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Koch v. Chicago Board of Education

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

November 6, 2014

Patricia Koch, Plaintiff,
v.
The Chicago Board of Education, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS M. DURKIN, District Judge.

Patricia Koch ("Koch") brings this action against the Chicago Board of Education ("the Board") by way of an amended complaint. R. 36. Koch alleges that she was wrongfully discharged because of her age, that she was not rehired because of her age, and that she was retaliated against for filing an age discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), all in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623. R. 36. The Board has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56 on each of Koch's claims. R. 59. Specifically, the Board argues that Koch failed to put forth evidence establishing a prima facie case with regard to Koch's termination and failure to rehire claims; that even if Koch did establish a prima facie case for these two claims, the Board had legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for its actions that were not pretextual; and finally, that Koch's retaliation claim is time-barred and without merit. R. 60. For the following reasons, the Board's motion is granted and this case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

I. Koch's Employment History with the Board

In 1996, Koch began working for the Board as a substitute teacher at Scammon School. R. 36 ¶ 4. In 2005, she was hired as a Math/Science Specialist in the Math and Science Department, which was a department within the Office of Instruction of the Board. R. 69 ¶ 3. In 2007, Koch became an algebra coach within the Math and Science Department. Id. Koch held this position until October 21, 2011. Id.

During the summer of 2011, in response to budget constraints, the Board announced that "there would be reductions to administrative and support staff in order to keep budget cuts away from the classroom." R. 69 ¶ 7. In addition, the Board "would undergo a redesign...to maximize resources and operating capacity, " and to implement the Board's new initiative - to transition to the Common Core State Standard ("CCSS"). R. 69 ¶¶ 7-9. The redesign called for the elimination of 150 positions within the Office of Instruction. R. 69 ¶ 13.

On September 21, 2011, Jennifer Cheatem ("Cheatem"), the Chief Instructional Officer for the Board, held a meeting with several departments, including Koch's, and announced the redesign. R. 69 ¶ 15. During the meeting, Cheatem explained that "[a]ll 16 positions in the [Math & Science] Department (4 vacant and 12 occupied) were slated to be closed and all 12 employees including, [Koch], were informed that they would be laid off effective October 21, 2011." R. 69 ¶ 16.[1] However, Cheatem advised that employees could apply for other positions within the Board, and if hired into a new position prior to the layoff, they would simply be transferred to the new position. R. 69 ¶¶ 15-16.

On October 14, 2011, Jesch Reyes ("Reyes") was hired as the Director of the math and science department. R. 69 ¶ 20. "Reyes was allotted ten positions, not including himself and an administrative assistant." R. 69 ¶ 21. Reyes "was given the responsibility to make hiring recommendations for those 10 positions; he recommended the Board hire three Science Specialist positions (one for [grades] K-5, one for [grades] 6-8, and one for [high school]), six Math Specialist positions (two for [grades] K-5, two for [grades] 6-8 and two for [high school]); [sic] and one [grade] 6-8 Math/Science Specialist." R. 69 ¶ 18. The math director and science director positions were eliminated, along with the two algebra instructional coach positions. Id.

Between September 20, 2011 and October 21, 2011, Koch applied for other positions within the math and science department, including one of the grades 6-8 math specialist positions. R. 69 ¶¶ 22-23. Koch was not interviewed for any of the positions to which she applied. Id. Dumas and Kell applied for, and accepted, positions within another department prior to the layoff. Id. Wood, Porter, and Murff applied for, and were rehired into, the positions they held prior to the layoff. Compare R. 60 at 4 to R. 69 ¶ 26. McLeod was hired as a grades 6-8 math specialist. R. 69 ¶ 26. And without having been rehired into other positions, Koch, Loehr, Westrick, Holly, Washington, and Newman were all laid off on October 21, 2011. R. 69 ¶ 22.

"Between October 17, 2011 and November 7, 2011, [Koch] informally expressed an interest in the remaining K-5 and HS Math Specialist positions and the K-5 Science Specialist position." R. 69 ¶ 24. "In Mid-November, Plaintiff formally applied for the K-5 and [high school] Math Specialist positions." Id. Then, in April of 2012, Koch was hired by the Board to teach sixth grade math and science at John Hay School. R. 63, Ex. A1, at 12:2-4, 27:13-24, 28:1-12. Despite accepting this job offer, Koch formally applied for a grades 6-8 math specialist position in May of 2012. R. 69 ¶ 25.

II. Procedural History

Not receiving any job offers from the Board, Koch filed a complaint with the EEOC on November 9, 2011.[2] R. 36, Ex. 1. The box marked "age"[3] was checked in Koch's EEOC complaint which alleged that "[s]ince September 2011, I have applied for several positions and [the Board] has hired younger employees. On or about October 21, 2011, I was discharged. I believe I was discriminated against because of my age...in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act." Id. Koch provided October 21, 2011 as the date of the last discriminatory act, and did not check the box to indicate that the discriminatory conduct was ongoing. Id.

On May 3, 2012, the EEOC notified Koch that it was closing its file on Koch's November 9, 2011 complaint, and informed her of her right to sue based on the complaint. R. 36, Ex. 3. Koch timely filed the original complaint in this matter with the Court on July 31, 2012. R. 1. The original complaint was based solely on the November 9, 2011 EEOC charge. Id. In her complaint, Koch asserted that she applied for various positions with the Board to no avail, and that she was improperly discharged from her employment with the Board because of her age. Id. The complaint contained two counts: a discriminatory termination count and a disparate impact count, both filed pursuant to the ADEA. Id. The Court granted the Board's motion to dismiss the disparate impact count, but allowed the case to proceed on the discriminatory termination count. R. 22.

Koch filed a second EEOC complaint on June 7, 2013. R. 36, Ex. 2. In that complaint, Koch checked the retaliation and age discrimination boxes. Id. Koch stated "I applied for employment with [the Board] as a Math Specialist. I filed an EEOC charge. I continued to apply for employment as a Math Specialist. I was not selected for the position(s), while younger applicants were hired. I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my age...and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act." Id. Koch provided June 7, 2013 as the most recent date that discriminatory conduct occurred and checked the box indicating that the discriminatory conduct was ongoing. Id.

The EEOC issued Koch a right to sue letter based on the June 7, 2013 complaint on June 19, 2013. R. 36, Ex. 4. Upon receiving the right to sue letter from the EEOC on the June 7, 2013 charge, Koch filed an amended complaint on June 27, 2013. R. 36. While the amended complaint contains only one count, read liberally, Koch's amended complaint pleads three separate causes of action: discriminatory discharge on account of Koch's age, failure to rehire on account of Koch's ...


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