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Gail Baikie v. Cook County Sheriff's Department of Corrections

March 29, 2012

GAIL BAIKIE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, COOK COUNTY SHERIFF THOMAS DART, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND COOK COUNTY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Gail Baikie has sued her former employer, the Cook County Sheriff's Department of Corrections (DOC), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Baikie claims in count one of her complaint that the DOC discriminated against her because of her race (Caucasian) and claims in count two that the DOC violated her due process rights by preventing her from challenging her termination. Baikie has also sued Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart based on his responsibility for the DOC's operations. Finally, in count three of her complaint, Baikie has asserted a claim for indemnification against Cook County. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

Facts

On a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Ault v. Speicher, 634 F.3d 942, 945 (7th Cir. 2011). The following facts are taken from the parties' memoranda of law and statements of uncontested facts.

Baikie, a Caucasian woman, was hired by the DOC as a correctional officer on July 23, 2007. Upon hiring, Baikie was subject to a year-long probationary period, which was scheduled to end on July 23, 2008.

Baikie dated James Anderson on and off between 2006 and 2008. Anderson has been convicted of a felony and a misdemeanor and has been arrested several other times. Baikie did not know about Anderson's criminal history until after the incidents at issue in this case.*fn1 On July 16, 2008, Anderson was living at Baikie's home in Chicago. On that morning, Baikie went to a store near her home. She received a call on her cell phone from Anderson, who stated that he was going to "take [her] gun and get [her] fired." Baikie Dep. at 8:1-2.

Baikie left the store and flagged down a passing police officer, who took her back to her apartment. Another officer arrived, and the three went inside, but Anderson was not there. Baikie went to the electronic safe where she kept her service revolver, finding it closed and locked. When she entered the code and opened the safe, however, the revolver was not inside. She called the sheriff's department to report the missing weapon. After searching for several hours, Baikie received a call from Anderson's aunt, who told her that the revolver was hidden under the stairway in Baikie's apartment building. Baikie and the officers found the revolver there.

The next morning, July 17, Baikie went to the local police station and filed for an order of protection against Anderson. She also prepared a memorandum describing the events and submitted it to the Cook County Sheriff's Office of Professional Review (OPR), which handles all disciplinary issues for the DOC. George Turner, the director of OPR, prepared a "complaint register" against Baikie that same day. The Court draws the following description of the OPR disciplinary process from Baikie's statement of uncontested facts, this portion of which defendants have admitted in full:

A typical OPR investigation begins when a complainant fills out a Complaint Register. After a Complaint Register is filed it goes to the director of OPR, who will review the allegations of misconduct and sign off on the complaint if it warrants an investigation. The complaint is then sent to the executive director of OPR, who transfers the complaint to the appropriate OPR unit and assigns an investigator.

After receiving a complaint assignment, an OPR investigator will conduct a formal investigation into the allegations of misconduct by interviewing witnesses and collecting documents. When the investigation is completed, the investigator prepares a report. If the findings of the report require disciplinary action to be taken against an officer, then the executive director of OPR will make a corresponding recommendation for discipline. The executive director of OPR will make a corresponding recommendation for discipline. The executive director will not make a recommendation for discipline against an officer until after the OPR investigation is completed.

At the time of this incident, Henry Barsch was the assistant executive director of OPR. Assistant executive directors directly report to the executive director and can also make recommendations for discipline at the completion of an OPR investigation. Once OPR makes a recommendation, the report goes through a process called command channel review where various department heads, including the executive director of DOC, the undersheriff, and the sheriff, all decide whether to concur or not to concur with the investigation and its recommendations. The undersheriff only typically gets involved in an OPR investigation after the investigation is completed.

Pl.'s L.R. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 8-12.

On July 21, Barsch prepared a report of the incident in which he recommended terminating Baikie's employment. He delivered the report to Undersheriff Zelda Whittler, who is responsible for final review of all complaints regarding allegations of misconduct. If the undersheriff concurs with an OPR recommendation, the recommendation typically goes into effect and cannot be overruled. Defendants admit that it is "not the usual practice of executive directors to make recommendations for discipline" in an initial report. Id. ¶ 19. Rather, disciplinary recommendations are more typically made after the completion of an OPR investigation and are forwarded through the command channel review process described in the previous paragraph. Id.

Barsch's report concluded with the following paragraph: Based upon the aforementioned facts and evidence, I submit that PCO Baikie failed to properly safeguard her weapon. The weapon may have been placed in a safe; however, Baikie's boyfriend, a convicted felon with an extensive record, was able to gain access to it. As such, her total conduct surrounding this matter has casted [sic] serious discredit upon the Sheriff's Department. It is requested that her probationary status be terminated as unsatisfactory.

Def. Ex. 7 at 2. After reading the report, Whittler requested further documentation from Barsch regarding the condition of the safe. Barsch supplied a police report indicating that an officer on the scene had observed the safe and stated that because it was an electronic safe that did not appear to have been tampered with, it seemed that it had either been left unlocked or opened with the combination. Whittler testified that upon receiving this information, she told Barsch that she concurred with his recommendation, and that Barsch subsequently passed this along to Katie Hullihan, the director of personnel. Whittler Dep. at 27:14-17.

Baikie testified that the following day, July 22, she met with Hullihan. She testified that Hullihan told her that she had violated the department's general orders regarding weapon security and would therefore be terminated. Hullihan first asked Baikie to resign. After Baikie refused, Hullihan told Baikie that she was fired and asked her to hand in her badge ...


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