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Amanda L. Walden v. Village of New Athens

September 28, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 35). Plaintiff Amanda L. Walden has responded to the motion (Doc. 48).

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir. 2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396. This standard is applied with special scrutiny in cases, such as employment discrimination cases, that often turn on issues of intent and credibility. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Where the moving party fails to meet its strict burden of proof, a court cannot enter summary judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion. Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-26; Johnson v. City of Fort Wayne, 91 F.3d 922, 931 (7th Cir. 1996). A genuine issue of material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of "some alleged factual dispute between the parties," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Michas, 209 F.3d at 692. Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists only if "a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; accord Michas, 209 F.3d at 692.

II. Facts

Viewing the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in Walden's favor, the Court finds the following facts for the purpose of resolving the pending motion.

Walden began working as a probationary police officer for the Village of New Athens ("Village") Police Department in November 2007. At the time, Larry Kirk was the police chief, defendant William O. Rainey was one of Walden's superior officers, defendant Brian Rausch was president of the Village Police Commission, and defendant Dennis Breithaupt was mayor of the Village.

Before Walden started working, Rainey expressed his anger to the police force that another "girl" was going to be hired as an officer and polled the three male officers on the force about how they would feel having another "girl" in the department and backing them up in a bar fight. All three agreed they did not want another woman on the force, would not train her and would not back her up on a call. Nevertheless, Walden joined the force.

Walden was paid the rate set forth in a pay schedule contained in a municipal ordinance. The ordinance contained some wiggle room, however, in that it stated, "This timetable may be accelerated or the starting step position of new employees may be assigned at the discretion of the Village Board of Trustees." Village of New Athens Municipal Code of Ordinances, art. 6, § 1.6.9B. Walden did not receive any discretionary higher pay but believes that three similarly situated male officers did.

Walden was required to pay for her uniform up front, despite her request to then-Chief Kirk for an alternate payment arrangement, but another male officer was allowed to pay for his uniform in installments. Additionally, she was not provided the $450 uniform allowance called for by ordinance and offered to a male police officer.

Walden did not get the same amount of field training as male officers. Her training was cut short because the female officer training her became ill and then went to work for another police department, and the other male officers refused to train her.

While traveling to or from the St. Clair County jail, Walden responded to a call for backup from a police officer in a neighboring police department. Unlike male colleagues who had responded to similar calls in similar situations, she was given a verbal reprimand for not following a particular route to and from the jail, a letter was placed in her personnel file, and she was required to write a statement how she spent her time when responding to the call. In addition, there was no route prescribed by any Village police policies, and Walden had never been instructed she must follow any particular route.

Walden was not allowed to use a Village police squad car to travel to an 80-hour training course. The course was conducted in two five-day sessions, so she would only need the car for two five-day periods. The reason given for this decision was that the squad car was needed at the police station for other officers to use. Nevertheless, at the same time, another male officer was allowed to use a Village police squad car to travel to a five-day, 40-hour training session and to keep the car away from the police station for the entire training period. ...

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