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Holder v. Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 18, 2014

DAVID HOLDER, Plaintiff,
v.
THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF JUVENILE JUSTICE as operator of The ILLINOIS YOUTH CENTER, HARRISBURG, Defendant.

ORDER

PHILIP M. FRAZIER, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is defendant Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice's ("IDJJ") Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 56). Plaintiff David Holder filed a response in opposition (Doc. 63). In his complaint Holder asserts that the IDJJ discriminated against him on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII of the Human Rights Act of 1964 and retailed against him for filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Holder's second amended complaint presents a haphazard intermingling of multiple causes of action into a single count ("Count 1"). Such practice conflicts with Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b) ("If doing so would promote clarity, each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence... must be stated in a separate count..."). In the interest of clarity, Holder's single count will be broken up into separate claims. Holder's asserts claims that: 1) he was terminated because of his race, 2) he was terminated in retaliation for filing EEOC complaints, 3) he was not promoted because of his race, 4) he was not promoted in retaliation for filing EEOC complaints, 5) he was subject to investigations, discipline, and a hostile work environment because of his race, 6) he was subject to investigations, discipline and a hostile work environment in retaliation for filing EEOC complaints, and 7) he was paid less than Caucasian employees. For the following reasons, the defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted for claims 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. The defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied with respect to claims 1 and 2. There are genuine issues of material fact as to whether Holder was terminated because of his race and whether he was terminated in retaliation for filing EEOC complaints.

I. BACKGROUND

When presented with a motion for summary judgment, "the court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial." Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir.1994). Without making any credibility determinations, the Court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). With that standard in mind, defendant IDJJ operates the Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg, Illinois ("IYCH"), a medium security facility that houses male youth offenders. Plaintiff David Holder is an African American who was hired by the IDJJ for the position of Juvenile Justice Specialist at the IYCH in July, 1998. Holder is a veteran, has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Southern Illinois University, and speaks fluent Spanish. Holder contends that he was subject to a series of discriminatory and retaliatory actions by the defendant, culminating in his termination with the IDJJ on July 28, 2010.

The first dispute between the Holder and the IDJJ arose in regards to "Temporary Assignment" ("TA") positions at the IYCH. TA positions are, as their name suggests, assignments where an employee is temporarily promoted to the next employment grade level.[1] Employees are not required to accept TA offers, but TA positions include an increase in wages and they allow employees to become familiar with the tasks and responsibilities of the higher level position. An employee with TA experience would be at a distinct advantage over those without TA experience whenever a permanent promotion opportunity became available.

From 1998 through 2002 Holder was not offered any TA positions, and he filed a complaint with the EEOC in December, 2002. In his complaint with the EEOC Holder alleged he was being discriminated against on account of his race and his age. The Complaint stated:

"I have been employed by Respondent since 1998. I am currently a Youth Supervisor II. On a continuing basis I have been denied T/A III assignments. Younger, less senior, non-Black employees have been given assignments on a regular basis. Of the approximately 25-30 individuals given these assignments, only 1 is over age 40 and only 1 is Black. In addition, in about March 2002 I was given unwarranted discipline for reporting a rule violation committed by a non-Black Officer. No action was taken against this employee.
I believe that I have been discriminated against by Respondent because of my race, Black, and my age, [46], in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended."

The Illinois Department of Corrections entered into a settlement agreement with Holder in May of 2003, and he received seven TA positions in 2003 and one in 2007.

Despite the settlement agreement, tension continued between Holder and his supervisors. On December 26, 2003 Holder filed another complaint with the EEOC. In the complaint he stated that he was being retaliated against for filing the previous complaint. The second EEOC complaint stated:

"I am employed as a Youth Supervisor II at Respondent. In December 2002, I filed an EEOC charge of discrimination against Respondent. In May 2003, I entered into a settlement agreement with Respondent. Since that time, I have been subjected to harassment by a supervisor at Respondent. I was the target of an investigation of an inappropriate written note and the confidentiality of information in my personnel files was breached. On October 17, 2003, after I complained of harassment to the Governor's Whistle Blower Hotline, I was issued a disciplinary packet where I was cited for failure to fully cooperate with an investigation and conduct unbecoming an officer. Also, I have been told that I cannot speak Spanish to Spanish-speaking offenders at the facility.
I believe I am being retaliated in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended."

The defendant denied that any retaliation occurred and asserted that the disciplinary actions were all warranted. The defendant asserts that Holder was investigated in regards to the note because it was partially written in Spanish, and Holder speaks the language. The note was even sent to be analyzed by handwriting experts at the Illinois State Police forensics laboratory. The investigation was ultimately inconclusive, and it could not be proven that Holder drafted the note. The defendant also stated that the prohibition on Spanish communications with offenders was not specifically directed towards Holder, but was established under the theory that if staff were to communicate in Spanish with the youth offenders it could undermine security. Holder filed a union complaint over the Spanish issue, and sometime later he was allowed to communicate in Spanish with the youth offenders.

The next several years of Holder's employment were relatively uneventful, but Holder did apply for Youth Supervisor IV positions in 2004 and 2005. On both occasions he was denied the promotion. Then in 2008 the relationship between Holder and the IJCC began to worsen. Around that time, Holder underwent treatment for bladder cancer. When he returned to work he was placed on light duty status, and he notified management that he should minimize the amount of time he spends standing. Holder was still required to stand for roll call every morning, despite the fact that another, Caucasian employee recuperating from cancer was allowed to ...


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