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Brown v. Illinois Department of Natural Resources

February 9, 2009

JERRY BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Jerry Brown ("Brown") has brought a pro se action against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources ("Department"), charging Department with two violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII," 42 U.S.C. §§2000e to 2000e-17):

(1) employment discrimination on the basis of race and national origin and (2) retaliation. Both charges are premised on Department's failure to promote Brown and to grant him what he would consider adequate salary increases.

Department has now brought a motion for summary judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P.("Rule") 56, and the motion has been fully briefed. For the reasons stated here, that motion is granted.

Summary Judgment Standard

Every Rule 56 movant bears the burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact (Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). For that purpose courts consider evidentiary records in the light most favorable to nonmovants and draw all reasonable inferences in their favor (Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002)). But to avoid summary judgment a non-movant "must produce more than a scintilla of evidence to support his position" that a genuine issue of material fact exists (Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001)) and "must set forth specific facts that demonstrate a genuine issue of triable fact" (id.). Ultimately summary judgment is warranted only if a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-movant (Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

What follows is a summary of the facts viewed on the terms stated in the preceding paragraph. That pro-Brown perspective may of course be impacted by the extent of his compliance (or noncompliance) with the strictures of this District Court's LR 56.1.*fn1

Background

Department is a state agency that manages, protects and sustains the natural and cultural resources of Illinois, provides resource-compatible recreational opportunities and promotes natural resource related public safety, education and science (D. St. ¶8). Office of Scientific Research and Analysis, a division within Department, comprised four surveys (D. St. ¶9), one of which was Waste Management and Research Center ("Center")*fn2 (id.). Those surveys were governed by an eight-member Board of Natural Resources and Conservation ("Board"), chaired by Department's Director, George Vander Velde (id. and D. St. ¶6), who made salary recommendations to the Board for its approval (D. St. ¶28).

Brown was hired by Center in 1994 as a Manufacturing Process Engineer with the payroll title of Assistant Professional Scientist (D. St. ¶5). On January 14, 2003 then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich issued this executive order instituting an immediate hiring and promotion freeze for state employment ("Governor's freeze")(D. Ex. D1):

I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, order that no agency, department, bureau, board or commission subject to the control or direction of the Governor shall hire any employee or officer, fill any vacancy, create any new action which result in the increase or the maintenance of present levels in State employment or compensation (including benefits) payable in connection with State employment, including personal service contracts. All hiring and promotion are frozen. There will be no exceptions to this Executive Order without the express written permission of my office after submission of appropriate requests to my office.

During the Governor's freeze of State-funded hiring and promotions, Center was permitted to hire five contract-funded employees using external grants and contract funds (D. St. ¶19). Such funds are administered through the University of Illinois ("University"), and the Board authorizes the University to accept grant and contract funds in support of Center's work (D. St. ¶20). Because contract-funded positions do not use budgeted State funds, they do not require State approval (D. St. ¶21).

Because of a large number of staff resignations (reportedly due to the lack of salary increases in 2003 and 2004) and the need to retain existing staff, the Board approved a 3% salary increase for all Center employees in September 2005 (D. St. ¶¶34, 35, 39). Then after the Governor's freeze was lifted, in December 2005 Center also granted 5% salary increases to seven employees (including Brown) who had become eligible for them (D. St. ¶40). At that time Brown was promoted to the Associate Professional Scientist payroll level (D. St. ¶¶32, 48). No Center employee received a promotion increase during the period that the Governor's freeze was in effect (D. St. ¶51).

In 2002 Brown brought an action under Title VII against Department in this District Court (Case No. 02 C 398), charging that he was (1) discriminated against based on his race (Brown is African American) and (2) retaliated against for complaining about the discrimination. Brown contended that Department had failed to promote him to the position of Associate Professional Scientist despite his eligibility under time-in requirements during years beginning in 1998 and continuing thereafter (ultimately through 2003). Brown also asserted that after he had complained about his being denied a promotion and had filed two charges with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, ...


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