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Govern v. City of Chicago

September 4, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow


Plaintiff, Janice Govern ("Govern"), has filed a two count employment discrimination complaint against the defendant, the City of Chicago ("City"), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 41 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. §1981(a). Govern, an officer of the Chicago Police Department ("the CPD"), claims that she was discriminated against based on her race (African-American) and sex (female) when she was suspended from the CPD for two years by the Chicago Police Board. The City has moved for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 53. For the following reasons, its motion will be granted.

I. Background*fn1

Govern, an African-American female, has been employed by the CPD since 1990. Def.'s Stmt. of Undisp. Facts ("Def.'s Stmt.") ¶¶ 4, 8. She first served as a police officer and then was promoted to the rank of detective in 1999. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 8. During Govern's time with the CPD she received two or three Summary Punishment Action Requests ("SPAR") and two or three Complaint Registers ("CRs"). Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 9. During this time she also received two honorable mentions and one commendation. Ex. K to Def.'s Stmt., at 12.

The incident which led to the Board's consideration of Govern's employment involved a bank robbery at Dominick's Grocery Store on August 25, 2001. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 17, 18. Govern was working as a plainclothes detective from 11:00 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on that day. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 17. At approximately 12:45 p.m., Govern arrived at Dominick's in an unmarked squad car to take care of a personal errand. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 17-18. Before she entered the store, two people approached her and told her that there was a bank robbery in progress at the South Shore Bank inside the store. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 18. Govern asked Daniel Clay, a mall security guard, to call 911. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 19.*fn2

Once inside the store, Govern at first observed no bank employees in the teller area and "nothing out of the ordinary." Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 20. She did learn, however, that there had been a bank robbery. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 21. After learning this, Govern did not locate the bank manager, speak with any bank employees or the Dominick's manager, attempt to preserve the crime scene, instruct persons present in the store to remain on the scene, or announce her status as a police officer. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 20-21. She did speak to Bill Smith ("Smith"), a civilian, who explained to her what the getaway car and the offender looked like. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 22.

The first communication Govern had with any members of the CPD regarding the incident was when Officers Stephen Nowells, Garrick Harvey, and Vivienne Lindsay, who had arrived in response to the police bulletin for Dominick's, approached Govern while she was standing in a cashier's line with a bottle of water and coffee. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 23. After making her purchase, speaking to the officers, and identifying Smith to Officer Harvey, Govern left the scene. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 24-25. She did not report to the police supervisor on the scene before leaving. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 25. After leaving Dominick's, Govern returned to her headquarters, where she was instructed to return to the scene of the robbery to speak with Lt. Kushner, a Lieutenant who had arrived on the scene at Dominick's. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 30.

Lt. Kushner initiated a complaint register against Govern later that day. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 31. Division Police Agent Marie Lane ("P.A. Lane") was assigned to investigate this CR. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 32. P.A. Lane interviewed Govern regarding the complaint and found that she had violated CPD Rules 2 ("any action or conduct which impedes the Department's efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department"), 5 ("failure to perform any duty"), 14 ("making a false report, written or oral"), and 21 ("failure to report promptly to the Department any information concerning any crime or other unlawful action"). Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 32-35, Ex. E-1 (CR No. 274234 Sum. Rep.), at 2, 15, 16.*fn3 Then-CPD Superintendent Hillard ("Hillard") filed charges with the Board on or about April 11, 2003 claiming that Govern had violated those CPD Rules and recommended to the Board that Govern be discharged. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 36-37.

On September 9 and 12 and October 2, 2003, the Board conducted a hearing on the charges against Govern through a hearing officer, Jacqueline Walker. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 39. Before the hearing, Govern received notice of the charges against her, secured legal representation, had a right to discovery, and had rights to issue subpoenas for witnesses and production of documents. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 41-44. Govern had an adversarial hearing before Officer Walker in which she made an opening statement, cross-examined witnesses, and made a closing argument. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 45-47. On December 10, 2003, the Board rendered its Findings and Decision.

Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 50. It found Govern guilty of violating Rules 2, 5, 14, and 21 in connection with the Dominick's incident and ordered that she be suspended for two years (from April 2003 through April 2005). Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 50-53. On January 9, 2004, then-Superintendent Philip J. Cline filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County against Govern and the Board for administrative review. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 56. Cline sought a reversal of the Board's suspension decision and a remand for the Board to order a discharge. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 56. Contemporaneously, Govern filed a complaint for administrative review against the Board, Hillard, and Cline, and sought to have the suspension decision reversed. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 57. These two cases were consolidated. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 57. After briefing by both parties and a hearing, the court issued its decision on November 15, 2004, affirming the decision of the Board and its findings and denying both of the complaints for administrative review. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 58-61.

Govern filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on June 2, 2004. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 3. In this charge, Govern alleged that her employer, the City, had discriminated against her. Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Add. Stmt. of Facts ¶ 31. A Right-to-Sue letter was issued to Govern on March 8, 2006 in response to this filing. Def.'s Resp. to Plaintiff's Add. Stmt. of Facts ¶ 32. On May 12, 2006, Govern filed the instant complaint against the City for race and sex discrimination. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 5, 62; Dkt. No. 1 (Complaint).

The City has now moved for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) res judicata precludes this suit since Govern could have included her Title VII claims in the Illinois court case, (2) Govern lacks evidence of discriminatory intent, and (3) there is no evidence that the City's reasoning for suspending Govern on the basis of her Rule violations was a pretext for race or gender discrimination.

II. Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where 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 resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986); Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 773 (7th Cir. 2005). Additionally, the party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of proving that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265 (1986); Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005). Finally, "[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but ...

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