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Ann Heneghan v. City of Chicago

December 8, 2010

ANN HENEGHAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, AND DONALD WOJCIK,
IN HIS PERSONAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On February 5, 2009, Plaintiff Ann Heneghan filed the current four count complaint against Defendants City of Chicago and Donald Wojcik alleging (Count 1) gender discrimination and sexual harassment in violation of Title VII by the City of Chicago; (Count 2) retaliation in violation of Title VII by the City of Chicago; (Count 3) unequal treatment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by all Defendants; and (Count 4) retaliation in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by all Defendants.

Defendant City of Chicago moves for Summary Judgment on all counts and Defendant Wojcik joins the motion. Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiff Ann Heneghan (hereinafter, "Plaintiff" or "Heneghan") was employed with Defendant City of Chicago (the "City") as an Aviation Security Officer in the City's Department of Aviation from May 11, 1998 to May 21, 2007. Defendant Donald Wojcik ("Wojcik") has worked in the Department of Aviation since October 1, 1991, and holds the title of Aviation Security Sergeant. As a Sergeant, Wojcik shared in the rotating duty of scheduling officers and assigning positions for a shift with the other sergeants, and supervised officers by visiting their posts and ensuring they were performing their duties.

Heneghan crossed paths with Wojcik since both worked at O'Hare International Airport, although the parties dispute the frequency with which the two interacted. From 1998-2001, Heneghan worked the third watch (1:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.) and Wojcik worked on the second watch (5:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.). However, Heneghan would occasionally work overtime shifts on the second watch. In January of 2002, Heneghan moved to the second watch where she stayed until the end of her employment with the City. For one to two years of her time on second shift, Heneghan worked an office job with Lieutenant Johnson ("Johnson") where she was rarely exposed to Wojcik.

On those situations in which the two interacted, Heneghan alleges a number of instances of inappropriate conduct by Wojcik. Heneghan alleges that Wojcik made disparaging remarks about women in general, including using the term "bitch" or "cunt," talking about single mothers "shitting out babies," complaining that his pregnant niece would not marry the father of the child, and discussing his preference between real and fake breasts. Heneghan alleges that Wojcik made remarks about female co-workers, such as telling Heneghan that a female officer using a breast pump was "milking herself," suggesting that female officers had babies to take advantage of the maternity policy, assigning Officer Calderon a special post because it was her time of the month and he did not want her to "bleed out everywhere," and discussing Calderon's body. Heneghan also alleges that Wojcik made inappropriate remarks directly to her or about her, such as referring to her as a "house cat" or "[Lt.] Johnson's girl," telling her when she was pregnant that she "should get an extra stitch" in her vagina to provide her husband with more enjoyment, and calling her "Officer No Butt."

On July 14, 2006, Heneghan filed a formal written complaint with the Department of Aviation, which referred the complaint to the City's Sexual Harassment Office (the "SHO"). Heneghan went to downtown Chicago for an intake interview with the SHO on July 21, 2005. Before she left work for this interview, Heneghan alleges that Wojcik asked why she was going downtown that day and followed her around work in a way that made Heneghan uncomfortable.

On October 28, 2006, Heneghan's mother, who was also an Aviation Security Officer, told Heneghan that Wojcik had asked if Heneghan "dropped a dime on him," which meant filed a complaint about him. Heneghan's mother did not answer the question, and Wojcik became angry and allegedly said he was putting Heneghan "in his book," which Heneghan took as a threat to her safety.

After this date, Heneghan used sick time and vacation time so that she would not have to return to work with Wojcik. Heneghan requested a job placement which guaranteed no contact with Wojcik. The City was unable to transfer Wojcik to Midway Airport because Wojcik could not commute to Midway for medical reasons. Instead, when Heneghan ran out of sick time and vacation time, the City transferred Wojcik to the first watch so Heneghan could work the second watch without encountering Wojcik. The City also offered Heneghan a transfer to the third watch to avoid or lessen contact with Wojcik. Heneghan requested a leave of absence based on a "Hostile Work Place," which was rejected, and the City informed Heneghan that she must return to work or be discharged. Heneghan did not return to work and Commissioner of Aviation Nuria Fernandez discharged Heneghan because she was absent from work without leave.

B. Procedure

On November 20, 2006, Heneghan filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") alleging discrimination based on sex and retaliation after reporting discrimination. On May 29, 2007, Heneghan filed a second charge with the EEOC, again alleging discrimination based on sex and retaliation after reporting discrimination. The Department of Justice issued Notices of Right to Sue for these two charges on January 22 and 29, 2009, respectively. Heneghan filed a four-count Complaint against the City, Wojcik, and Fernandez on February 5, 2009. On May 28, 2009, this Court dismissed Defendant Fernandez from the case then dismissed the claims for punitive damages against the City and the claims against Wojcik in his official capacity. This left Heneghan's compensatory claims against the City and her claims against Wojcik in his personal capacity, which are the subject of the present motion for summary judgment.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted when the admissible evidence shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c).

A genuine issue of material fact exists only if there is sufficient evidence, viewing all the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-movant, for a jury to return a verdict for that party. Schuster v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2003). Courts "apply the summary judgment standard with special scrutiny to employment discrimination cases, which often turn on issues of intent and credibility." Krchnavy v. Limagrain Genetics Corp., 294 F.3d 871, 875 (7th Cir. 2002).

III. ANALYSIS

Defendants seek summary judgment on all four counts, which will be considered in turn.

A. Title VII Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment

In Count 1, Plaintiff alleges that the City subjected her to gender discrimination and a sexually hostile work environment. For this count, the Court must first determine the period of time at issue and then the discrimination claims at issue. After these two inquiries, the Court will address the merits of the Title VII claim.

1. Limitations Period

The first issue that must be decided is what time period Plaintiff can reference while making her case. The City argues that conduct occurring more than 300 days before Plaintiff filed her first EEOC is time barred for Title VII claims. Both parties have stated that the limitations period in this case is 300 days. See Turner v. The Saloon, Ltd., 595 F.3d 679, 684 n.5 (7th Cir. 2010). "In Illinois, an individual must initiate his hostile environment claim by filing an EEOC charge within 300 days of the alleged harassment." Shanoff v. Ill. Dep't of Human Servs., 258 F.3d 696, 701 (7th Cir. 2001); 42 U.S.C. ยง ...


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