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Hornowski v. Illinois Department of Human Services

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

July 23, 2014

EUGENE M. HORNOWSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

Eugene M. Hornowski, a white male, has sued his former employer, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a)(1)). Hornowski claims that the IDHS discriminated against him because of his race and gender. The IDHS has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the IDHS's motion.

Background

On a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Townsend v. Cooper, No. 12-3620, 2014 WL 3511731, at *5 (7th Cir. Jul. 17, 2014).

On May 1, 2007, Hornowski began working at the IDHS as a full-time Social Services Career Trainee (SSCT). At this time, the IDHS also hired two black women as SSCTs. Hornowski claims that the IDHS subjected him to conditions and rules different from those applied to his co-workers because he is a white man. He alleges that the IDHS denied him certain training while providing it to the other SSCTs. He also that the IDHS ignored complaints he lodged about his co-workers while disciplining him for retaliatory complaints they lodged against him. Hornowski also claims that the IDHS, his black male supervisor in particular, gave him lower performance reviews than the supervisor gave to his co-workers, even though the quality of his work exceeded theirs. Hornowski alleges finally that the IDHS unreasonably denied him unpaid leave around July 2007 and again in October 2007 even though it granted leave to one of his co-workers for personal reasons. Hornowski took unpaid leave on both occasions anyway, recuperating from an injury during the first leave and caring for his seriously ill wife during the second.

On December 3, 2007, Hornowski's supervisor informed him that he was going to be discharged due to the unauthorized leaves of absence, as well as poor work performance. Hornowski appealed to his supervisor's supervisor, the local office administrator, who is a Hispanic female. She told him that it was in his interest to resign rather than have his employment terminated. Hornowski says that based on her statement, he resigned from the IDHS that day.

To bring a Title VII action in federal court, an individual must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and receive authorization to sue in the form of a right-to-sue letter. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). the Id. On January 16, 2008, Hornowski filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Illinois Department of Human Rights. On April 3, 2009, Hornowski received a notice of right to sue. Thus, he had until July 3, 2009 to file a Title VII action in federal court.

On June 30, 2009, three days before the ninety-day period was to run out, Hornowski filed suit. The suit was entitled Hornowski v. Ill. Dep't of Human Servs., Case No. 09 C 3952. It was initially assigned to another judge of this court. The same day he filed suit, Joseph A. Morris, Hornowski's attorney at the time, mailed a copy of the complaint and a request for waiver of service to the Secretary of the IDHS. Pl.'s Resp., Ex. F (Morris Affid.) ¶ 3. Following this, the docket reflects no activity in the case for an extended period by either counsel or the assigned judge (for example, no initial scheduling conference was ever set).

On October 29, 2010, the case was reassigned to the undersigned judge when the judge to whom it had originally been assigned retired. The Court noted the lack of docket activity-in particular the lack of any indication of service of summons-and for this reason, on November 1, 2010, ordered Hornowski to show cause in writing by November 9, 2010 why the case should not be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m) for failure to make timely service of summons, or for want of prosecution.

On November 17, 2010, the Court held a status hearing. Morris appeared at the hearing. As explanation for the absence of service, he offered only that the IDHS had never returned the waiver. Morris did not explain why, when the IDHS did not return the waiver, he had not attempted service of summons-which should have been relatively easy to accomplish-or had not sought an extension or taken any other action.

By orders entered on November 17 and 29, 2010, the Court dismissed the case without prejudice pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m) for failure to make timely service of process.

On July 6, 2011, about fifteen months after Hornowski's receipt of the notice of right to sue, the same lawyer filed another complaint on his behalf in this district, commencing the present action. Hornowski v. Ill. Dep't of Human Servs., Case No. 11 C 4580. The IDHS contends that the current action is time-barred, entitling it to summary judgment. The IDHS also seeks summary judgment on the grounds that Hornowski has failed to establish a prima facie claim of "reverse" discrimination and has not shown that the reasons offered for IDHS's conduct are a pretext for discrimination.

Discussion

"The court shall grant summary judgment if 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). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's position will be insufficient to survive a summary judgment motion; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find in favor of the nonmoving party." Siegel v. ...


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