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Little v. Illinois Department of Revenue

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

September 16, 2014

GREGORY H. LITTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MANISH S. SHAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Gregory Little claims his former employer, the Illinois Department of Revenue, retaliated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Though officially terminated for falsifying time records, plaintiff claims he was actually fired as payback for filing discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Officer.

Defendant has moved for summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff's claim is barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion. The Department argues that plaintiff missed his opportunity to bring this claim by failing to join it to a prior state-court action challenging his termination.

For the following reasons, defendant's motion is granted.

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate 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. Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See CTL ex rel. Trebatoski v. Ashland School District, 743 F.3d 524, 528 (7th Cir. 2014).

II. Background[1]

Plaintiff Gregory H. Little, who is black, began working for the defendant Illinois Department of Revenue in 1985. Dkt. 31 ¶ 3. In February 2008, plaintiff became supervisor of the Northern Enforcement Division of the Department's Bureau of Criminal Investigations. Id. ¶ 6. About a year later, the Department created a new position that supervised plaintiff and Barbara Bruno was appointed to fill it. Id. ¶ 7.

In March and April 2010, plaintiff filed seven charges of race discrimination against Bruno with the Department's Equal Employment Opportunity Officer. Id. ¶ 8. Around that same time, Bruno filed her own charges against plaintiff with Internal Affairs, claiming he was disrespectful, a bully, unprofessional, and unwilling to follow the chain of command. Id. ¶ 9. The Department's Internal Investigations Division opened an investigation and found plaintiff was working fewer hours than required under his approved schedule. Id. ¶ 10. As a result, plaintiff was charged with three violations of Department policy: (1) time abuse; (2) falsification of time records; and (3) misuse of a state vehicle and property. Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff was terminated. Id. ¶ 12.

Plaintiff filed a timely written request for a hearing with the Civil Service Commission to challenge the charges and termination. Id. ¶ 19. After several hearings, the administrative law judge found the charges partially proven and further found that they warranted termination. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. The Commission later affirmed and adopted the judge's findings. Id. ¶ 22.

On September 12, 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review with the Circuit Court of Cook County, challenging the Civil Service Commission's approval of his discharge. Id. ¶ 23. The Department was named as one of several defendants. Id. Plaintiff alleged that the findings (1) that he falsified his time sheets, and (2) that termination was merited, were "erroneous and contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence[.]" Dkt. 29-1 at 129-30. Plaintiff also alleged that the administrative law judge "failed to address [plaintiff's] defenses of retaliation from the protected activities of reporting race discrimination and sex discrimination and also retaliation for [plaintiff's] reporting of conduct which [he] reasonably believed to be in violation of law as motivation for [his] termination." Id. The circuit court eventually entered judgment in favor of the defendants and upheld plaintiff's termination. Dkt. 31 ¶ 24. Plaintiff appealed to the Illinois Court of Appeals. Id. ¶ 25. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's decisions, holding that the sanction of termination by the Civil Service Commission was warranted where plaintiff was a supervisor and repeatedly and unjustifiably entered inaccurate times on his time sheets. Id. ¶ 26.

At the same time plaintiff was adjudicating his case before the administrative law judge, he filed a single-count complaint in federal court-the case now before me. Id. ¶¶ 17, 19, 21. Plaintiff's complaint is difficult to interpret. It is styled as a claim for retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but at times it also seems to claim substantive racial discrimination. See Dkt.

1 ¶¶ 1, 8. Plaintiff's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge makes clear, however, that plaintiff is indeed claiming only that the Department terminated him as retaliation for ...


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