The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge
Pending before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
The Plaintiffs were all employed by the Illinois Department of Transportation ("IDOT") as part of the Department's 2003-2004 winter program. Since at least the 1980's, IDOT has maintained a program of hiring people on a temporary basis during the winter months. There are primarily two positions for this program. One position is called "snowbird," sometimes referred to as "hourly." These individuals are called out on an as-needed basis to plow snow. They are paid by the hour. The other position is called "full-time temporary," sometimes referred to as "salaried" position. Those employees work full-time during the winter season. Both the snowbirds and full-time temporary employees were hired to begin work sometime around October or November and continued to work until about March or April of the following year. If, for example, a winter helper worked from November of 2001 through April of 2002, then that would be considered the 2001-02 season.
The Plaintiffs each worked in the program prior to the election of Governor Rod Blagojevich. During the 2003-04 program, the Plaintiffs worked as full-time temporary employees, which means that they worked five days per week for approximately six months a year.
In this lawsuit, the Plaintiffs alleged that they were not offered the full-time temporary employment in 2004-05 because of their political affiliations, in violation of their First Amendment rights. The Defendants claim that they are entitled to summary judgment for the following reasons:
(1) they were not personally involved in the alleged constitutional deprivation; (2) the Plaintiffs' political affiliations were not a motivating factor in their not being hired into the full-time temporary positions for the 2004-05 winter program, as the Defendants were not aware of the Plaintiffs' political affiliations; and (3) Plaintiffs cannot show that the proffered reason for their not being hired was pretextual.
Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, was inaugurated as Governor of the State of Illinois in January of 2003. Timothy Martin, one of the Defendants, became Secretary of IDOT in the same month. Defendant Brian Piersma, as Section Manager in the Bureau of Personnel Management, was not in any manner involved in the Winter Program for the 2003-04, 2004-05 or 2005-06 seasons. Robert Millette, a Defendant, began with the Department's Division of Finance and Administration in February of 2003.
At the time Martin and Millette began with IDOT, the 2002-03 Winter Program was already underway with all hiring decisions having been made in 2002.
The 2003-04 Winter Program was the first under Martin and Millette. The Defendants allege that Martin and Millette decided to make a change to the winter program application for full-time temporary and hourly positions, with the hope of casting a wide net to get the largest, most qualified applicant pool. The Plaintiffs dispute that the change was made for that reason. The hiring process for the 2003-04 Winter Program was based out of the Department's central office in Springfield, rather than in the individual districts. Applicants completed the updated application/questionnaire and forwarded it, along with letters of recommendation, to Springfield to be scored. Under this process, each of the Plaintiffs was hired as a full-time temporary employee for the 2003-04 Winter Program.
Plaintiff Marvin Weiss, a Republican, has worked and sought employment in Rock Island County. Weiss began working for IDOT as a snowbird in the fall of 1987. He became a full-time temporary employee in the 1991-92 season and held that position through the 2003-04 season. Weiss applied for a such a position for the 2004-05 season but was not hired.
Plaintiffs James Bragg, Doug Downs, Gary Duitsman, Tim Duitsman, Barry Eakle, Doug Seimer, Steve Knoll, and Randy Johnson sought employment in various counties in District 5. Gary Duitsman is not affiliated with a political party. Tim Duitsman is an independent. Bragg, Downs, Eakle, Johnson, Knoll, and Seimer are Republicans. Plaintiff Philip Travelstead worked and sought work in Johnson County in District 9. Travelstead is not a member of a political party.
Bragg began working for the IDOT winter program in 1992. He began as a snowbird and became a full-time temporary employee during the 1999-00 season. Each year, he was able to get the job by simply filling out an application. The first time Bragg interviewed was for the 2004-05 season. He was interviewed by Josh Hartke, the Administrative Manager for IDOT's District 5 from July 2003 through September 2006. Hartke is a member of the Democratic party. Bragg was not hired that season. Bragg was hired again as a full-time, temporary employee for the 2006-07 season. That year, the number of such positions went from three to ten.
Downs was a snowbird from 1991 through 1998 and was hired as a full-time temporary employee in the fall of 1998. He worked in that capacity until the conclusion of the 2003-04 season. Downs primarily worked out of the Phaethon storage facility in Vermillion County. The first time that he had to interview for the position was the 2004-05 season. The interview was conducted by Hartke over the phone. Downs was not hired as a full-time temporary employee that year, even though there were more positions available than in the previous year when he was hired.
Gary Duitsman started working the IDOT winter program in November of 1992. He started out as a snowbird and worked each winter in that position until November of 1998 when he became a full-time temporary employee. He worked out of the Leverett facility in Champaign County. Gary Duitsman was interviewed by Hartke for a position during the 2004-05 season but was not hired. This was the first time he was ever interviewed for the position. For the 2004-05 season, there were only two full-time, temporary employees. In prior years, there had been three. Gary Duitsman applied for a position for the 2005-06 season but was not hired. He was rehired for the 2006-07 season. That year, there were eight full-time temporary employees hired to work out of the Leverett facility.
Tim Duitsman was hired as a snowbird in 1993. He became a full-time temporary employee in about 1996 and worked out of the Champaign facility. There were three full-time temporary employees at Champaign for the years 2003-04 and 2004-05. He did not get one of the positions for the 2004-05 season, which was the first season for which he was interviewed. ...