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Michael T. Seferroche F/K/A ) Michael T. Roche v. Board of Education of the City of ) Chicago

June 5, 2012

MICHAEL T. SEFERROCHE F/K/A ) MICHAEL T. ROCHE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF ) CHICAGO, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Michael Seferroche brings this action against his former employer, the Chicago Public Schools ("CPS"). He alleges that CPS discriminated against him on the basis of his race (Caucasian) and national origin (Irish and Polish ancestry) when it declined to reinstate him as a special education teacher's aid, even though CPS policy required that he be reinstated. CPS now moves for summary judgment, arguing that (1) Seferroche's Counts I and II are time-barred; (2) Seferroche cannot establish municipal liability under Monell for his Section 1981 claim in Count III; and (3) Seferroche lacks factual support for his discrimination claim. For the reasons stated below the court grants defendant's motion in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.

In the spring of 2008, Michael Seferroche began working for CPS as a special education classroom assistant at Von Stuben Metropolitan Science Center. (Def. Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement (hereinafter "Def. St.") ¶ 1.) He spent the majority of his time working as a dedicated aide to student "JM," who has Aspergers Syndrome. (Pl. Rule 56.1(b)(3) Statement (hereinafter "Pl. St.") ¶ 2.)

In June 2009, the school was forced to eliminate a special education classroom assistant position due to decreased student enrollment. (Def. St. ¶ 7.) Because Seferroche was the least senior employee holding that position, he was laid off effective August 31, 2009. (Id.) At the time of the lay off, school principal Pedro Alonso told Seferroche that if the position re-opened, he would re-hire Seferroche. (Pl. St. ¶ 3.) Around that time, Principal Alonso also signed a letter of recommendation for Seferroche stating, in part, that Seferroche was "the most proficient instructional aide in our school" and that he would "emphatically recommend Michael as an asset to any teaching staff." (Pl. St. ¶ 4.)

In October 2009, the school reopened the special education classroom assistant position that Seferroche previously occupied. (Pl. St. ¶ 5.) At that time, JM's mother, Elizabeth, requested that Seferroche be reinstated because her son had responded well to him. (Pl. St. ¶ 8.) Either Principal Alonso or Assistant Principal Harold Hale told Elizabeth that they were required to open up the position for interviewing, and could not simply reinstate Seferroche. (Pl. St. ¶ 9.)

Principal Alonso formed a team to interview candidates and make recommendations for the newly opened position. (Def. St. ¶¶ 11-12.) That team included Assistant Principal Hale, Counseling Department Chair Yvette Laboy, and Case Manager for special education, Julienne Ricker. (Id.) Principal Alonso specifically requested that the team invite Seferroche to interview for the position. (Def. St. ¶ 10.) The team interviewed Seferroche and at least one other candidate, Eliot Velazquez. (Def. St. ¶ 15.) The interview team unanimously recommended that Velazquez be hired for the job; and CPS hired him. (Def. St. ¶ 20.) The parties vigorously dispute whether Velazquez was as qualified for the job as Seferroche.

On December 7, 2009, Seferroche filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") arising out of CPS's failure to reinstate him. (Def. St. ¶ 31.) Seferroche received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC by certified mail on January 4, 2010. (Def. St. ¶ 32.) Seferroche was aware that he had 90 days from the date he received the notice (until April 4, 2010) to file his lawsuit, but he did not file within that timeframe. (Def. St. ¶ 33.)

Sometime between October 2009 and January 2010, CPS learned that Von Stuben had hired Velazquez instead of Seferroche. (Def. St. ¶ 25.) CPS's Human Resources department informed the administration at Von Stuben that the hire violated CPS's layoff policy, which provides that if a CPS school opens a bargaining unit position in the same job title from which a CPS employee was laid off within the past 10 months, the school must offer to re-staff that employee to the position. (Def. St. ¶ 8.) CPS directed the administration at Von Stuben to fire Velazquez and reinstate Seferroche. (Def. St. ¶ 26.)

In January 2010, Seferroche heard from his former student JM's service provider, Carol Lynn Chmielewski, that Von Stuben was going to reinstate him and that he could expect to receive a reinstatement letter. (Pl. St. ¶ 50.) In February 2010, Chmielewski again told Seferroche that he could expect to receive a reinstatement letter. (Pl. St. ¶ 51.) On April 20, 2010, having not received the reinstatement letter, Seferroche went to CPS's Human Resources department where he asked to see a copy of the reinstatement letter. (Pl. St. ¶ 53.) CPS supervisory/managerial employee Mark Harris showed Seferroche a copy of the letter and stated that he would mail a copy to Seferroche. (Pl. St. ¶ 54.) On April 29, 2010, Harris sent Seferroche an email with an attached letter, but the letter was not the reinstatement letter. (Pl. St. ¶ 55.) It was instead a letter dated August 3, 2009 concerning Seferroche's original layoff. (Id.) For the next three months, Seferroche made repeated efforts to obtain information about his reinstatement. (Pl. St. ¶¶ 57-68.) He contacted his union representative, submitted a grievance letter with Human Resources, made numerous inquiries, and submitted a FOIA request. (Id.) Those efforts were unavailing. CPS never reinstated Seferroche.

The parties dispute the reason that CPS never reinstated Seferroche. Although CPS concedes that its own policy mandated that Seferroche be reinstated and that Human Resources directed the school to reinstate Seferroche, it contends that it never reinstated him because the position was again eliminated. (Def. St. ¶ 29.) Seferroche contends that CPS's failure to reinstate him was discriminatory.

Seferroche filed his complaint in this case on August 24, 2010. In November 2010, CPS paid Seferroche approximately $8,475 as back pay for the period between the Velazquez hire and the elimination of ...


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