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Brown-Marshall v. Dart

July 1, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar


Plaintiff Fontella Brown-Marshall, an African-American female employed as a correctional officer by the Cook County Sheriff's Office, claims that the office discriminated against her based on her race and sex when it transferred her out of the internal affairs unit, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Defendant Thomas Dart, the Sheriff of Cook County, has now filed a motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

I. FACTS*fn1

Fontella Brown-Marshall, an African-American woman, has been employed by the Office of the Sheriff of Cook County since April 1998. (DF ¶¶1,4.) Plaintiff began her employ as a correctional officer, but in 2006 she transferred to the internal affairs division, where her job title changed to "Investigator II" and she received a pay raise. (DF ¶¶4,5; PF ¶9.) In seeking the transfer in March of that year, Plaintiff had discussed the position with Timothy Kaufman, who was chief of internal affairs.*fn2 Kaufman requested her résumé and said that he would consider her application. (DF ¶6.) Plaintiff then interviewed with Kaufman for the position, and Kaufman told her that he would let her know his decision. (DF ¶7.)

The Internal Affairs Unit

Plaintiff does not know who was responsible for approving her transfer to the internal affairs unit, but Miriam Rentas, who became the deputy chief of internal affairs soon after Plaintiff's arrival, notified her of the decision. (DF ¶¶8,9,15.) (Before Rentas became deputy chief, Ronnie Gaines held that title. (DF ¶15.)) That same day, Plaintiff met with both Kaufman and Rentas. (DF ¶¶9, 10.) They explained to her their expectations and what the investigator job entailed. (DF ¶10.) Kevin Callanan, a seasoned investigator, initially was assigned as Plaintiff's field training officer for the purpose of teaching her the investigation format. (DF ¶11.) Plaintiff also attended classes related to the investigation process. (DF ¶12.)

There were approximately 17 investigators in the unit when Plaintiff arrived, including Rentas, Gaines, Callanan, Stan Augustyniak, Gregory Ernst, Robert Miller, Thomas Rosati, a man named Watson (whose first name Plaintiff cannot recall), Frank Poldosky, Georgia Garcia, Mike Desena, Angelique Westmoreland, and Paul Kimbrough. (DF ¶13.) All of the investigators held the job title of Investigator II, which carried the same official job description: investigating employee misconduct allegations, including allegations of abuse, stolen property, and other misconduct at the jail. (DF ¶¶14,16.)

Plaintiff's Caseload

When Plaintiff arrived, Rentas assigned her cases. (DF ¶17.) Plaintiff began with a very light caseload, until she was capable of handling more. (DF ¶18.) After her third or fourth month in the unit, Plaintiff was assigned more excessive-abuse cases, which involved lawsuits (these will be referred to as "lawsuit cases"). (DF ¶19.) Plaintiff was not the only investigator handling this type of case. (DF ¶19.) Plaintiff testified that, typically, she had twelve to fifteen cases on her caseload. (DF ¶36.)

The investigators did not all work on the same kinds of cases. (DF ¶14.) For example, Westmoreland, an African-American woman, investigated only jail cases involving inmates, such as battery cases, which Plaintiff considered less involved than lawsuit cases. (DF ¶20.) Plaintiff does not know why Westmoreland did not handle lawsuit cases. (DF ¶20.) Plaintiff also considered the caseload assigned to Garcia, an African-American woman, to be lighter than her own. (DF ¶¶30,34.) And Plaintiff thought that Watson, an African-American man, had a moderate caseload, carrying seven to nine cases, which Plaintiff considered average for the unit. (DF ¶¶31,35.)


The internal affairs unit had both analog and digital phones. When Plaintiff arrived, she was assigned an analog phone, which, unlike the digital phones, did not have caller ID.

According to the Plaintiff, Garcia, who is African-American, also had an analog phone. (PF ¶11.) Everyone else, however-including Kimbrough and Watson, who are African-American-had digital phones. Plaintiff testified, however, that the four white employees who joined the office after her were given digital phones, and only Eddie Wallace, an African-American employee who joined after Plaintiff, was given an analog phone. (DF ¶32; PF ¶11.) Plaintiff testified that the caller ID feature on the digital phones was useful for investigations. She says she requested a digital phone from a phone ...

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