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Cook v. Illinois Department of Corrections

August 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge


I. Introduction

Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 26). Obviously, Plaintiff opposes the motion (Doc. 28). Based on the pleadings, the applicable law and the following, the Court denies the motion.

On February 20, 2009, Betty D. Cook filed suit against her former employer, the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), for age discrimination in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") (Count I) and in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101, et seq., (Count II). Cook alleges that she was forced to retire on June 1, 2008 because of her age. Specifically, Cook alleges that because of her age Defendant refused to promote her to the position of Correctional Counselor III; made her perform Correctional Counselor III duties at the Correctional Counselor II pay level; verbally harassed her; suggested that she retire; disciplined her for things that younger employees were not disciplined for; told others that they wanted her to retire; harassed her daily so that she would retire; and would not allow her to take a paid medical leave of absence. On August 20, 2009, the Court dismissed with prejudice Count II of Cook's complaint (Doc. 17).

On March 26, 2010, IDOC filed its motion for summary judgment (Docs. 26 & 27). Cook filed her response on April 29, 2010 (Doc. 28).

II. Facts*fn1

Cook was born on August 25, 1957. She started working for the IDOC at the Pontiac Correctional Center on December 4, 1976. In 1994, Cook transferred to the Centralia Correctional Center ("Centralia"). Cook became a Correctional Counselor I in February 2004 at the age of 47.*fn2 Assistant Warden of Programs, Allan Wisely, was Cook's supervisor at that time. The counseling department provided counseling to the prisoners at Centralia. The Counselors had to see 400 or more inmates every 90 days. In 2004, there was one other Counselor I, six Counselor IIs -Sena Landreth, Pamela Alemond, Cindy Keck, Anthony Ballantini, Terri Loepker, and Gina Feazel - and one Counselor III - Alan Sanner.*fn3

In January 2005, Bradley Robert became the Warden at Centralia.

Under Warden Robert were two assistant wardens: Assistant Warden of Programs, Ann Casey and Assistant Warden of Operations, Julius Flagg. Also under Warden Robert were the business administrator, Mark Beckmann and the administrative assistant, Michelle Taphorn. Taphorn's primary job was to assist Warden Robert and Beckmann's primary job was procurement and payroll supervisor.

In January 2005, Casey became Cook's supervisor. Cook was promoted to Correctional Counselor II in February 2005. At this time, there were seven Counselor IIs and one Counselor III.

In March 2006, Sanner, Ballantini and Loepker left their positions as Counselors with Centralia. Thereafter, the counseling department consisted of three Counselor IIs -Cook, Landreth and Feazel. Cook was 49; Landreth was 51 and Feazel was 40. Cook had the most seniority, 30 years and Feazel had the least seniority, 7 years. The work was divided among the remaining three Counselor IIs. Cook was given Sanner's responsibilities with the exception of the supervisory tasks. She was not compensated for the additional duties. As of this time, the Counselor III position has not been filled.

In December 2006, Cook became eligible for retirement. She received her thirty year pin. Also, in December 2006, Bart Toennies transferred to the counseling Department as a Counselor II at Centralia. Toennies was born in 1971 and had a seniority date of 1994. Shortly thereafter, Deb Brink was promoted to a Counselor I at Centralia. From January 2007 to July 2007, there were four Counselor IIs and one Counselor I.

As to discipline of the counselors during this time, the following procedure was in place. Casey would do a referral to the employment review board hearing officer who was either Beckmann or Taphorn. Thereafter, the hearing officer would hold a hearing and make a recommendation. Warden Robert would review the recommendation and either accept or reject the recommendation.

Cook's first employee evaluation as a counselor for the period of February 1, 2004 to April 1, 2004 stated that Cook needed to improve in seven out of eight categories. For the periods of February 1, 2005 to April 1, 2005 and April 1, 2005 to June 1, 2005, Cook's job evaluations, prepared by Casey, stated that Cook met or exceeded all expectations.

In February 2006, Casey issued Cook a written discipline for abandoning her post. Cook was given a one-day suspension. This incident was later expunged.

On March 19, 2007, Cook made an entry in the Case History And Management Program ("C.H.A.M.P.") system for inmate Cobb. Casey did not approve of Cook's entry regarding the inmate. Casey immediately orally reprimanded Cook and told her not to do this again. Thereafter, Casey gave Cook a written reprimand for that C.H.A.M.P.'s entry. Cook filed a grievance claiming that this was double jeopardy as she was being discipline twice for the same incident. The incident was reduced to counseling pursuant to a grievance resolution.

On March 22, 2007, Cook filed a union grievance because she had been doing the majority of the Counselor III job for one year and she received pay for only Counselor II work.

In April 2007, Cook failed to log contacts for more than 60 inmates on her caseload. On May 3, 2007, Casey issued Cook a written discipline for failure to see the inmates in her caseload within the ninety day requirement. A hearing regarding this incident was held on May 10, 2007. Cook received a one day suspension for this incident. Cook filed a grievance regarding this incident and it was reduced to an oral reprimand.

On April 24, 2007, Cook approved a visitor list for inmate Williams which included a victim. Thereafter, Casey issued written discipline for this. An employee hearing was held. At the hearing, Cook provided evidence that there was nothing in the inmates' file to indicate that the visitor was a victim. However, Cook was found guilty. On June 15, 2007, Cook received a three day suspension as discipline for this incident. Her suspension was served June 25, 26, and 27, 2007.

On May 17, 2007, Casey informed Cook that she would no longer be assigned to doing duties ...

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