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Geraty v. Village of Antioch

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

April 18, 2013

DAWN GERATY, Plaintiff,

Page 919

For Dawn Geraty, Plaintiff: Jeffrey R. Kulwin, Shelly Byron Kulwin, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Kulwin, Masciopinto & Kulwin, LLP, Chicago, IL.

For Village Of Antioch, Defendant: Lori Ann Vanderlaan, LEAD ATTORNEY, John C Kreamer, Best, Vanderlaan & Harrington, Naperville, IL; Michael Joseph Meyer, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jennifer Helen Kay, Tribler Orpett and Meyer, P.C., Chicago, IL.


Page 920


JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Dawn Geraty, a police officer in the Village of Antioch (" the Village" ), brought a single-count complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, alleging that the Village discriminated against her on the basis of her sex by failing to promote her to the position of police sergeant and by failing to transfer her to the position of detective. The Village has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Because, construing the facts and drawing all inferences in Geraty's favor, a reasonable jury could find that the Village discriminated against Geraty based on her sex, the motion is denied.

I. Background

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. [1] For purposes of the motion for summary judgment, the court construes the facts as favorably to Geraty as the record will allow. Geraty was hired as a patrol officer by the Village in 1993. She was the first female officer hired by the Village's police department (" the department" ). As of November 2006, the department had twenty-seven police officers--including five female officers--but no female officers served as sergeants, detectives, or in any other supervisory positions.

James Foerster was appointed the Village's Chief of Police in 2006. Prior to Foerster's appointment, Geraty had been targeted by a former Chief of Police, who tried to force her out of her position. No male police officers were similarly targeted.

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Foerster testified at deposition that prior to 2006, he had provided a very positive performance evaluation for Geraty, but that his superiors had downgraded the review to appease the then-presiding Chief.

In 2006, the department began the process of promoting officers to sergeant, a first-line supervisor position. Geraty was the only woman who submitted herself for the 2006 promotion process. At the time, she had twelve years of experience in the department--the second-most seniority among the officers who presented themselves as candidates for sergeant. It is undisputed that she was a highly experienced and well-rounded police officer and was one of the more capable officers in the department. Geraty argues that she was qualified to become either a sergeant or a detective, another position she sought. As support, she points to the deposition testimony of fellow officers Tom Nowatarski and Geoff Guttschow and department supervisors Commander Ron Roth, Commander Ron Nauman, and former Chief Charles Fagan, all of whom testified that, in their opinion, she was qualified for the positions. One officer who supervised Geraty testified that she was a " very informative" oral communicator. (P.'s Ex. 6 (Fagan Dep. 24:6).) Another called her the " Wolverine" because of the tenacious nature of her police work. (P.'s Ex. 3 (Nauman Dep. 54:12-13).)

A. The 2006 Sergeant List

A new list of Village police officers eligible for promotion to sergeant is created about every three years, or when no eligible officers remain on the Village's existing list. The list is created by the Village's Board of Police and Fire Commissioners (" the Board" ). The Board is made up of three commissioners appointed by the Mayor. In 2006, those three were Gerald Kozenski, Kevin Schoudel, and Deirdre Palmer Sweetwood (" Palmer" ). None had any law enforcement background. The commissioners generally operated pursuant to the Village's " Rules and Regulations of the Board of Police Commissioners," although the parties dispute whether those rules were actually followed during the 2006 promotion process.

In February 2006, Officer Guttschow requested that his name be removed from the existing sergeant list, which had been created in 2003. As no other officers remained on that list, the Board began the process of creating a new list. At the February 24, 2006, Board meeting, the Board provided Foerster with a sign-up sheet for sergeant candidates, to be posted publicly. Twelve officers, including Geraty, signed up. Foerster testified that he knew in February 2006 that Geraty wanted to be promoted to sergeant.

On March 7, 2006, Foerster attended a Board meeting and provided the Board with the list of officers who had signed up for the promotion process. The process by which the new sergeant list would be created was discussed at that meeting. It consisted of three parts: an anonymous written test, a subjective oral interview, and a discretionary Department Merit and Efficiency Rating assigned by the Chief of Police (" Chief Points" ). To rank officers on the sergeant list, the Board was to incorporate these components into an overall score. The written test and oral interview each constituted 35% of the overall score, and the Chief Points constituted 20% of the overall score. The final 10% of the overall score included up to five points for seniority and five points for military service. Police officers were eligible for the military service points only if they had not already received credit for their military service when applying to be a police officer. The written exam and oral interviews were scheduled at an April 11, 2006, Board meeting, which Foerster attended.

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On May 3, 2006, three days before the written sergeant promotion exam was administered, Foerster met with Geraty privately in his office. The parties agree that the two discussed Geraty's intent to apply for the sergeant's position, but they dispute what was said. Geraty testified during her deposition, based on her notes documenting the conversation, that she stated to Foerster that she was " very excited for the upcoming sergeant's exam," for which she was " studying very hard." (P.'s Ex. 2 (Geraty Dep. 63:5-7).) Geraty testified that Foerster replied that he " did not even know [she] was interested in the sergeant position because he didn't think it would work out with [her] home [and] family life." ( Id. at 63:7-10.) Geraty testified that she responded that her family life " would not be a problem" with regard to the sergeant position. ( Id. ) Foerster, in turn, testified that, three years earlier, Geraty had told him that she was not going to sign up for the previous sergeant's exam because a sergeant's work schedule would not work for her family. (D.'s Ex. F (Foerster Dep. 194:3-5).) He denied that in 2006, he told Geraty that he did not think she should apply to be a sergeant. ( Id. at 195:21-196:24.) Rather, he claimed that he was happy that she planned to take the exam because " three years prior to that [he] had to talk her into [taking the 2003 sergeant's exam]." [2] ( Id. at 196:2-4.)

The written exam was conducted on May 6, 2006. The candidates were provided with an exam number so that they would remain anonymous. The commissioners testified at deposition that applicants who attempted to violate the anonymous nature of the written exam should have been disqualified from the promotion process. The written exam was graded by hand by each of the three commissioners. A passing score was 70. Geraty received a 76, the third-highest score of the officers taking the exam. She was one of nine officers who passed the exam.

While the commissioners were grading the exam, one candidate, Officer David Jensen, knocked on the glass window of the room in which the test was being graded. Geraty and Officer Nowatarski testified at deposition that Jensen put a slip of paper with his test number up against the glass for the commissioners to see. Jensen denied that he showed his exam number, but he admitted that he knocked on the glass, got the attention of the Board's secretary, and tapped on his wrist to indicate that he wanted to know his score. Apart from Jensen's conduct, Geraty does not allege that the written exam was administered or graded improperly.

On May 13, 2006, the Board interviewed the nine officers who passed the written exam. Commissioner Palmer provided the other commissioners with a scoring sheet to use during the oral interviews. The sheet contained nineteen interview questions, a number range to score each response, and lines for notes on the candidates' responses to each question. The commissioners testified at deposition that they received no other information about the candidates, nor any instruction on what qualities to look for during the interviews. They denied discussing with Foerster how to identify good candidates or which candidates Foerster wanted to promote to sergeant. Foerster testified that he did not know how the Board would score the interviews or what questions would be asked, and that he never told the commissioners to promote or not promote someone based on their gender.

Geraty estimated that her interview lasted about twenty minutes. She testified at

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deposition that the interview appeared to be nothing more than a formality, that the commissioners did not appear to take any notes, and that she was asked questions unrelated to her qualifications to be a sergeant, including questions about her family. According to Geraty, in the middle of the interview, the Board's secretary asked Geraty about her young daughter.

All three commissioners testified that the same six to nine questions were asked of each candidate. Little evidence is available as to how the interviews were scored. Commissioner Palmer testified that during the oral interviews, the commissioners considered the candidates' thought processes, their forthcomingness, and their responses. The scoring sheets, which are undated, show few substantive notes. The sheets purportedly used by Commissioner Palmer include comments under the same set of six questions for each officer, but no scores are circled, and the comments are largely illegible.[3] The sheets purportedly used by Commissioner Kozenski show circled scores for only three applicants and contain no notations on any questions for the other applicants. Commissioner Kozenski gave Officers Daryl Youngs and Geraty the same ratings on the three questions for which he recorded scores, but he gave Officer Youngs a higher overall interview score. The sheets used by Commissioner Schoudel show scored answers for only three candidates.

Commissioners Schoudel and Palmer testified at deposition that they remembered nothing specific from the oral interviews. Commissioner Kozenski was the only commissioner who claimed to recall Geraty's interview. He testified as follows:

Basically she did all right on her exam [but] . . . I don't know that she . . . came across at that particular time that she was really ready to take on the responsibilities of . . . of other people, okay, other than herself. The answers to the questions that I can remember were pretty short, not a lot of information given back. She answered the questions, there was no doubt about that, versus what some of the other people did which they kind of expounded on it a little bit more and gave a little more description of what they felt. . . . [T]he way we scored it just came out that it was, at least on my part, somewhat below two of them but a lot higher than several of the other ones, kind of somewhere in the middle . . . . Other than that . . . I just didn't feel like the confidence was there that some of the other people, particularly Aron [Fendel] and [David] Jensen and those guys, had shown . . . .

(P.'s Ex. 15 (Kozenski Dep. 87-88).) Kozenski testified that he believed Officer Jensen " gave a good interview. He seemed to come across with a little bit more confidence, a little more exuberance . . . like he really wanted to be a go-getter type guy." ( Id. at 89.)

Commissioner Palmer testified that the commissioners discussed their subjective evaluations of the officers and came up with scores after each interview, while Commissioners Kozenski and Schoudel testified that the commissioners averaged each ...

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