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Purchase v. Shawnee Community College

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 11, 2014

KENT PURCHASE, Plaintiff,
v.
SHAWNEE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

This matter came before the Court on September 8, 2014, for a hearing on the amended motion for summary judgment, which was filed by Defendant Shawnee Community College on January 29, 2014 (Doc. 43). For the reasons set forth below and those stated on the record, the amended motion for summary judgment is granted, and this case is dismissed on the merits.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Kent Purchase, is African-American. He was hired to work in the maintenance department at Shawnee Community College ("the College") on June 23, 2008 (Doc. 43-2). Don Koch was Purchase's immediate supervisor and in charge of the maintenance department (Doc. 43-5). There were three other men in the maintenance department besides Purchase, two of whom had been hired in 2005 and one who had been hired in 1988 (Doc. 43-2). All four men received performance evaluations on February 23, 2010 (Docs. 43-6, 43-7, 43-8, 43-9). Purchase received a score of 22, and the other three men received scores of 24, 24, and 32, respectively.

In early 2010, the College was forced to do a reduction in force and terminate the positions of eleven employees because the State of Illinois failed to provide all of the funding the College was supposed to receive (Doc. 43-5). It was determined that one of those eleven employees was going to be a member of the maintenance staff (Doc. 43-5). Tiffiney Ryan, the Chief Financial Officer at the College, asked Don Koch to recommend which member of the maintenance staff should be terminated (Doc. 43-5). Koch recommended Purchase because he had the least seniority and also received a slightly lower performance evaluation than the other members of the maintenance staff (Doc. 43-5). The Board of Trustees ultimately approved Purchase's termination (Doc. 43-5). On March 30, 2010, Purchase was notified that he was being terminated due to a reduction in force, effective June 30, 2010 (Doc. 43-3). Of the eleven employees who were terminated as part of the reduction in force, eight were Caucasian, two were African-American, including Purchase, and one was biracial (Caucasian and Asian) (Doc. 43-3).

According to Tiffiney Ryan, if the College had received appropriate funding, Purchase's position would not have been eliminated, and he would have been recommended for continued employment (Doc. 43-5). Purchase's position has not been refilled (Doc. 43-5).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Purchase filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and he was notified on December 28, 2011, that the charge had been dismissed, and he had ninety days in which to file suit (Doc. 1). Purchase filed a timely pro se complaint in this Court on March 27, 2012 (Doc. 1). The complaint alleges that the College violated Title VII, the American with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (Doc. 1). The complaint alleges facts giving rise to claims of hostile work environment and racial discrimination in violation of Title VII, discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and retaliatory discharge (Doc. 1).

The College filed its amended motion for summary judgment on January 29, 2014, on the claims of hostile work environment, racial discrimination, and disability discrimination (Doc. 43). Purchase filed a response on February 27, 2014 (Doc. 45). A hearing on the motion was scheduled for September 8, 2014, at 11 a.m. in front of the undersigned judge (Doc. 49). On June 17, 2014, a notice of hearing was sent to Purchase at the address he had on record with the Court via first-class mail. Purchase, however, failed to appear at the hearing. The purpose of the hearing was to provide the litigants an opportunity to speak to the Court in person and to offer additional arguments. Accordingly, Purchase's absence from the hearing did not factor into the Court's decision to grant the motion for summary judgment in favor of the College and against Purchase.

DISCUSSION

A. Claims Not Addressed in the Amended Motion for Summary Judgment

As an initial matter, the Court wishes to address three claims purportedly brought in the complaint that the College did not mention in its amended motion for summary judgment.

In the first sentence of the complaint, Purchase states that he is proceeding in part under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act ("GINA") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). To the extent that is true, those claims must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Purchase failed to state a GINA claim because he did not describe any genetic information about himself that was disclosed to the College or describe any adverse employment action that was taken against him on account of this characteristic. Purchase failed to state an ADEA claim because he never mentioned how old he is, or how old the other maintenance workers are, nor did he describe any adverse employment actions that were taken against him on account of his age.

The complaint also contains allegations suggesting Purchase intended to bring a claim for retaliatory discharge against the College. Specifically, Purchase alleges that he was discharged because he filed two worker's compensation claims (Doc. 1). However, that claim cannot be brought under Title VII because Title VII only prohibits retaliation against an employee for the employee's involvement in combatting discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, or some other protected class. 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-2(a)(1); Hamner v. St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc., 224 F.3d 701, 704 (7th Cir. 2000) (explaining that Title VII "protects persons not just from certain forms of job discrimination and harassment, but from retaliation for complaining about the types of discrimination it prohibits.") (internal citations omitted). Instead, that claim must be brought under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. However, ...


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