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Ekanem v. City of Chicago

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

June 16, 2014

PATRICK EKANEM, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge.

Patrick Ekanem ("Ekanem") alleges that the City of Chicago ("City") refused to reinstate him as a Firefighter-EMT candidate with the Chicago Fire Department because of his race (black) in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. I grant the City's motion for summary judgment for the reasons stated below.

I.

I start with two preliminary matters: (1) how Ekanem's failure to oppose the City's motion shapes my view of the facts at this stage and (2) how my prior rulings on the City's two motions to dismiss limit the scope of Ekanem's claim.

A.

Ekanem fired his attorney shortly before his response to the City's motion for summary judgment was due. At a status hearing on March 26, 2014, I determined that Ekanem was competent to litigate this case without the assistance of appointed counsel. See Pruitt v. Mote, 503 F.3d 647, 655 (7th Cir. 2007) (en banc) (articulating legal standard governing motions for appointed counsel in civil cases). I advised Ekanem in open court that he must submit any evidence supporting his claim within thirty days. I also ordered the City to serve Ekanem with the notice required by Local 56.2 for pro se litigants facing a motion for summary judgment. The City certifies that it complied with this order. Ekanem has not filed any opposition to the City's motion for summary judgment more than one month after the deadline for his response. Accordingly, I accept all properly supported assertions in the City's statement of material facts as true. See N.D.Ill. Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C). However, Ekanem is still entitled to have the City's uncontested facts and his deposition testimony construed in the light most favorable to his claim. See Coleman v. Donahoe, 667 F.3d 835, 842 (7th Cir. 2012).

B.

With regard to the scope of Ekanem's race discrimination claim, I ruled in November 2012 that only one of his allegations was included in a timely EEOC charge: Ekanem's claim that the City, acting through someone other than Chief John McKillop, denied his July 30, 2009 request for reinstatement because of his race. See Dkt. No. 38 (denying City's motion to dismiss amended complaint).

In recounting the facts, I focus on evidence relating to this discrete failure-to-reinstate claim, keeping in mind that "acts outside of the statutory time frame may be used to support [a timely] claim." Davis v. Con-Way Transp. Central Express, Inc., 368 F.3d 776, 786 n.4 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 113 (2002)).

II.

On December 1, 2008, Ekanem began working as a probationary Firefighter-EMT candidate with the Chicago Fire Department ("CFD"). Ekanem's employment started with a nine month probationary period consisting of classroom instruction at the CFD Fire Academy ("Fire Academy") for six months and field work for the final three months.

The Fire Academy portion of Ekanem's training had two components: (1) training on emergency medical procedures and (2) fire suppression and hazardous materials training. As part of his Fire Academy training, Ekanem was required to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians-Basic exam ("NREMT-B exam") within six months. Ekanem understood that failure to pass the NREMT-B exam within six months of enrolling at the Fire Academy could result in termination. See Pl.'s Dep at 70:15-71:2.

Ekanem first took the NREMT-B exam in February 2009. After failing the exam, Ekanem attended at least five group tutoring sessions offered by Fire Academy instructors. These group tutoring sessions consisted of reviewing the assigned reading materials and taking practice tests.

Ekanem failed the NREMT-B exam for a second time in March 2009. He then received individual tutoring from Arnold Godwin ("Godwin"), one of the EMT instructors at the Fire Academy. Godwin told Ekanem that he had a 100 percent success rate in helping Firefighter-EMT candidates pass the NREMT-B exam. Ekanem was under the impression that Godwin would tutor him until his third test date. However, the head instructor at the Fire Academy, Lt. Florez, interrupted their second tutoring session to say that Godwin could not continue tutoring Ekanem. Lt. Florez did not provide an explanation for this decision. Godwin remarked to Ekanem that the Fire Academy instructors had never ended one of his individual tutoring engagements with a white pupil in such an abrupt fashion. See Pl.'s Dep. at 123:2-4. After Ekanem's tutoring sessions with Instructor Godwin ended, the Fire Academy instructors told Ekanem to stop seeking ...


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