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Dawne Chapman v. the City of Danville

December 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge


Thursday, 22 December, 2011 10:33:00 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This case is before the court for ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment (#23) filed by Defendant, the City of Danville (City). This court has carefully reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents filed by the parties. Following this careful and thorough review, the City's Motion for Summary Judgment (#23) is GRANTED.


Plaintiff, Dawne Chapman, began working for the City in 1981. She was hired as Motor Vehicle Parking Superintendent in 1992. The Parking Superintendent job involved running the City's parking garage and lot and handling parking tickets. In 2004, Doug Ahrens became Plaintiff's supervisor. Ahrens held the position of Superintendent of Public Works. Ahrens estimated that, while he was Plaintiff's supervisor, he spent approximately five hours a week on average interacting with Plaintiff. Plaintiff testified that, during an evaluation, Ahrens told Plaintiff that her appearance needed to be more managerial and that the hair on her face needed to be better maintained and well groomed just as the male employees are required to maintain their beards and mustaches. Plaintiff testified that this happened during her last evaluation, but did not provide a date for when this evaluation occurred. Ahrens testified that he told Plaintiff that someone who interacts with the public needed to have groomed facial hair. Plaintiff said she had a skin condition that prevented her from doing more and Ahrens accepted that statement. At another meeting, Ahrens told Plaintiff that individuals should be called by their first names or titles such as Mr. or Mrs. and should not be addressed in a too familiar manner, such as calling them "honey" or "kid."

In early 2009 there was a City-wide reorganization in which many positions in the City were reorganized and consolidated to conserve money for the City operations. Plaintiff along with a total of 24 City workers were let go from City employment. The Parking Superintendent job was combined with other duties in the new position of Superintendent of Downtown Services. It is undisputed that the new position of Superintendent of Downtown Services included the parking garage duties as well as work involving creating advance planting designs, the selection of plants, oversight of ongoing landscape maintenance and downtown beautification. The job description for Superintendent of Downtown Services stated that an associate or bachelor's degree in business management, landscape design or social services, as well as certifications and other technical training and licenses, was preferred. It is undisputed that Plaintiff did not have any of these qualifications. The job description for the position, which was dated February 6, 2009, listed the job duties for the position. Many of the job duties were duties that Plaintiff had performed when she held the position of Parking Superintendent. However, some of the listed job duties were expanded to include tasks Plaintiff had not performed previously and one of the job duties listed was "[c]reate advance planting designs for implementation in the various seasons." It is undisputed that none of Plaintiff's prior job experience was in the area of horticulture or plants.

Three internal candidates applied for the position of Superintendent of Downtown Services. The candidates were Plaintiff, Paul Sermersheim and Steven Lane. The position was open only to internal candidates so all three candidates were City employees. All three applicants were interviewed by Ahrens, Brock Burton, who held the position of Manager of Recreation and Public Facilities, and Sherri Johnson, who was the Human Resources Director. During her job interview, Plaintiff explained she was not a licensed or knowledgeable horticulturist, did not consider herself a "green thumbed" individual, and was someone who usually "turned plants brown" and killed them. Plaintiff said that she would be willing to give it "the good old college try." It is undisputed that both Steven Lane and Paul Sermersheim had been creating planting designs or overseeing plantings for the City. Plaintiff had been involved in maintaining some of the plantings.

Following the interviews, a decision was made to recommend Sermersheim for the position. Burton testified that Steven Lane was out of the running for the position because the committee had decided to recommend him for a different job. The interviewing committee's recommendation was conveyed to Mayor Scott Eisenhauer. Ahrens testified that Sermersheim was chosen because of his knowledge and training regarding horticulture as well as his grant writing experience. Ahrens testified that there was going to be an anticipated focus on beautification efforts in the downtown area as well as the opportunity to bring in outside funding. Burton testified that he recommended Sermersheim for the position because the "new position that was created we were looking more towards somebody who had the background and ability for the beautification of the downtown area" and Sermersheim was the "best available candidate for that position." Eisenhauer testified that, regarding the Superintendent of Downtown Services position, the role of motor vehicle parking was a much smaller aspect of the new position. Eisenhauer said that the position focuses on the downtown area as a whole, including landscaping.

Sermersheim was hired for the position and Plaintiff lost her employment with the City. Plaintiff asked Ahrens for a written job recommendation and he wrote one for her which she used to apply for jobs with other employers, including her current position with the News-Gazette newspaper.

Sermersheim resigned after a short time on the job and Plaintiff again applied for the position. She did not receive an interview. In April 2009, Shelly Larson was hired as Superintendent of Downtown Services. Larson has an extensive background in landscaping. Larson was deposed and testified that she spends about 20% of her time performing duties related to parking. A modified job description for the position of Superintendent of Downtown Services was used when Larson was hired for the position. The new job description was dated April 9, 2009, and specifically stated that the position had a "strong emphasis on beautification of the Downtown Danville corridor including landscape planning and design."


On May 13, 2009, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Plaintiff alleged that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender when she was not hired into the position in February 2009. Plaintiff stated that her gender is female but "in my appearance and behavior I do not conform to the prevailing stereotypes regarding how women should look and act." On May 18, 2009, Plaintiff filed another charge of discrimination with the IDHR. Plaintiff alleged that her sexual orientation is lesbian and that she was discriminated against because of her sexual ...

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