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Golla v. Office of The Chief Judge of Cook County

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

June 18, 2015

FRANCIS JOSEPH GOLLA, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF JUDGE OF COOK COUNTY and COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

This case concerns Plaintiff Joseph Golla's ("Golla") reverse discrimination claim against the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County and Cook County itself (collectively, the "Defendants"). Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 132]. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. Golla is a white male who was employed by the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County (the "Office") for approximately twenty years. Golla's employment with the Office began in 1983. Although the Office terminated Golla's employment on March 16, 1995, Golla was reinstated less than a year later as the result of a Settlement Agreement resolving claims that the Office had discriminated against Golla based on a medical condition. Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, Golla was placed into the position of Law Clerk I at a Grade 14 pay level. In 2004, Golla was transferred to the Social Services Department. According to his personnel record, Golla retained the title of "Law Clerk I" and continued receiving Grade 14 pay until he resigned from the Office on May 31, 2013.

Prior to his transfer to Social Services, Golla's main responsibility was conducting legal research. In Social Services, however, Golla carried out administrative duties, such as data entry, intake processing, case initialization, and report routing. These duties involved SCERTS, intake forms that must be completed for defendants who fail to report to Social Services as ordered.

One of Golla's colleagues in Social Services was Deotis Taylor ("Taylor"), an African American male who initially began working for the Office in 1978. In 1999, Taylor resigned to run for state senate. The parties dispute Taylor's status at the time of his 1999 resignation. According to Defendants, Taylor was a Jury Room Manager receiving Grade 20 pay. According to Golla, Taylor was receiving Grade 22 pay and served as a Jury Room Manager, a Probation Officer 4, and possibly a Community Liaison. According to his personnel record, Taylor was a Jury Room Manager as of July 5, 1998 and was receiving Grade 22 pay.

In 2005, Taylor reapplied for employment with the Office. Ultimately, Bruce Wisniewski ("Wisniewski"), the Office's human resources administrator, informed Taylor that he would be assigned to Social Services. The parties disagree as to what role Taylor assumed upon his return. According to Defendants, and as reflected on his personnel record, Taylor returned to the Office in 2005 as a Legal Systems Analyst. According to Golla, Taylor had no formal job title upon his return. The parties do not dispute that Taylor was receiving Grade 22 pay. Both Golla and Taylor were listed in the Social Services staff directory under the title of Administrative Assistant. Defendants claim that, despite having the same job title in the directory, Golla and Taylor had different job duties, although Taylor's duties were still administrative in nature. Defendants have also submitted evidence that other African American and Caucasian employees in the Social Services Department performed administrative and clerical duties similar to Golla's, but at a lower pay grade.

Vanessa Whitehead ("Whitehead"), who is African American, is the Deputy Director of Management Services for the Social Services Department and supervised both Golla and Taylor. However, the parties dispute whether Whitehead had authority to set pay grades for Social Services employees. When asked at deposition what her role was with respect to determining employee pay levels, Whitehead replied: "None at all." (Whitehead Dep., Ex. D. to Defs.' L.R. 56.1 Stmt., ECF No. 133-5, at 7:23-8:1.)

At some point in 2009, Golla learned that Taylor received pay above Grade 14. On May 29, 2009, Golla filed a discrimination complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC closed the case on August 18, 2011 and issued Golla a Right to Sue letter. Three months later, on November 15, 2011, Golla filed the instant case. A single claim under Title VII remains, in which Golla claims that the pay disparity between him and Taylor is the result of racial discrimination. When asked to state the basis for his race discrimination claim, Golla replied:

Deotis and I did predominantly the same or certainly similar work. I have a high school education. I have a college education. I have a law degree. I have a law license. I have 30 years of legal experience. He has nothing equivalent to that and he was being paid - we were both with Cook County approximately the same length of service, and he was being paid substantially more, eight grades more than I was for doing the exact same or similar work. And the only other difference is he is African-American and I am Caucasian.

(Golla Dep., Ex. B to Defs.' L.R. 56.1 Stmt., ECF No. 133-3, at 43:15-44:2.)

At deposition, Golla was also asked whether anyone at the Office made racial comments to him, to which he responded:

No. You know, nothing direct racial. Now, Vanessa had on numerous occasions said that all my life people have been standing in my way, and they all looked exactly like you. Is that racial? Is that gender? Is that age? That's what she would say, you are a nobody, you are a nothing, you are not an attorney. She would say it repeatedly, loudly, and to anybody who was around her that would hear it. But is that racial? No. ...

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