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Hobbs v. City of Chicago

July 21, 2009


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 06 CV 3795-Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Williams, Circuit Judge


Before BAUER, KANNE, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

Kelly Hobbs, an African-American woman, was passed over for a promotion during her employment with the City of Chicago and claimed race and gender discrimination, retaliation, and the existence of a hostile work environment. We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants because Hobbs failed to show she was similarly or better qualified than the white male who received the promotion and because she cannot show she suffered retaliation or a hostile work environment as a result of her discrimination complaint.


Kelly Hobbs, an African-American woman, began working for the City in 1989 as a Motor Truck Driver in the City's Department of Transportation ("DOT") after attending the University of Illinois at Chicago for four and a half years. Although she no longer worked on truck duty, she retained the title of Motor Truck Driver. In 2000, Hobbs received the responsibilities of Lot Super-visor at the 103rd Street Lot. She served as the only African-American or female Lot Supervisor in the DOT. Many of Hobbs's job duties as Lot Supervisor at the 103rd Street Lot, including preparing time sheets and dealing with Fleet Management, also were duties listed in the Foreman's job description. She appeared to be the daily face of authority, but she was never paid as a foreman. No one ever complained about Hobbs's job performance.

In 1997 and in 2000, Hobbs applied for and interviewed for the Foreman position, but both times a white male received the job. In 2000, Defendant Joseph Senese was chosen over Hobbs as Foreman. Then, in October 2004, Hobbs learned that Defendant Pat Quinn, also a white male, had received a promotion to Acting Foreman three months earlier.

Quinn began working as a Motor Truck Driver in 1986, and he worked as a Lot Supervisor on and off from 2002 to 2004. Quinn described himself as "computer illiterate," while Hobbs claimed to be computer proficient. In 2004, after Senese said he needed help supervising on the street, the DOT's new First Deputy Commissioner Brian Murphy appointed Quinn as Acting Foreman on Senese's recommendation alone. Murphy did not consider Hobbs for the position. Senese and Quinn had known each other for thirteen years since their work together as Motor Truck Drivers. Senese knew Quinn's work ethic and that Quinn had volunteered in the snow program for eight years. Hobbs had only driven a snow plow once. The DOT supervised the City's Streets and Sanitation's program coordinating snow removal.

The City did not post the Acting Foreman position to which Quinn was promoted because an "acting" position is not considered a vacancy and need not be competitively bid. The City's union contract requires the City to post a position after an individual is in the "acting" position for more than 90 days, but the position may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties. The federal monitor in Shakman v. Democratic Organization of Cook County, No. 69 C 2145 (N.D. Ill.), stated in a December 2007 report that the City has repeatedly taken advantage of the "acting" policy by allowing individuals to move up to and stay in higher pay grade positions for longer than 90 days, leading to unchecked politically connected appointments in violation of the Shakman decree, which bans the use of politics in City hiring. In December 2006, the federal monitor removed Quinn from the Acting Foreman position.

In January 2005, Hobbs filed a charge of discrimination against the DOT with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC, alleging the City denied her a promotion to Foreman because of her race and gender. According to Hobbs, word spread about the filed charges. In April 2005, her supervisors reprimanded her for violating a City policy by swiping out early. Hobbs says other white male co-workers were not reprimanded for more serious infractions, such as cursing at Quinn and sleeping during work hours. On April 24, 2005, the same day Hobbs received a notice of her disciplinary hearing, Hobbs confronted Quinn about the swiping out early infraction, and an argument ensued during which Hobbs shouted at Quinn and alleged that he gave her permission to swipe out early to pick up her daughter from school. Quinn later testified in his deposition that no other employee had ever cursed or shouted at him and that the employee that slept on the job was disciplined. Quinn reported Hobbs for insubordination. Hobbs eventually received an oral reprimand for swiping out early, which was later rescinded. She also received a three-day suspension for shouting at Quinn. The deputy commissioner who presided over both of Hobbs's disciplinary hearings did not know about her EEOC charge.

The day Hobbs received her disciplinary notice for swiping out early, she alleges someone vandalized her personal vehicle while it was parked in the secure DOT parking lot. Hobbs claims she saw Quinn and another white male employee standing next to her car twenty minutes before the vandalism occurred. Hobbs complained to Senese about the vandalism and accused Quinn, but Senese allegedly dismissed Hobbs's allegations and did not investigate the complaint. Hobbs re-ported the vandalism to in-house Construction Deputy Commissioner William Cheaks, who told her he would look into it and get the "heat" off of her, but never did.

Hobbs complains she was assigned work duties to humiliate her and that Quinn and other white male co-workers congregated outside her office door, which intimidated her. Hobbs also alleges that her job duties changed when Quinn became Acting Foreman. She had been assigned to drive a truck only once from 1994 to 2002, but after November 2004, she received truck driving responsibilities twenty times. Quinn allegedly told others Hobbs had no authority to give drivers assignments. On Christmas Eve 2005, Hobbs was assigned to transport a truck across the city and then was told she had the wrong truck and had to repeat the trip that day. Quinn and Senese testified that they asked Hobbs to drive only when there was a shortage of Motor Truck Drivers and that driving is part of a Lot Supervisor's duties. On February 8, 2006, Senese told Hobbs her commercial driver's license was invalid, and as a result, she lost a day of pay. But when she went to the Secretary of State to clear up the matter, she was told the state had never sent the City anything about her license and that it remained valid. During discovery, the City presented a Driver's License Verification Action Status Report dated February 6, 2006, with Hobbs's name on it.

On July 13, 2006, Hobbs filed the instant lawsuit alleging race and gender discrimination and retaliation claims in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against all defendants; race and gender discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII against the City; a hostile work environment claim against the City; and equal protection claims against all defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss the section 1981 race and retaliation claims and the section 1983 claim against the City. The remaining claims were Title VII race and gender discrimination and retaliation claims against the city, section 1981 race discrimination and retaliation claims and section 1983 equal ...

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