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Porus v. Randall

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 8, 2014

RICHARD A. RANDALL, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Kendall County and COUNTY OF KENDALL, Defendants.


MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

Nichole Porus[1] has sued Kendall County and Richard A. Randall in his official capacity as Sheriff of Kendall County pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-5. Porus asserts claims of a sexually hostile work environment and retaliation for complaints about the work environment. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on both claims. The Court grants defendants' motion for the reasons discussed below.


The Court takes the following facts from Porus's complaint and from the parties' statements of facts, indicating which facts are and are not disputed. The Court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Porus, the non-moving party. Phillips v. Cont'l Tire The Americas, L.L.C., 743 F.3d 475, 477 (7th Cir. 2014).

A. Sexual harassment and attempts at corrective action

On December 20, 2004, the Kendall County Sheriff's Office hired Porus as a correctional officer. Porus alleges that some of her male supervisors and co-workers subjected her to constant and severe sexual harassment, as described below.

First, Porus had no choice but to change clothes in a co-ed locker room. The room contained bathrooms, but they lacked locks. Porus alleges that male officers undressed in front of her, though when she testified during her deposition, she stated that a deputy named Baird was the only officer to do so. Porus Dep. at 151. In June 2006, Porus submitted an online form to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in which she complained about the situation. On July 16, 2006, she sent Sergeant Joseph Gillespie, one of her supervisors, a memo requesting permission to change in a locker room used by female secretaries and dispatchers. Gillespie denied permission, stating that Porus needed to remain in the correctional division. But sometime after Porus sent Gillespie the memo, the Sheriff's Office installed locks both on a room in the locker room where officers changed and on the bathrooms in the locker room. Porus never proceeded with a formal EEOC complaint, evidently having concluded that this particular problem had been resolved.

Sometime before January 2007, Porus claims, Sergeant Gillespie engaged in repeated sexually harassing acts against her. He grabbed and lifted Porus for a few seconds in the locker room, accompanied her to a shooting range where he kissed her neck, told her that he could obtain a promotion for her if she slept with him, asked her to join him at a hotel, asked her and Officer Amber Christoffel-Slaughter to go skinny dipping with him, asked her and Christoffel-Slaughter to kiss each other, sent Porus at least one sexually explicit e-mail, and left gifts, notes, and cards for Porus in her locker. Porus concedes that she did not report any of these acts to anyone, including Commander Sabrina Jennings. Porus implies that Jennings's friendship with Gillespie dissuaded her from complaining to Jennings.

In June 2007, Chief Deputy Terry Tichava played with Porus's bra strap and lifted Christoffel-Slaughter's shirt when Porus and Christoffel-Slaughter were out at a club together. Porus again concedes that she never informed anyone of the incident.

On December 3, 2007, Porus found a tampon in the locker room that had been colored red with a marker. She reported the incident to a sergeant named Flowers, who dismissed it as a joke. Although Flowers informed Jennings of the incident, Jennings issued him a written reprimand for not investigating the matter.

It is undisputed that on December 22, 2007, Sergeant Mike Hawkins was reading roll call in the presence of other officers when he looked at Porus and stated, "HOHOHO is that what you are?" followed by "oh wait you're not offended by that are you?" Pl.'s Ex. 5 at KC 368. Sometime in January 2008, again during roll call, Hawkins asked Porus, "so how does it feel to be a member of the itty bitty titty club?" Id. On January 28, 2008, Porus complained to Jennings about both incidents. Jennings investigated the complaint, ordered Hawkins to apologize to Porus, and suspended Hawkins.

Sometime before January 2008, Sergeant Joe Rousseau called Porus and Christoffel-Slaugher to his computer to show them a video entitled "camel toe." Porus's Dep. at 223-24. Neither Porus nor Christoffel-Slaughter ever reported the incident to anyone.

In addition, Porus contends, some of her supervisors and co-workers spread rumors about her engaging in certain sexual relationships, including with an inmate. Porus complained to Jennings about the rumors. Although Porus has not attributed dates to any of the rumors, the fact that Jennings investigated the charge in January 2008 suggests that they occurred before or around that time.

Porus also contends that some of her supervisors and co-workers exchanged sexually explicit e-mails, but she has not described receiving or seeing anyone else receive any particular messages. However, Jennings testified during her deposition that Hawkins sent a female employee a sexually explicit e-mail. Jennings Dep. at 27-28. In addition, Christoffel-Slaughter testified during her deposition that she was forwarded sexually explicit e-mails at least once a week. Christoffel-Slaughter Dep. at 14-15.

Finally, on February 25, 2009, Porus says that Deputy Edmund Belmonte called her a "fucking bitch" in the hallway outside of Gillespie's office after she failed to take a phone message for him and they argued briefly about the incident. Porus Dep. at 104. Porus filed a written complaint with Gillespie, in which she stated in part that "the hostile work environment, slandering and name calling have continued, " despite Porus having raised the ...

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