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Johnson v. Beach Park School Dist.

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

April 28, 2015

THERESA A. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BEACH PARK SCHOOL DIST., Defendant

Theresa A. Johnson, Plaintiff, Pro se, Waukegan, IL.

For Beach Park School Dist., Defendant: Daniel Playfair Field, LEAD ATTORNEY, Scariano, Himes & Petrarca, Waukegan, IL; Albert Lynn Himes, Paul J. Ciastko, Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, Chicago, IL.

OPINION AND ORDER

SARA L. ELLIS, United States District Judge.

Believing that Beach Park School District (" Beach Park" ) failed to offer her a substitute teaching position on account of her age, race, and disability and in retaliation for previously declining to substitute teach for Beach Park, Theresa Johnson filed a pro se Complaint alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ) 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" ADEA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1 et seq., and a Monell claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Beach Park moves for summary judgment asserting that Johnson cannot establish a prima facie case for any of her claims. Because Johnson's ADEA claim was not timely presented to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) and she has failed to establish a prima facie case for any of her claims, Beach Park's motion for summary judgment [198] is granted and this case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND[1]

Johnson is a certified teacher. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Wisconsin, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University, an Illinois State Teaching Certificate from Barat College, and a Certificate in Child Care from the College of Lake County. In August of 2007, Johnson applied for a substitute teaching position with Beach Park. To aid in its review of Johnson's application, Beach Park asked Johnson for official copies of her college transcripts. Johnson believed that this request was inappropriate and motivated by Beach Park's discriminatory animus towards Johnson because of her race, African American. Nevertheless, in October of 2007 Johnson was hired by Beach Park and entered into its substitute teaching database. Beach Park contacted Johnson on several occasions asking her to substitute teach. Johnson declined Beach Park's offers because she was substitute teaching at another school and because she believed that Beach Park had discriminated against her. For these reasons, Johnson also asked Beach Park to remove her from its substitute teaching database at some point during the 2007-2008 school year. Beach Park did not contact Johnson to substitute teach thereafter.

On or around August 27, 2011, Johnson went to Beach Park to reactivate her application to substitute teach. Johnson spoke with Shelly Adams, who was the Human Resources Coordinator for Beach Park at the time. Adams told Johnson that to be considered for employment, she would need to fill out an on-line application.[2] Johnson told Adams that she did not have a computer and Adams informed her that she could use the computers at the public library. Adams also told Johnson that she could submit a resume directly to her. Johnson submitted her resume to Adams that same day. Adams reviewed Johnson's resume and found it to be vague and lacking the detail that the online application elicits. At some later time, Johnson went to the library to complete Beach Park's online application but was unable to find the application on the internet. Johnson never completed Beach Park's online application and was not added to its substitute teaching database for the 2011-2012 school year.

On March 20, 2012, Johnson filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, alleging that Beach Park discriminated against her on the basis of her disability.[3] The EEOC issued Johnson a right to sue letter based on this charge on April 4, 2012. On June 25, 2012, Johnson filed another charge of discrimination with the EEOC, this time alleging that Beach Park discriminated against Johnson based on her race. The EEOC issued a right to sue letter based on this charge on September 13, 2012.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. To determine whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 & advisory committee's notes. The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on mere pleadings alone but must use the evidentiary tools listed above to identify specific material facts that demonstrate a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598-99 (7th Cir. 2000). Although a bare contention that an issue of fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 492 (7th Cir. 2000), the Court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

ANALYSIS

I. Age Discrimination Claim

The ADEA prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of that employee's age. 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). 29 U.S.C. § 631(a) limits the ADEA's applicability to persons who are 40 years of age and older. " In order to bring an ADEA claim in federal court, a plaintiff must first have raised it in a timely EEOC charge." Ajayi v. Aramark Bus. Servs., 336 F.3d 520, 527 (7th Cir. 2003). Neither of Johnson's EEOC charges alleges that Beach Park discriminated against her on account of her age. Doc. 172 at 13[4]; Doc. 201, Ex. 5. Nor are Johnson's EEOC charges sufficiently broad enough to encompass an age discrimination claim. See Ajayi, 336 F.3d at 527 (explaining the inquiry as whether the EEOC charge " would reasonabl[y] lead one to conclude that [the plaintiff] was the victim of age discrimination" ). Johnson checked only the box marked " DISABILITY" on her March 20, 2012 EEOC charge. Doc. 201, Ex. 5.[5] In describing the particulars of the alleged discrimination, Johnson stated " Respondent is aware of my disability...I believe that I was discriminated against because of my disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." Id. Similarly, Johnson checked only the box marked " RACE" on her June 25, 2012 EEOC charge. Doc. 172 at 13. In describing the particulars of the alleged discrimination, Johnson stated " I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my race, Black, in violation of Title VII." Id. Nothing in either charge would give the EEOC or Beach Park notice of an age discrimination claim. Johnson's age discrimination claim is therefore not properly before this Court and summary judgment is granted for Beach Park.

Even if Johnson's age discrimination claim were properly before the Court, summary judgment would still be granted in Beach Park's favor. A plaintiff may prove her age discrimination claim by presenting either direct or indirect evidence of discrimination. Balderston v. Fairbanks Morse Engine Div. of Coltec Indus., 328 F.3d 309, 321 (7th Cir. 2003). Johnson has not offered any direct evidence that Beach Park discriminated against her by reason of her age. The Court will thus proceed to analyze her claims under the familiar indirect method of proof set out in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). Under this approach, Johnson has the initial burden of putting forth sufficient evidence to establish that: (1) she is forty years of age or older, (2) she applied and was qualified for the position, (3) she was not hired for the job, and (4) Beach Park hired someone outside of the protected class with similar or lesser credentials. Lawhead v. Ceridian Corp., 463 F.Supp.2d 856, 862 (N.D. Ill. 2006) (citing Zaccagnini v. Charles Levy Circulating Co., 338 F.3d 672, 675 (7th Cir. 2003)). Beach Park does not dispute that Johnson is a member of a protected class for the ...


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