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Maria Isabella Del Gadillo v. Town of Cicero

September 10, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow


Maria Isabella DelGadillo worked as an Assistant to the Fire Marshal in the Cicero Township Fire Department. She has filed an employment discrimination suit against the Town of Cicero, the Cicero Township Fire Marshal, two of her supervisors, and two unidentified Does alleging claims for race, national origin and gender discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I), race and national origin discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II), sexual harassment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III), conspiracy to interfere with civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count IV), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count V).*fn1 The two defendant supervisors, Mark Steinhagan and Ted Kolin, have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion [#40] will be denied.


DelGadillo was hired by the Cicero Township Fire Department ("CFD") as the Assistant to the Fire Marshal in 2004. Kolin and Steinhagan were Assistant Fire Marshals who supervised DelGadillo. They are sued in their individual capacities.

The CFD Fire Marshal and Assistant Fire Marshals are authorized to create and implement policies regarding race, national origin, and gender-based discrimination within the CFD. They are also authorized to oversee and enforce matters regarding employee conduct and discipline. The Fire Marshal and Assistant Fire Marshals have final decision-making authority regarding workplace conduct issues within the CFD.

DelGadillo was the only Hispanic employee assigned to her office area and one of only four Hispanic employees in the CFD. DelGadillo was the only female assigned to her office area. Most of the CFD's employees were male.

Beginning in 2007, defendant George Gregory became the CFD Fire Marshal. Soon afterwards, he demoted DelGadillo from Assistant to the Fire Marshal to an administrative assistant position. He assigned a substantial amount of her job responsibilities to Michael Piekarski, a white male.

Gregory frequently used the word "nigger" to refer to African Americans and referred to Hispanics as "your people" in DelGadillo's presence. On one occasion, when DelGadillo noticed that Gregory had gotten a tan on a recent vacation, he told her, "[Y]eah, us white people tan red and you people get black almost like a nigger." Gregory fostered an environment in which numerous firemen and other co-workers openly referred to DelGadillo as "stupid" and a "rat." They also stated that she could not be trusted because she was a Hispanic woman.

In early 2010, DelGadillo heard firemen on the system radio reporting that they had narrowly avoided a collision with a Hispanic driver. The firemen used racial slurs when referring to the driver. When the firemen came back to the office, they told Gregory and Kolin about the incident and referred to Hispanic drivers as "stupid Mexican wetbacks that don't know how to drive." Gregory and Kolin laughed at the use of racial slurs, even though DelGadillo was present. When DelGadillo complained to Gregory and Kolin regarding the use of racial slurs at the CFD, they laughed at her and did not reprimand the firemen.

DelGadillo was subjected to racially discriminatory statements nearly every day. Gregory, Kolin and Steinhagen were aware of the discriminatory comments and participated in the banter. In June 2010, Kolin told DelGadillo that all she was "good for" was "making Mexican rice."

DelGadillo was also subjected to sexually discriminatory statements and harassment. The male firemen and co-workers made sexual comments to DelGadillo such as, "Your breasts are so perky, are you cold? I can see your nipples," "Are you putting on a sweater? I was just getting used to the nice view up here," "[A]re you wearing a thong today?" and "Can you bend over again?" Male employees often told DelGadillo that she "needed a stiff toss in bed." One Lieutenant at the CFD frequently came into the office, stuck his tongue out at DelGadillo, and told her, "Think of all the things I can do with this." He would also attempt to rub DelGadillo's shoulders. When DelGadillo took "Zumba" exercise classes, several CFD employees made comments to her about "her job working as a stripper" and spread rumors that she was a stripper.

Kolin told DelGadillo that "women are only good for making babies" after they attended a presentation that focused on abandoned children. In the summer of 2010, Piekarski brought a dirty, wet jacket into the office, threw it at DelGadillo, and told her to "wash the jacket and hang it up" because "that's all that women are good for."

Gregory overheard many of the comments that were directed at DelGadillo because his office was only ten feet from DelGadillo's desk. DelGadillo made it clear to Gregory that the comments made her uncomfortable and that she wanted the comments to stop. Gregory did not attempt to stop the comments and instead told DelGadillo, "It takes a special kind of person to work here. These guys don't have the best manners. Otherwise you're not going to work here long."

DelGadillo became increasingly upset as the racist and sexist comments and behavior persisted in 2010. She was particularly offended by Steinhagan's conduct. Steinhagan frequently referred to all Hispanic women as "whores" and told DelGadillo that someone could "make a whore scream by not paying her." He showed pictures from lingerie magazines to DelGadillo and suggested that she purchase and wear certain items that would ...

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