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Thomas v. Ceda

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

July 9, 2014

DELLRITA THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
CEDA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Dellrita Thomas ("Thomas"), filed a pro se, three-count complaint alleging discrimination based on her race and disability pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §1981 ("§1981"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), against her prior employer, Community and Economic Development of Cook County ("CEDA"). CEDA moves for summary judgment [33], arguing there is no genuine issue of material fact and it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. For the reasons set forth below, CEDA's motion for summary judgment is granted.

Background

The following facts are undisputed. Thomas, an African American woman, began working for CEDA in February of 2001, a social services agency that provides family/child social services in the Cook County area. Thomas first held the position of Teacher's Assistant in CEDA's Head Start program until she was transferred to the position of Lead Teacher from August 2002 until December 2002, to cover another employee's leave of absence. In December 2002, Thomas was transferred back to the Teacher's Assistant position in the Head Start program and remained in that position through the end of the 2002-2003 school year. In August 2003, CEDA transferred Thomas out of the Head Start program and into the Preschool program where she remained until her termination in 2005.

Thomas claims to have become disabled as a result of a fall in a CEDA classroom, severely injuring her right knee. She immediately reported her injury to her supervisor, Mary Lee Doden, whom she claims refused to write up her injury report; instead, instructing her to write up her own. Thomas took a medical leave of absence from December 2003 until February 2004. Although cleared to return to work with a light duty restriction, Thomas' restrictions prevented her from standing more than fifteen minutes at a time, and also limited her ability to walk and bend over. Thomas claims upon her return, she was met with harassment, discrimination, and retaliation from Doden due to her disability.

Thomas alleges her complaints to Doden about her harassing, discriminatory, and retaliatory behavior went unanswered. Thomas then began to voice her complaints by calling, writing, and faxing Doden's supervisor on an almost weekly basis. Thomas also complained to Unita Sims, CEDA's Vice President of Child Services, through a series of letters she submitted on March 30, 2005. Despite her complaints, Thomas alleges Doden's mistreatment of her continued.

In July 2005, Thomas learned that due to low enrollment and funding cuts, fifteen CEDA employees who worked in CEDA's Head Start Program were selected for inclusion in a reduction in force ("RIF"), including Thomas. Thomas was informed that her selection in the RIF was unrelated to her job performance. Thomas stated that she had no reason to doubt that CEDA indeed had experienced a reduction in funding, as Unita Sims had related such to her. Thomas was offered the opportunity to apply for vacant positions within CEDA, which were not subject to budget cuts, but she declined as they were located outside of Oak Park and not related to teaching. In 2011, CEDA closed its entire Oak Park facility.

Thomas argues that at the time of the RIF she was no longer in the Head Start program, thus, she should not have been included in the lay-offs. Moreover, she contends that enrollment was not low and that other non-African American and non-disabled employees in the Head Start program were not included in the RIF.

After filing pro se, the Court appointed Thomas counsel. On October 7, 2013, the Court granted defendant's motion to dismiss defendant Salazar, the Director of Human Resources for CEDA, as plaintiff admitted that her lawsuit was only intended to be pursued against CEDA, and that she has no basis to believe that Salazar personally subjected her to discrimination. Shortly thereafter, the remaining defendant CEDA filed its motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, CEDA's motion is granted.

Legal Standard

A party is entitled to summary judgment if the evidence shows that there is "no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court construes all reasonable inferences and resolves all evidentiary conflicts in the light most favorable to Thomas, the non-moving party. Coleman v. Donahoe, 667 F.3d 835, 842 (7th Cir. 2012). At this stage, the Court may not weigh the evidence or engage in fact-finding, instead, the Court is simply to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Lewis v. City of Chicago, 496 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2007). The party who bears the burden of proof on an issue may not rest on the pleadings or mere speculation, but must affirmatively demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires a trial to resolve. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex v. Carteret, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

Discussion

Thomas' three-count employment discrimination action is brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §1981 ("§1981"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). CEDA moves for summary judgment arguing that Thomas cannot establish a prima facie case of discrimination based on race or disability, because she fails to meet either the direct or indirect method tests, and even if she could establish the necessary proof under either standard, she cannot ultimately show that CEDA's proffered ...


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