United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
HERNDON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is defendant, Belleville Area Special
Services Cooperative's (hereinafter “BASSC”),
motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56 (Doc. 34). Plaintiff Ruth Hamerski (hereinafter
“Hamerski”), opposes the motion (Docs. 36). For
the reasons explained below, the Court grants in part and
denies in part BASSC's motion for summary judgment (Doc.
Hamerski began her employment with BASSC on July 1, 2007, as
an administrator for instructional programs (Doc. 37-1). At
that time, she had twenty-six years of experience as a
teacher and special education department chair at Mt. Vernon
High School. (Doc. 35-4, pg. 15-17). BASSC is a federally
funded special educational cooperative that implements and
enforces the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(hereinafter “IDEA”). (Doc. 15, ¶ 4). It
provides special education services to children between
elementary and high school levels that have qualified
disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(hereinafter “ADA”), and whom are entitled to
special education under the IDEA. (Id. at ¶ 6).
BASSC runs Pathways school, a K-12 school for emotional
behavioral students (Doc. 35-3).
2008, Hamerski was assigned to be the interim principal of
Pathways school following the resignation of the former
principal in February of that year. (Doc. 15, ¶ 7).
During her time as interim principal, she oversaw all BASSC
instructional programs and implemented policies and
procedures to ensure compliance with state and federal law
(Doc. 35-4, pg. 27). Also, Hamerski alleges that she was
forced to suspend a Pathways paraprofessional, Melissa Stines
following a confrontation between them (Id. at 186).
Ms. Stines was, and continues to be, married to Matt Stines,
who at the time was allegedly “being groomed to become
a superintendent at Grant Illini” school. (Doc. 15,
¶ 9). Hamerski states that these events were the basis
of the 2015 investigation of her (Id. at 189).
support of summary judgment, defendants offer the deposition
testimony of Hamerski, Teresa Castello, Jeff Daugherty,
Matthew Stines, Diane Warfield, Brent Whipple, Brian
Arterberry, and Stephanie Cox (See Docs. 35-1 through 35-9).
2013, Hamerski announced that she intended to retire in 2017
or 2018. (Doc. 15, ¶ 10). Thereafter, on October 16,
2013, Hamerski and BASSC entered into a four year written
contract that stated she could only be discharged “for
just cause.” (Doc. 15, ¶ 11). If dismissal were to
occur, Hamerski would be entitled to written notice of the
charges, notice of hearing, a full hearing to confront and
cross-examine witnesses and evidence, and representation by
legal counsel. (Id.).
2007 and January 2015, Hamerski received
“'excellent' in virtually every category”
of her annual performance appraisals conducted by executive
director Daugherty. (Doc. 15, ¶ 12). In 2015, however,
Hamerski alleges that she would have “latent,
unresolved issues in the mind of Matt Stines, and his wife,
Melissa Stines.” (Doc. 15, ¶ 13). The law firm
Guin Mundorf, LLC was then hired to investigate Hamerski.
(Doc. 15, ¶ 14). Hamerski was subsequently informed on
March 13, 2015, by executive director Daugherty that she was
to appear at the law office of Barney Mundorf on Monday,
March 16, 2015, regarding the aforementioned investigation.
(Doc. 15, ¶ 16).
meeting, Mr. Mundorf accused Hamerski of the following
violations: (1) “being negligent in her duties
regarding training of teachers”; (2) “lying about
eight (8) claimed work days in July, 2014”; (3)
“her IDEA instructions on restraint and arrest of
children from calendar year 2008 at Pathways”; and, (4)
“whether she told a subordinate administrator to keep
illegal, confiscated drugs in his desk.” (Doc. 15,
March 18, 2015, Jeff Daugherty and Hamerski were then
summoned to a full executive board meeting. (Doc. 15, ¶
19). At that meeting, the findings of the investigation were
presented, and the full board went into a closed session, but
took no action regarding Mr. Daugherty or Hamerski's
employment. (Doc. 15, ¶ 19). Following the meeting, Mr.
Stines and Mr. Mundorf took Mr. Daugherty and Hamerski into a
conference room. (Doc. 35-3, pg. 65-66). Hamerski alleges
that Mr. Stines indicated that the most serious act of
misconduct alleged against her was regarding student arrest
(Doc. 35-4, pgs. 119;121). During the conversation Hamerski
alleges that she was told that she had two options moving
forward: (1) retire or (2) “be demoted with a
substantial decrease in pay, and we may look at further
action being dismissal”. (Doc. 35-4, pg. 119). The
following day, March 19, 2015, Hamerski received a written
letter signed by Mr. Stines memorializing the two options and
giving her four days to make a decision. (Doc. 15, ¶
her stated intention to retire in 2017 or 2018, on March 19,
2015, Hamerski submitted a signed letter of resignation to
the Executive Board and Governing Board members, with the
intent to retire as of June 30, 2015 (Doc. 35-8). BASSC
accepted her resignation (Doc. 35-9). Thereafter, on October
23, 2015, Hamerski filed a Charge of Discrimination against
BASSC with the EEOC, specifically alleging retaliation in
violation of Title VII (Doc. 15-3). On April 15, 2016, the
EEOC issued a right to sue letter to Hamerski (Doc. 15-4).
Subsequently, Hamerski filed the underlying lawsuit on July
14, 2016 (Doc. 1)
Motion for Summary Judgment
judgment is proper when the pleadings, discovery, and
disclosures establish that there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Winsley v. Cook Cnty., 563 F.3d 598,
602-03 (7th Cir. 2009); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A genuine
issue of material fact exists if “the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Pugh v. City of Attica,
Indiana, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001); Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The
Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor, as well as resolve all factual disputes in
favor of the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550
U.S. 372 (2007); Fischer v. Avanade, Inc., 519 F.3d
393, 401 (7th Cir. 2008).
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
establishing the absence of factual issues and entitlement to
judgment as a matter of law. Santaella v. Metro. Life
Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). In response, the
non-moving party may not rest on bare pleadings alone, but
instead must highlight specific material facts to show the
existence of a genuine issue to be resolved at trial.
Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598
(7th Cir. 2000). The Court will enter summary judgment
against a party who does not “come forward with
evidence that would reasonably permit the finder of fact to
find in [its] favor on a material question.”
McGrath v. Gillis, 44 F.3d 567, 569 (7th Cir. 1995).
five count first amended complaint alleges as follows: (1) a
violation of plaintiff's property interest in employment
by virtue of her written contract under the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution; (2) a violation
of plaintiff's due process rights under the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution for not affording
a “name-clearing” hearing; (3) a violation of
plaintiff's liberty interest under the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution for accusing her
of “illegal acts, incompetence, and unfitness in her
profession”; (4) a violation of Titles I and II of the
ADA for retaliating against plaintiff after she advocated for
the students protected under that statute and the IDEA; and,
(5) a ...