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Brown v. Illinois Dep't of Natural Resources

May 15, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge


Pro se plaintiff Jerry Brown ("Brown"), and employee of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources ("IDNR"), alleges that the IDNR violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.,("Title VII"), when IDNR employees did not consider Brown for promotion to the position of Oak Brook Office Supervisor due to his race (Black) and national origin (African-American), and in retaliation for Brown's earlier grievances and lawsuits filed against IDNR.

Now pending before the court are IDNR's "Motion for Summary Judgment" [25] and IDNR's "Motion to Strike in Part Plaintiff's Response to Defendants Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Uncontested Facts and Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Facts" [38]. For the reasons set forth below, IDNR's motion to strike is granted in part and denied in part and IDNR's motion for summary judgment is granted.


Brown has been employed by IDNR's Waste Management and Research Center ("WMRC") since 1994 as a Manufacturing Process Engineer (now called a Technology Evaluation Specialist), where he is assigned to the Pollution Prevention ("P2") Group.*fn2 As a Technology Evaluation Specialist, Brown's duties include coordinating and managing long-term manufacturing evaluation projects that assist clients in developing and implementing new pollution prevention practices and technologies in industrial settings, conducting on-site assessments, writing proposals to solicit external funding, writing technical reports, developing and publishing pollution prevention materials, giving presentations, developing pollution prevention plans, and engaging in research activities. Brown works out of the Oak Brook, Illinois, office of the WMRC.

Timothy Lindsey, Ph.D. ("Dr. Lindsey") has served as the Manager of the P2 Group since April 1994. Dr. Lindsey works out of the Champaign, Illinois, office of the WMRC. At the Oak Brook office, Brown's direct supervisor was Ray Ronda ("Ronda") from 2001 through 2005. Ronda left the WMRC in the summer of 2005 for medical reasons. At that time, Dr. Lindsey agreed to provide supervision to the Oak Brook staff by driving to the Oak Brook office to meet with staff and provide direction when they needed it-typically once per week. In this capacity, Dr. Lindsey acted as Brown's direct supervisor beginning in the summer of 2005.

In the early spring of 2006, the WMRC decided to permanently house a supervisor in the Oak Brook office. In advance of this transition, Dr. Lindsey and another supervisor in the P2 Group (Dr. Kishore Rajogopalan) developed a position description for the new Oak Brook Office Supervisor.*fn3 Dr. Lindsey reviewed the position description with Katherine Day ("Day") (the Manager of the Human Resource and Finance Unit at the WMRC), and the position description was approved by George Vander Velde, Ph.D. ("Dr. Vander Velde") (the Director of the WMRC). The position description contained responsibilities similar to those performed by Ronda, with additional emphasis placed on generating outside funding and networking.

On March 1, 2006, Dr. Lindsey announced at a staff meeting in the Oak Brook office that there was an opening for the position of Oak Brook Office Supervisor, and he invited the professional staff in the Oak Brook office to submit applications for this position. Although Brown was not in attendance at the March 1, 2006 meeting, Dr. Lindsey sent an e-mail to Brown on that same day telling Brown about the position and listing the four criteria that Brown would need to address in his application, should Brown decide to apply for the position. The four criteria were the same criteria Dr. Lindsey had given to the rest of the Oak Brook staff.

The managers responsible for hiring the Oak Brook Office Supervisor were Dr. Lindsey, Day, and Dr. Vander Velde (collectively "the selection committee"). Although the philosophy of the P2 Group is that all of its engineers typically should write grant proposals and generate revenue, both Dr. Lindsey and Day attested that "the person holding the Oak Brook Office Supervisor position needed excellent networking skills," in large part because economic times dictated an emphasis on writing grant proposals and generating funding. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 26; Lindsey Aff. ¶ 12; Day Aff. ¶ 14.)*fn4 Dr. Lindsey and Day also stated that the selection committee envisioned the ideal candidate as having experience and skills, along with their technical assistance expertise, "in the areas of technical writing, leadership, personal relations, networking, proposal writing, project and grant management, and an understanding of the importance of administrative tasks and a realistic vision and plan for moving the Oak Brook Office forward into the future." (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 38; Lindsey Aff. ¶ 19; Day Aff. ¶ 19.) In their shared opinion, "[t]he ideal candidate also would have an understanding of how important it was to anticipate critical issues and to be able to deal with a broad range of organizations and manufacturing processes." (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 39; Lindsey Aff. ¶ 20; Day Aff. ¶ 20.) Dr. Lindsey and Day also agreed that "[i]t was essential that the person selected also have excellent interpersonal and verbal communication skills because he or she would serve as an ambassador for WMRC." (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 40; Lindsey Aff. ¶ 20; Day Aff. ¶ 20.)

The selection committee received three applications for the position. These applications were from Debra Jacobson ("Jacobson"), Riyaz Shipchandler ("Shipchandler"), and Brown. After conducting interviews and reviewing again the candidates' written submissions, the selection committee filled out a Candidate Evaluation Form for each candidate and used the numeric scores from this evaluation to rank the three candidates. The selection committee chose Jacobson-who is White and Caucasian-for the Oak Brook Office Supervisor position.

Dr. Lindsey attested that "Jacobson's submitted vision plan was deemed superior to the other two candidates['], both in terms of quality of presentation and substance." (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 60; Lindsey Aff. ¶ 23.)*fn5 Dr. Lindsey further attested that "Jacobson had a proven track record-one of the best at WMRC-with proposal submission and securing grants, as well as excellent project management skills," and Dr. Vander Velde attested that Jacobson had demonstrated "sales, marketing and networking skills," as well as an ability to obtain significant external funding. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 61; Lindsey Aff. ¶ 23; Vander Velde Aff. ¶ 13.) Dr. Vander Velde further attested that Jacobson "demonstrated the ability to work with [WMRC] clients in a range of activities," and Dr. Lindsey noted that Jacobson "was well thought of by her peers, both internally and nationally," and had "an excellent record of fulfilling her administrative duties, accurately and on time." (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 62; Vander Velde Aff. ¶ 13; Lindsey Aff. ¶ 23.)

According to Dr. Vander Velde, the selection committee did not select Brown "because he was not nearly as strong in demonstrating proven marketing and sales skills, in his ability to obtain significant external funding on his own, and in previous personnel management." (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 63; Vander Velde Aff. ¶ 14.)*fn6 Dr. Vander Velde also attested that the selection committee did not select Shipchandler because, "though [he] demonstrated strong sales and marketing skills, strong professional skills[,] aggressive ability in work performance and good people skills, he lacked experience in most areas, particularly personnel management." (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 65; Vander Velde Aff. ¶ 14.)

The decision to hire Jacobson for the Oak Brook Office Supervisor position was announced to other WMRC staff on April 10, 2006. Brown filed an EEOC charge on January 30, 2007, alleging that IDNR discriminated against Brown on account of his race and in retaliation for his previously-filed EEOC charges and lawsuits*fn7 when it failed to promote him to ...

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