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James Foster v. Carol Adams

January 27, 2011

JAMES FOSTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROL ADAMS, ROBERT KILBURY, TEYONDA WERTZ, KAREN SQUIRES, TOMMY BRYDEN, JAMES NEPOSCHLAN, AND JASON HENDERSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge:

E-FILED

Thursday, 27 January, 2011 04:37:21 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

Pending before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. INTRODUCTION

This is an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, wherein Plaintiff James Foster alleges that he was retaliated against by the Defendants because he engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment. From mid-2002 through mid-2003, Foster engaged in investigations of health and safety complaints by employees at buildings utilized by the State of Illinois and its agencies. Foster claims that the Defendants retaliated by suspending him and eventually discharging him because of his complaints and statements regarding building conditions in 2002 and 2003.

The Defendants assert that there are a number of legal deficiencies in Foster's claims and that there is simply insufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that he was terminated because of his speech. Foster contends that there are at least questions of fact which preclude the entry of summary judgment in favor of the Defendants.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Foster was previously employed as an Office Associate with the Illinois Department of Human Services ("DHS"). He was a member of AFSCME by virtue of being employed by the State of Illinois. Foster was formerly a member of the executive board of AFSCME as the health and safety chairperson during 2002 and part of 2003.

According to the complaint, Defendant Carol Adams is employed by DHS as its Secretary. Defendant Robert Kilbury was employed by DHS as its Director of Rehabilitation Services. Defendant Teyonda Wertz was employed by DHS as its Chief of Staff. Defendant Karen Squires is employed by DHS as the manager of its Personnel Bureau. Defendant Tommy Bryden and James Neposchlan were also employed by DHS at all relevant times. Defendant Jason Henderson was employed by the State of Illinois Department of State Police.

From 2002 to mid-2003, Foster investigated complaints from State employees about building conditions and health and safety issues as part of his duties as health and safety chairperson.*fn1 Foster's standard response to these complaints was to notify management and maintenance, who would take the appropriate steps. At times, the grievance process would be used to address building conditions. Foster notes that sometimes grievances would be filed immediately.

The investigations were conducted during normal working hours. Foster would find out about building condition issues through the union due to employee complaints, or through employees complaining to him while he was performing proactive investigations of health and safety equipment in State buildings. Foster became aware of issues with building conditions in the Alzina Building. He learned of problems with bird feces at that building. Foster discussed those issues with Defendant Tommy Bryden in 2002 or early 2003. Bryden assured Foster that the issues with bird feces at the Alzina Building would be rectified. Foster also became aware of other issues about building conditions at the Alzina Building that were addressed quickly, including dust and the HVAC system.

Foster also became aware of issues at the South Fourth facility, including leaks in the roof, a bird problem, water running against the grade into the building, plaster and bricks falling off the building outside, and respiratory ailments. Foster became aware of issues at the Rochester Road facility, including drainage issues and workplace safety standards. He became aware of issues at the Concordia Court facility with mold. Foster states that not only was there mold, the mold was toxic black mold and an industrial hygienist was consulted. Foster became aware of issues at the Bloom Building, including mold, respiratory complaints, air quality, and temperature. He became aware of issues at the Harris Building, including air quality, bird problems, particulate matter, and air ducts. Foster became aware of issues at the Industrial Drive facility, including exposed insulation and what he ...


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