Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge John A. Nordberg than Assigned Judge
Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.
O[ For further details see text below.] Docketing to mail notices.
This is an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff Mark Groszek, a police officer, alleges that his employer, the Village of Calumet Park and its Chief of Police Mark A. Davis, engaged in race, age, disability, and retaliatory discrimination by constructively discharging him in October 2008. Before the Court is defendants' summary judgment motion. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.
Facts. Groszek worked as a police officer for the Village for many years. In 2002, the Village hired Mark Davis as a new police chief. Groszek believes that Davis, who is African American, came into the job with an intention to get rid of older white police officers such as Groszek. Davis allegedly made several remarks early in his tenure evidencing this intention. For example, Davis allegedly stated in 2002 soon after being hired: "All you white cops have never done police work. You guys got away with a bunch of you know what, you know what I'm talking about." (DF 9.) At that time all four police sergeants were white.
Over the next six years, Groszek worked under Davis and his assistant chief, a white woman named Susan Rockett who began working for the Village at the same time as Davis. During this period, Davis and Rockett criticized Groszek a number of times about alleged failures in performance. See DF 18, 19, 20, 25, 26. It is fair to say that tension and conflict existed between Groszek and his supervisors, especially the assistant chief Rockett. But Davis did not seek to fire Groszek for these alleged shortcomings.
The incident that led to Groszek's resignation -- or, from his point of view, his constructive discharge -- began in August 2007. During a five-week vacation, Groszek was driving home from a friend's house when he started having difficulty breathing and felt dizzy. He feared he was having a heart attack. (DF 47; Cmplt. ¶11.) When he got home, his mother drove him to the emergency room. The doctor there concluded he had a panic attack likely triggered by his decision to stop taking Lorazepam, a drug another doctor had prescribed for an earlier backinjury. (PF 4.) Groszek started seeing a psychiatrist named Dr. Czarnkowski who diagnosed him with panic disorder without agoraphobia. (DF 49.) On August 18, 2007, Dr. Czarnkowski wrote a note stating that Groszek needed to be "relieved from his duties for a period of 1 month" to allow his medication to take effect. (DF 50.) The note was delivered to Chief Davis. On August 22nd, Davis wrote a memo back to Groszek, stating: "Due to the nature of your employment as a police officer and the current diagnosis and liability of the Calumet Park Police Department I am ordering you to refrain from any type of police action and to turn over your weapon, badge and identification card immediately." (DF 51.) The memo also stated: "Your medical condition will require you to remain in this status until you have been medically cleared to return to duty." (Id.)
At this point, the parties dispute what happened -- or rather, what should have happened . Davis expected that after the one month period expired Groszek would notify the police department if he needed more time for his medical condition. Groszek, on the other hand, believed he did not need to come to work or otherwise communicate with his employer until his doctor cleared him to return to duty. When the 30-day period ended, Davis claims he made several attempts to contact Groszek, personally calling him and leaving a voicemail, then having his clerk also leave a voicemail, and finally having a police officer drive by his house. (DF 55.) According to Davis, Groszek never responded. Groszek denies such attempts were made.
According to Groszek, on August 22nd when Davis wrote the memo asking him to turn over his weapon and badge, Davis also called Groszek and told him he could "no longer be [a police officer] anymore ever again." (PF 13.) (Davis denies making the statement.) Groszek thus believes that even before he failed to return to work after the 30-day period Davis had already decided to fire him, a decision allegedly based on animus to the disabled. As for Groszek's decision not to check in with his employer at the end of the 30-day period, Groszek points out that the work schedule posted in the radio room during this time indicated that he was on extended sick leave from September 16, 2007 through October 13, 2007 and then from October 14, 2007 through November 10, 2007. (PF 14.) The schedule was signed and approved by Davis. (Id.) Davis testified that the clerk marks an employee's schedule "extended sick" for the entire period covered by the schedule rather than try to figure out when the person is coming back to work even if the person is only supposed to be gone a short period. (Davis Dep. 73.) It is not clear whether Groszek knew about the schedule at the time he was out or whether it is something he learned later in discovery in this case.
On October 16, 2007, Davis wrote Groszek a memo stating that he had received no contact from Groszek since September 18 (the date his 30-day medical leave expired) and that Groszek was therefore deemed not to have appeared for work for 16 scheduled days of work, which violated a company rule of not missing more than three consecutive work days without notifying the Village. (DF 57.) It is undisputed that Groszek did not speak with anyone at the Calumet Park Police Department between August 22nd and October 16th. (DF 56.).
On October 25, 2007, after receiving the Davis memo, Groszek went to Dr. Czarnkowski who wrote a note that Groszek should remain off work for another two weeks because "a stressful work environment can potentially worsen his anxiety symptoms." (DF 58.) The note was given to the police department the same day. On October 29, 2007, Groszek was served with a letter indicating that charges were being brought against him before the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. (PF 16.) Groszek was assigned to administrative leave with pay. Davis then ordered Groszek to submit to a fitness for duty evaluation on November 12, 2007, which Groszek did. (PF 17.) Davis received the report on November 27th. It stated that Groszek could return to work, although it contained several critical remarks, stating ...