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Jones v. City of Chicago

December 4, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: George W. Lindberg Senior U.S. District Judge

Hon. George W. Lindberg


Before the Court is defendants City of Chicago ("City"), Vance Henry ("Henry") and Beth Ford's ("Ford") (collectively "defendants") joint motion for summary judgment. On February 8, 2008, plaintiff Lorell Jones ("Jones" or "plaintiff") filed a five-count Second Amended Complaint ("complaint"). In the complaint, Jones alleges a Title VII gender discrimination claim (Count I), hostile work environment claim (Count II) and a claim for a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") (Count V), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., against the City. Jones alleges a claim for race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count III) against Henry and Ford and a claim for gender discrimination and harassment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV) against Henry. Defendants move for summary judgment in their favor and against plaintiff as to the complaint in its entirety.

In her response to defendants' motion for summary judgment, Jones concedes that there is insufficient evidence to support her claim for a violation of § 1981. Therefore, judgment is entered in favor of defendants Henry and Ford as to Count III of the complaint. Now, the Court turns to the remaining four claims.*fn1

I. Relevant Facts

The following facts are undisputed unless specifically noted below. Jones is an African-American female who was employed by the City as a Community Organizer in the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy Implementation Office ("CAPS" or "CAPS Implementation Office") from October 9, 2001 until her discharge on June 28, 2006. The City discharged Jones for job abandonment because she did not report to work on June 20, 2006 through June 24, 2006. CAPS is a subdivision of the Chicago Police Department. While a CAPS Community Organizer, Jones was a member of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Counsel 31 Union ("AFSCME"). The collective bargaining agreement between AFSCME and the City governed the terms and conditions of Jones' employment.

For all times relevant to this case, Henry, an African-American male, was the Director of the CAPS Implementation Office and Ford, a Caucasian female, was the Deputy Director of the CAPS Implementation Office. Henry was the decision maker with regard to the termination of Jones' employment with the City. On July 25, 2006, Jones filed a charge of gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). She received a right to sue letter on May 17, 2007 and thereafter filed a timely complaint in this case.

On or about May 9, 2006, Jones booked a trip to Jamaica. Plaintiff left for her trip on June 18, 2006 and returned on June 25, 2006. According to Jones, the purpose of the trip was for a "detox and get away." On May 17, 2006, at a CAPS Implementation Office staff meeting, an announcement was made that no requests for vacation would be approved until after June 24, 2006 because of the office's upcoming Spring Neighborhood Assembly on June 24, 2006. Mayor Richard Daley was scheduled to and did attend the Assembly and all CAPS Community Organizers -- including Jones -- were expected to attend.

The next day, May 18, 2006, Jones submitted an "Overtime/Compensatory Time Report" form to John Reynolds, her direct supervisor. Jones requested two days of compensatory time off and one vacation day so that she could take the trip to Jamaica. Jones' request for compensatory time off and vacation time was not approved because of the upcoming Spring Neighborhood Assembly. A couple weeks later, on June 7, 2006, plaintiff went to see Dr. Zack Zoldan. At the appointment, plaintiff complained of neck pain and Dr. Zoldan performed a physical examination.

Jones received a note dated June 8, 2006 and entitled, "Health Status Certificate", from Dr. Zoldan's office. Dr. Zoldan did not fill in the note, he merely stamped his signature on it. The note stated, "Miss Jones, Lorell has been/is under my care from 6/19/06 to 7/5/06 and is/is not able to return to school/work 7/6/06." Next to the word "Restrictions" on the note, the box next to "None" is checked. Next to the word "Diagnosis" it says "Neck Pain." Prior to June 7, 2008, Jones' last appointment with Dr. Zoldan was August 24, 2005. After June 7, 2008, Jones did not return to Dr. Zoldan for a follow-up appointment, or a subsequent visit. Dr. Zoldan did not prescribe the trip to Jamaica, or any of the activities that Jones participated in during her trip. In fact, Dr. Zoldan would "not necessarily" have given Jones the note if he had known about her trip because "it would have seemed strange."

According to Jones, on June 10, 2006, she went into Reynold's office when he was not there and placed the note from Dr. Zoldan on Reynold's desk in a stacked file system. Reynolds did not read the note in Jones' presence, but Jones told him what the note said. Jones also told Reynolds that she would return to work on June 28, 2006 even though the note stated that she would be off work until July 6, 2006. After receiving the note from Dr. Zoldan on June 8, 2006, Jones continued to work until June 17, 2008 and physically felt the same on June 8, 2006 as she did on June 18, 2006. Jones did not seek any medical treatment while in Jamaica. However, she did take a four-hour water rafting trip and walked extensively. When Jones left for her trip to Jamaica she believed the City had approved the time off for her trip as medical leave.

II. Legal Analysis

A. Summary Judgment Standard

To succeed on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any admissible affidavits do not create a genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, ...

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