situation without being terminated. Id. ¶ 36.

II. ANALYSIS

Summary judgment will be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In the consideration of a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the record and any inferences to be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the opposing party. See Griffin v. Thomas, 929 F.2d 1210, 1212 (7th Cir. 1991). Because the primary purpose of summary judgment is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims, the non-movant may not rest on the pleadings but must respond, with affidavits or otherwise, "set[ting] forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." See, e.g., Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 932 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56).

A. Dyson's Declaration

As a preliminary matter, the court addresses Streamwood's motion to strike portions of Dyson's Declaration.*fn2 See Pl.'s Statement of Additional Facts Ex. A. "A party cannot prevail on a motion for summary judgment by 'submitting an affidavit containing conclusory allegations which contradict plain admissions in prior deposition or otherwise sworn testimony.'" Adusumilli v. City of Chicago, 164 F.3d 353, 360 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Diliberti v. United States, 817 F.2d 1259, 1263 (7th Cir. 1987).

Dyson has submitted a declaration stating that Streamwood "had a practice of requiring male mental health counselors to respond to crises in preference to female mental health counselors." Pl.'s Statement of Additional Facts Ex. A ¶ 5. Streamwood denies that such a practice exists and argues that Dyson's own admissions and deposition testimony contradict the statements in his declaration. Dyson admits in his responses to Streamwood's Statement of Facts that male and female staff at Streamwood respond when a patient is in crisis, and he has also testified that he has observed female staff respond to crisis situations. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 12-13; Dyson Dep. 39-40. Furthermore, Dyson admits that Streamwood does not have a policy requiring only men to respond in crisis situations and that he has never been told that only men should respond to crisis situations. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 14; Dyson Dep. 39-40. Therefore, to the ...


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