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Nelson v. Lake County

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

September 18, 2014

LIZ M. NELSON, Plaintiff,
v.
LAKE COUNTY; DEMAR A. HARRIS, in his individual and official capacity; and TERESA BERRYMAN aka TERRI BERRYMAN, in her individual and official capacity, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Liz M. Nelson, Plaintiff, Pro se, Lake Bluff, IL.

For Lake County, Demar A. Harris, in his individual and official capacities, Teresa Berryman, in her individual and official capacities Terri Berryman, Defendants: Beth Greenberg Prager, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lake County State's Attorney, Waukegan, IL; Gunnar Borgthor Gunnarsson, Lake County State's Attorney's Office, Waukegan, IL.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Liz M. Nelson, proceeding pro se, sued defendants Lake County, Demar A. Harris, and Teresa Berryman. Her amended complaint alleges that the defendants discriminated against her based on her Hispanic race and Panamanian nationality in violation of Title VII and that the defendants violated her procedural due-process rights under 42 U.S.C. § § 1981 and 1983. Now before the court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

I. Background Facts

The following facts are not disputed unless otherwise stated. Plaintiff Liz Nelson worked for Lake County in the Workforce Development Department as a case manager and as a career specialist. Lake County's Workforce Development Department distributes state and federal money to Lake County residents to attend short-term training to enhance their wage and career possibilities. The Illinois Department of Commerce monitors the department to ensure proper usage of funds.

As a career specialist, Nelson's job was to determine if individuals were eligible for the training program, collect documents which establish eligibility, and input this information into the Illinois Workforce Development System (IWDS). Career specialists document the individual's enrollment in IWDS and monitor the individuals at 30- and 90-day intervals as mandated by the state. State and department policy required case notes at 30 and 90 days, and Nelson was aware of this policy. Nelson knew that violations of this policy could lead to loss of funding and that the state was monitoring the case notes closely.

Until 2009, Nelson's supervisor was Al Evans. In 2009 or 2010, defendant Demar Harris became Nelson's supervisor. At all relevant periods, defendant Theresa Berryman was the director of the Workforce Development Department. The parties disagree about the extent to which Nelson received warnings about her performance; defendants say that Nelson received her first warning on November 17, 2010. Regardless, the parties agree that on July 7, 2011, Harris e-mailed Nelson and told her that her 30-day case notes were two months late and directed her to update them. On August 19, 2011, Harris e-mailed Nelson again and warned her that her 90-day case notes were late and directed her to update them. By August 30, 2011,

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 Nelson had not updated the case notes and received a written warning due to her failure.

Several of the customers with whom Nelson dealt in her capacity as a career specialist filed complaints against Nelson. On November 16, 2010, Berryman received a complaint from one such individual who said that he had tried to contact Nelson on numerous occasions beginning in March 2010, but that he never heard back from her. On August 31, 2011, Harris received an e-mail from another such individual who said that " Nelson made the experience very difficult" and that " in any case her customer skills are severley [sic] lacking[,] not sure if it's due to her having [E]nglish as a second language, or she enjoys the fact she has the power to veto. I will do anything in my power to avoid any kind of contact with her." (Ludlow E-mail, Aug. 31, 2011, ECF No. 42-1.) On November 5, 2001, Harris received an e-mail from another such individual stating: " Liz Nelson called me at 7:30pm last night to discuss my case. I was surprised by the tone of the discussion . . . . My concern[] at this moment is will I get a fair and unbiased hearing by Liz ...


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