United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge.
Emerson ("Emerson") filed this lawsuit under Title
VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1983against Cook County, Cook County
Sheriff Thomas Dart and Cook County Department of Corrections
Officers Lieutenant David Grochowski ("Grochowski")
and Sergeant William Zurella ("Zurella")
(collectively "County Defendants"), charging that
she was subjected to retaliation for having filed numerous
complaints about her treatment at work, in violation of
Section 2000e-3 and the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution. County Defendants have moved for summary
judgment on all of Emerson's claims. For the reasons
stated in this opinion, their motion is granted and
Emerson's action is dismissed.
2008 and September 17, 2012 Emerson worked on the 7 a.m. to 3
p.m. shift in Cook County Department of Corrections Division
9, a living unit that houses maximum security inmates (C. St.
¶ 2). Thereafter Emerson was on paid
medical leave from September 2012 until March 2014, and she
has been on unpaid medical leave since then (E. Resp. St.
has been employed by the Sheriffs Department since 1978 and
assigned to Division 9 for an unspecified length of time, and
Zurella has been assigned to Division 9 since 2011 (C. St.
¶¶ 4, 5). Inmates in Division 9 live in
"tiers, " and there are a total of 24 tiers in the
division, including the "Level System" that
comprises two of the tiers and houses inmates with behavioral
problems (id. ¶¶ 8, 9). At all times there
must be a correctional officer assigned to each tier and 3 or
4 officers assigned to the Level System (id ¶ 10).
Officers assigned to Division generally have some level of
interaction or contact with the inmates (id. ¶
officers rotate through 90-day assignments, with their
rotations recorded and reported on the Daily Roster Sheet (C.
St. ¶ 12). Those assigned to a tier sit in the interlock
area, which is a room outside the tier, and their general
duties include overseeing the shift and ensuring that inmates
receive time outside of their cells (id. ¶ 13).
Correctional officers who are assigned to sanitation move
throughout Division 9 to clean and to remove garbage, and
those assigned to "powerwash" clean inmates'
cells, shower areas and common bathrooms (id. ¶
14). Assignments such as powerwash and sanitation are
considered nonessential, but tier assignments must be staffed
at all times by at least one, and preferably two, officers
(iji ¶¶ 35, 36). Occasionally officers who are on
sanitation or powerwash are temporarily assigned to a tier if
there is a staffing shortage (id. ¶¶ 16,
35, 36). At one point Emerson informed her union that being
assigned to sanitation and powerwash helps her to manage her
stress and anxiety (id. ¶ 33).
filing this action Emerson filed two complaints and a series
of internal incident report memos ("To/Froms")
about her treatment in the workplace. First she filed a
charge in 2009 with the Illinois Department of Human Rights
("2009 charge") of race- and gender-based
harassment and discrimination by Lieutenant Young and Officer
Heilemann ("Heilemann"), neither of whom is named
in this lawsuit. That charge was dismissed in 2011 (C. St.
¶¶ 19, 20). Emerson never discussed the 2009 charge
with Grochowski or Zurella (|d. ¶ 22). Then in 2012
Emerson filed a complaint with the Sheriffs Office of
Professional Review ("OPR") against Grochowski
about her assignments and her periodic placement near
Heilemann, but the complaint included no allegations of
discrimination (E. Resp. St. ¶ 23). Furthermore, during
the course of her employment Emerson submitted multiple
incident To/From communications complaining about assignments
and interactions with her supervisors (E. Mem. 7-8; E. Dep.
Ex. B). None of the To/Froms produced by Emerson in this
lawsuit mention discrimination, nor does Emerson claim that
they do so (see E. Dep. Ex. B).
asserts in this case that Grochowski and Zurella retaliated
against her for filing complaints against them and others at
the Department. To support her retaliation claim Emerson
refers to a number of matters:
1. At times Grochowski changed her assignment from powerwash
or sanitation to a tier. As to one such occasion Emerson
admitted that it was "not unusual" (E. Mem. 2; C.
St. ¶ 38; E. Resp. St. ¶ 38).
3. Grochowski ignored Emerson during roll call (E. Mem. 2).
2. Grochowski gave non-African-American officers (Emerson is
African-American) assignments for which Emerson had requested
(and had been denied) training and assignment (E. Mem. 5; E.
Resp. St. ¶ 37; E. Aff. ¶ 3).
4. Grochowski has assigned Emerson near Heilemann, who had
been one of the subjects of her 2009 charge (id.).
5. Grochowski also said to an officer whom he saw talking to
Emerson, "Watch who you are speaking to. You might read
about it" (C. St. ¶ 44).
6. Grochowski commented that he could assign Emerson wherever
he wanted (E. Mem. 3).
7. Zurella refused her request to back her up so that she
could let inmates out of their cell, and he allegedly said,
"We're sick of you, you and your To/Froms" and
"You don't want to work under this supervisor, bid
out " (E. Mem. 3-4).
8. When Emerson wrote in a To/From "this Shift Commander
has stated to R/O his feelings as it relates to her at work
either to myself or other supervisors and therefore, I am not
safe[, ]" Grochowski responded that Emerson was
suffering from paranoid delusions and requested that she be
sent for a ...