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Czarniecki v. City of Chicago

September 24, 2008

WOJCIECH CZARNIECKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO AND MATTHEW TOBIAS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Wojciech Czarniecki brings the present action against Defendants City of Chicago and Chicago Police Officer Matthew Tobias, in his individual capacity, alleging national origin discrimination in violation 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' summary judgment motion.

BACKGROUND

Defendant City of Chicago is a municipal corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois. (R. 56-1, Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 1.) In November 1986, Defendant Matthew Tobias joined the Chicago Police Department ("CPD") and in June 2005, Tobias became the Assistant Deputy Superintendent ("ADS") of the Education and Training Division of the CPD ("Training Academy"). (Id. ¶ 2.) As the ADS of the Training Academy, Tobias is responsible for the command of the Division. (Id.)

Plaintiff Wojciech Czarniecki was employed by the CPD as a Probationary Police Officer ("PPO") from November 27, 2006 until his discharge on February 9, 2007. (Id. ¶ 3.) During the time that Czarniecki was employed as a PPO, he was assigned to the Training Academy. (Id.) Czarniecki is a white male of Polish descent. (Id. ¶ 4.) Czarniecki admits that he was an at-will employee and that he signed documents acknowledging that he received and read the CPD's Recruit Procedural Manual and the CPD's Rules and Regulations. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10.) Also, Czarniecki understood that his failure to comply with these rules could result in his discharge. (Id. ¶ 10.)

Rule 3-2 of the Recruit Procedural Manual concerns the CPD's expectations that recruits be honest at all times. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Rule 4-10 of the Recruit Procedural Manual, entitled "Insubordination," provides that "Recruits are expected to immediately respond to any lawful instructions, directions, or orders of any superior officer. Recruits will be held accountable for their action, or lack of action, when an instruction is given." (Id. ¶ 15.) Rule 6 of the CPD's Rules and Regulations prohibits "[d]isobedience of an order or directive whether written or oral" and Rule 14 prohibits "making a false report, written or oral." (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Based on these rules, the CPD maintains that it terminated Czarniecki's at-will, probationary employment based on Czarniecki's lack of honesty concerning his test-taking and his failure to follow Tobias' direct order to not discuss the test-taking matter with other recruits. (Id. ¶¶ 61-62.)

Czarniecki, on the other hand, argues that Tobias terminated his employment based on unlawful national origin discrimination, namely, that Czarniecki is of Polish decent. More specifically, Czarniecki testified at his deposition that sometime between February 2 and February 7, 2007--after Tobias had commenced an investigation into the allegations of Czarniecki's academic dishonesty--Tobias asked him a series of questions regarding his educational background, where he was born, where his parent were from, and what language he spoke at home. (Id. ¶¶ 54-55.) After Czarniecki responded that he was born in Poland, that his parents are Polish, and that they spoke Polish at home, Tobias responded, "we don't need people like you." (Id. ¶ 55.) The CPD terminated Czarniecki's employment shortly thereafter on February 9, 2007. (Id ¶ 3.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper when "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). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986). In determining summary judgment motions, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). After "a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party'must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255 (quoting Fed R. Civ. P. 56(e)). At summary judgment, the "court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact." National Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).

ANALYSIS

I. National Origin Claim Against Tobias

A. Intentional Discrimination

Czarniecki brings his national origin discrimination claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, yet does not address the Equal Protection clause regarding his claim against Tobias. See Salas v. Wisconsin Dep't Corr., 493 F.3d 913, 926 (7th Cir. 2007). Nevertheless, employees may establish equal protection violations against their employers by using the direct or indirect method of proof as enunciated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). See Salas, 493 F.3d at 926 ("The only difference is that a Title VII claim is against an employer, while an equal protection claim is against individual employees."); see also Williams v. Seniff, 342 F.3d 774, 788 (7th Cir. 2003). Czarniecki seeks to establish intentional discrimination under the direct method of proof based on circumstantial evidence.

Under the direct method of proving intentional discrimination, a plaintiff is required to set forth "direct or circumstantial evidence that the employer's decision to take the adverse job action was motivated by an impermissible purpose." Tubergen v. St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc., 517 F.3d 470, 473 (7th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). More specifically, "[d]irect evidence is evidence which, if believed by the trier of fact, will prove the particular fact in question without reliance upon inference or presumption" and "[c]ircumstantial evidence of discrimination is evidence which allows the trier of fact to infer intentional discrimination by the decisionmaker." Nichols v. Southern Ill. Univ.--Edwardsville, 510 F.3d 772, 781 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). "[C]ircumstantial evidence ...


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