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Kelley Brookins v. Chicago Transit Authority

September 14, 2012

KELLEY BROOKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Kelley Brookins' amended complaint alleges that she was denied a promotion by the Chicago Transit Authority ("the CTA") on the basis of gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and that the CTA has violated the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206 (as amended). The CTA and Brookins have now filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies Brookins' motion and grants the CTA's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Kelley Brookins began working with the CTA on April 29, 1986. She held a variety of positions, including Conductor, Motorman, Flagman, and Switchman, over the course of her twenty-two years with the CTA. A quick overview of her employment history shows that in 1994, she was promoted to a supervisor position, and between 1995 and 2003, Brookins worked as a Controller and a Manager for the Communications/Power Control Center. In 2004, Brookins became the Special Assistant to the CTA President. At various times, she worked as the General Manager of the Forest Glen Garage, the Communications/Power Control Center, and the 77th Street Garage. At some point, Brookins also earned a master's degree in Business Administration.

In November 2009, Brookins was working as General Manager of Bus Operations at the 77th Street Garage; in this position, her immediate supervisor was Jeannette Martin, the Vice President of Bus Operations. That month, William Mooney, then the Chief Operating Officer of the CTA, announced his retirement. Martin was selected as his replacement, effective December 31, 2009; this, in turn, created a vacancy in the Vice President of Bus Operations position. Around this time, the CTA had planned layoffs of more than 1,000 employees. As a result of all of this activity, several senior management positions within the CTA were vacant. The CTA needed experienced people in the senior management positions, so Peter Ousley, the Chief of Staff, tasked both Martin and Gia Morris, the Vice President of Human Resources, with filling the open positions.

Brookins and Martin had a personal, friendly relationship. While these changes were taking place, but before Martin had been officially selected as the new Chief Operating Officer, Brookins met with Martin and Morris at a restaurant after work. Martin told Brookins that Brookins would be a good replacement for her and that there were not many people to choose from. The parties dispute precisely what was said- Brookins claims that Martin told her that Brookins was "the only logical candidate" to replace Martin as Vice President of Bus Operations, while Martin denies making this statement. In any event, although Martin considered recommending Brookins, she ultimately recommended a man named Earl Swopes for the Vice President position. Richard Rodriguez, the President of the CTA, accepted that recommendation. Swopes became the new Vice President of Bus Operations, while Brookins was instead appointed to General Manager of the Control Center. Swopes had not even applied for the Vice President position.

The parties agree that Brookins possessed many admirable skills, including the organizational management skills needed to define, develop, and evaluate objectives, standards, and performance levels for assigned groups; the analytical skills necessary to review, assess, and evaluate data from various diverse sources and to generate effective solutions and competent decisions; and the ability to maintain amiable and effective working relations with CTA upper management, personnel, and external contacts. Still, Martin testified that she recommended Swopes for the position instead of Brookins because Martin believed that (1) the CTA needed an experienced General Manager, such as Brookins, in the Control Center; and (2) Earl Swopes was more qualified for the position of Vice President of Bus Operations than Brookins because he had worked in Bus Operations for more than thirty years.

Specifically, Martin testified that she believed Swopes possessed all of the education and experience needed to become Vice President of Bus Operations. The Vice President of Bus Operations must interact directly with the Manager of Operations, oversee training and instruction for bus operating personnel, and answer questions concerning bus operations, instruction, and safety issues. The Vice President is also responsible for a number of garage locations and the administration section of all garages. In addition, the Vice President oversees the Bus Service Management Group, as well as the Managers who monitor the Bus Service and Training and Instruction Departments.

Swopes had been employed with the CTA since 1980, and had received excellent evaluations for his work. Over the years, he had occupied numerous positions, including Bus Operator, Bus Service Supervisor, Bus Instructor, and Transportation Manager of Bus Operations. By contrast, Brookins had never served as a Bus Operator,*fn1 Bus Service Supervisor, Bus Instructor, or Transportation Manager of Bus Operations, although both Swopes and Brookins had served as General Manager of Bus Operations. Brookins believes that she gained "extensive managerial experience" in bus operations when she was a General Manager of Bus Operations from 2004 to 2005 and again from 2007 to 2010; likewise, she believes she gained the necessary experience in bus service management when she was the General Manager of Bus Operations at the 77th Street Garage from 2007 to 2009. She also claims to have gained managerial experience in training and instruction when she was the General Manager of the Control Center from 2005 to 2007. In addition, Brookins argues that the job description for the Vice President position did not require the Vice President to have prior experience as a bus operator, bus instructor, or bus supervisor.

Brookins argues that she has been discriminated against on the basis of her gender. In support, she points to three statements by Martin. First, Brookins claims (and Martin denies) that Martin told Brookins that President Rodriguez and Chief of Staff Ousley would "eat her up alive." Second, Brookins claims (and Martin denies) that Martin made negative remarks about women being on their menstrual period and made allusions to their behavior at work. Finally, Brookins claims (and Martin denies) that Martin told Brookins she would not recommend a woman named Sonneta Lucy for a General Manager position, because although Lucy was smart, she "took everything so personal[ly]"-conduct that Martin associated as being "female." Brookins' two-count amended complaint alleges that she was passed over for the promotion to Vice President of Bus Operations because of her gender, and that she was paid less than Swopes despite the fact that they have performed the same duties since January 2010. Both parties have moved for summary judgment.

II.LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the court will grant summary judgment 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). In particular, the court will grant a motion for summary judgment "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

At the summary judgment stage, "a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences and resolve all doubts in favor of that party." Keri v. Bd. of Trustees of Purdue Univ., 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2006). With cross-motions for summary judgment, the court treats each motion separately in determining whether judgment should be entered pursuant to Rule 56. See Marcatante v. City of Chi., Ill., 657 F.3d 433, 439 (7th Cir. 2011). "A court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact." Keri, 458 F.3d at 628 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). ...


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