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Latice Porter v. City of Chicago

March 31, 2011

LATICE PORTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Latice Porter ("Porter") filed suit against the City of Chicago ("City"), alleging religious discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 ("Title VII"). Specifically, in Count I, Porter alleges that the City denied her the reasonable accommodation of her religion; in Count II, Porter alleges that the City discriminated and harassed her due to her religion; and, in Count III, Porter alleges that the City retaliated against her when she engaged in a protected activity. Porter moves for summary judgment on Count I with regards to her request for a reasonable religious accommodation.*fn1 Porter also moves for a declaratory judgment that the City's policy regarding religious accommodations violates Title VII. The City moves for summary judgment on all counts. For the following reasons, the Court denies Porter's Motion for Summary Judgment and her Motion for Declaratory Judgment. The Court grants the City's Motion for Summary Judgment and the case is closed.

STATEMENT OF FACTS*fn2

Porter has been employed by the City in the Chicago Police Department's ("CPD") Bureau of Administrative Services, Field Services Section ("FSS"), since June 10, 1991. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 3.) Since January 1, 2001, Porter has been a Senior Data Entry Operator and a member of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees ("AFSCME") union. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 4.) Porter's AFSCME contract provides her with a "Religious Day Accommodation," which permits employees to take the day off without pay when they are scheduled to work on a religious holiday; employees must request this day off in writing at least five calendar days in advance of the religious holiday. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 46; Pl. 56.1 Add.Resp. ¶ 3.)

The City's Municipal Code states that "[n]o employer shall refuse to make all reasonable efforts to accommodate the religious beliefs, observances and practices of employees or prospective employees unless the employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct or the employer's business." (Pl. 56.1 Add. Resp. ¶ 2.) "Reasonable efforts" are defined by the City's Municipal Code to include allowing an employee: to take a day of paid leave or vacation; to be excused from work without pay and without discipline or other penalty; to elect to take the day off with pay in order to practice the employee's religious beliefs and make up the lost work time at a time and date consistent with the operational need of the employer's business. (Id.)

Porter identifies her religion as Christian and she is a student minister at the Apostolic Church of God. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 5.) She has attended different church services at different times on Sunday mornings and Friday nights; she has attended Wednesday night bible study; and prayer on Tuesdays. (Id.) Porter's church holds Sunday bible study at 8:00 a.m. and Sunday services at 9:00 a.m., 11:45 a.m., and "sometimes" 4:00 p.m. (Id. ¶ 51.)

I. Chicago Police Department Field Services Section

The CPD FSS receives and responds to information requests from CPD personnel and other law enforcement agencies twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. (Id. ¶ 10.) The FSS staff includes sworn police sergeants, police officers, and civilian employees. (Id. ¶ 11.) For scheduling purposes, FSS employees are divided into "watches": the first watch runs from 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.; the second watch runs from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and the third watch runs from 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (Id.) Certain employees in the FSS are assigned to a Friday/Saturday day-off group or a Sunday/Monday day-off group; certain FSS employees are assigned to other day-off groups. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 10.)

Civilians are assigned to work at a particular FSS section based on the civilian's job title. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 11.) The majority of police officers who work in the FSS are there only temporarily. (Id. ¶ 13.) Police officers occasionally perform data entry functions but cannot be assigned to a Senior Data Entry Operator position because that position is reserved for civilians under AFSCME's agreement with the City. (Id. ¶ 23.) Sergeants serve as watch commanders in the FSS. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 11.)

Joseph Perfetti ("Perfetti") was the manager of the FSS from approximately April 2002 until August 2008. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 12.) Perfetti was also the Acting Director of the Records Services Division from November 2006 until August 2008 and had the authority to determine and approve FSS employee work schedules. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 16.) Marikay Hegarty ("Hegarty") was the Director of Records from approximately late 2004 until late 2006 and she had the authority to determine and approve FSS employee work schedules. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 12; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 15.) Sergeant H.A. McCarthy ("McCarthy") was a watch commander in the FSS and had the authority to change Porter's schedule from January 2004 through August 2006. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 12.) Sergeant Geraldine Sidor ("Sidor") was a watch commander in the FSS and had the authority to change the day-off schedules of certain FSS employees from January 2004 through July 2009. (Id.¶ 13.) Sergeant Wanda Torres ("Torres") was a watch commander in the FSS and had the authority to change the day-off schedules of certain FSS employees from January 2004 through July 2009. (Id. ¶ 14.)

Robert Flores ("Flores") is an "EEO Specialist" with the Office of Legal Affairs and has been responsible for monitoring allegations of discrimination for the CPD since 2002. (Id. ¶ 45.)

II. Porter's 2005 Schedule

Adjustments From 1996 until March 2005, Porter was on the second watch, initially on a rotating-weekendday-off schedule that was later changed to an alternating-weekend day-off schedule, pursuant to which she had every other Saturday and Sunday off. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 27.) On March 18, 2005, Porter was assigned to the Friday/Saturday day-off group by Sidor, effective March 31, 2005. (Def.56.1 Resp. ¶ 17.) Porter responded on March 18, 2005 by typing a "To/From" Memorandum to Hegarty requesting to be assigned to the Sunday/Monday day-off group. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 19.) Porter told McCarthy that she wanted Sundays off because she is a religious person, was involved in her church, and sang in the church choir. (Id. ¶ 20.) On March 18, 2005, McCarthy approved Porter's request and reassigned her to the Sunday/Monday day-off group effective March 27, 2005. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 23.)

On August 25, 2005, Porter asked Torres to change her work hours to accommodate the Saturday ministry classes that Porter had just enrolled in. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 26.) Torres approved Porter's request to work from 1:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays for approximately ten weeks from September 7, 2005 until November 19, 2005. (Id.) Porter remained on the second watch schedule for the other days of the week.(Id.)

On October 13, 2005, Porter was granted leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") until January 13, 2006 due to a car accident and complications related to her pregnancy. (Id. ¶ 28.) Following her three months of FMLA leave, Porter took a medical leave of absence for another six months, ending on July 16, 2006.(Id.)

III. Summer and Fall of 2006

Upon Porter's return to the FSS on July 16, 2006, Sidor recommended, and Perfetti approved, Porter's assignment to the Friday/Saturday day-off group; Porter remained on the second watch. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 30.) Perfetti and Sidor claim that there were more civilian employees in the Sunday/Monday day-off group than the Friday/Saturday group when Porter returned and that Porter's assignment to the Friday/Saturday day-off group was based on "operational needs" and was done to "balance the workforce." (Def. 56.1 Ex. 32.) Sidor was never aware that Porter preferred having Sundays off so she could attend church. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 62.)

AFSCME's Collective Bargaining Agreement states that employees "who return from medical leave of absence within one (1) year shall be reinstated to their former job, subject to layoff and recall provisions." (Id. ¶ 40.) Though the City has, in the past, often reinstated employees returning from leave to their former day-off group, the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") does not require that the City do this for every employee returning from a leave of absence.*fn3 (Def, 56.1 Ex. 40.) There is no indication that Porter's title, salary, hours, or benefits changed from their previous levels when she returned from nine months of leave.

At some point after her assignment to the Friday/Saturday day-off group, Porter informed Perfetti that she goes to church and participates in worship services on Sundays and asked to be reassigned to the Sunday/Monday day-off group. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 30-32.) Following the advice of her AFSCME President, Porter submitted a Request for Change of Job Assignment Form on July 24, 2006, requesting a change to the Sunday/Monday day-off group. (Id. ¶ 35.) Perfetti told Porter that if an opening became available in the Sunday/Monday day-off group, her request to change groups would be accommodated. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 59.) Porter was aware that "a lot of people" wanted to be in the Sunday/Monday day-off group, in part so they could attend church on Sundays. (Id. ¶ 60.) Porter filed a grievance on August 22, 2006 requesting to be moved to the Sunday/Monday day-off group and stating as the reason "that she is a student minister." (Pl. Deposition Exh. 38, Grievance Form 8/22/06.) The grievance was received by Torres on August 31, 2006. (Id.) Porter, however, was never reassigned to the Sunday/Monday day-off group. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 38.) Porter alleges that the City instead responded to her request to change day-off groups by intimidating and harassing her, though she cannot remember anyone at the CPD telling her that she could not go to church. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 44-46.)

On August 25, 2006, Porter filed a Chicago Commission on Human Relations ("CCHR") complaint against the City, Sidor, and Perfetti alleging religious discrimination.*fn4 (Id. ¶ 7.) On September 14, 2006, Porter filed a charge alleging religion-based discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id.)

Porter was absent from work on some or all of thirty-four days between July 16, 2006 and November 19, 2006, not counting her regularly-scheduled days off. (Def. 56.1 Add. Resp. ΒΆ 100.) Of the thirty-four days ...


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