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Martin v. Cook County

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

August 8, 2019

CLAUDIA S. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COOK COUNTY, OFFICE OF THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, LAVONE HAYWOOD, MATTHEW SOBIESKI, DARRYL GRAY, and NOREEN LARSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Gary Feinerman, Judge

         Claudia Martin, a probation officer employed by the Cook County Adult Probation Department (“APD”), sues several APD employees (collectively, “County Defendants”) and the Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County (“OCJ”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., for allegedly discriminating against and harassing her due to her religious beliefs and union activities. Doc. 46. The court previously dismissed Martin's claims against Cook County (other than for indemnification) and her state law claims. Docs. 89-90 (reported at 2018 WL 1942654 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 25, 2018)). With discovery closed, Defendants move for summary judgment. Docs. 114, 118. Their motions are granted.

         Background

         The court recites the facts as favorably to Martin as the record and Local Rule 56.1 permit. See Johnson v. Advocate Health & Hosps. Corp., 892 F.3d 887, 893 (7th Cir. 2018). At this juncture, the court must assume the truth of those facts, but does not vouch for them. See Gates v. Bd. of Educ. of Chi., 916 F.3d 631, 633 (7th Cir. 2019).

         OCJ has employed Martin as an APD probation officer since 2001. Doc. 127-3 at ¶¶ 1-2; Doc. 127-4 at ¶ 4. Martin has repeatedly received merit pay increases for exceeding her supervisors' expectations. Docs. 146, 150 at ¶ 1. APD, a division within OCJ, is located in the lower level of the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, which houses the Circuit Court of Cook County's criminal division. Id. at ¶ 9; Doc. 127-4 at ¶ 4.

         All APD probation officers are members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (“AFSCME”) Local 3486. Doc. 127-4 at ¶ 9; Doc. 127-3 at ¶¶ 7, 9. Martin has served as the Local's chief steward since 2013 and its vice president since 2017. Docs. 146, 150 at ¶ 2. As chief steward, Martin handles labor relations with APD management. Docs. 127-3, 127-4 at ¶ 9.

         A. Anonymous January 2015 Anti-Union Letter to Martin

         On January 20, 2015, Martin found this note on her desk:

TO: THE UNION PERSONNEL
FROM: THE APD MANAGEMENT
THE NEW CHIEF HAS SPOKEN. IT'S A NEW DAY IN THE COOK COUNTY ADULT PROBATION DEPARTMENT.
THE CHIEF IS NOT TAKING ANY MESS FROM THE UNION AND WE AS MANAGERS WERE ALSO INSTRUCTED NOT TO TAKE ANY MESS FROM THE UNION.
WE WERE TOLD TO TAKE CONTROL BACK FROM THE UNION, BECAUSE THE UNION DOES NOT RUN THIS DEPARTMENT. CHIEF, LAVONE HAYWOOD SAID THAT IF YOU SAY ANYTHING THAT WE DO NOT AGREE WITH, THEN WE ARE INSTRUCTED TO SHUT THE INVESTIGATION MEETING DOWN!!!!!!!
THE UNION'S TIME IS UP!!!!!!!!
YOU DO NOT WORK FOR ASFSCME [sic]!
YOU WORK FOR THE ADULT PROBATION DEPARTMENT!
YOU NEED TO DECIDED [sic] IF YOU WANT TO RISK YOUR CHILDREN NOT EATING, BECAUSE YOU ARE DEFENDING PEOPLE WHO DON'T DO THEIR WORK AND LIE ABOUT AND JUSTIFY THEIR ACTIONS.
OR
DO YOU WANT TO KEEP YOUR JOB AND CONTINUE TO FEED YOUR CHILDREN.

Doc. 116-7; Docs. 127-3, 127-4 at ¶ 10. Although the letter was not addressed to Martin, it was accompanied by a sheet of paper with her name on it. Doc. 127-4 at ¶ 10; Doc. 128-2 at ¶ 6; Doc. 83-6 at 1. The union's president, James Dunaway, received an identical letter. Docs. 146, 150 at ¶ 11. Martin and Dunaway do not know who wrote the letter but believe it came from APD management. Doc. 127-4 at ¶ 11; Doc. 127-3 at ¶ 13; Docs. 146, 150 at ¶ 13.

         Once APD Chief Probation Officer Lavone Haywood learned about the letter, he told the rest of APD management that it was unacceptable and that he would hold accountable anyone found responsible. Doc. 127-3 at ¶ 3; Doc. 127-4 at ¶ 12; Doc. 116-8 at 18. Although Haywood himself did not investigate who wrote and sent the letter, he instructed Assistant Chief Probation Officer Matthew Sobieski and Human Resources Director Noreen Larson to do so. Doc. 127-3 at ¶¶ 4, 6; Docs. 146, 150 at ¶ 10. Over 100 APD employees work in the Leighton Courthouse's lower level without video surveillance, and the investigation never discovered the letter's author(s). Doc. 127-3 at ¶¶ 12-13; Doc. 127-4 at ¶¶ 4-5, 11.

         Lacking confidence in APD's investigation, Dunaway wrote to Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans to complain about the anti-union letter, describing it as a “blatant attempt to threaten and intimidate the union.” Docs. 146, 150 at ¶¶ 12, 14 (quoting Doc. 83-7 at 1). (County Defendants object to Dunaway's letter to Chief Judge Evans on relevancy and hearsay grounds. Doc. 146 at ¶ 12. Dunaway's letter is not hearsay for the purpose of showing that Chief Judge Evans was made aware of the anti-union letter. See Fed. R. Evid. 801(c)(2); Daniel v. Cook Cnty., 833 F.3d 728, 735-36 (7th Cir. 2016) (“[T]he district court correctly held that the Report could be offered for the non-hearsay purpose of proving the sheriff knew of the problems described in the report.”). Dunaway's letter is relevant for the same reason.) Although Chief Judge Evans did not respond to Dunaway in writing, he met with Martin and Dunaway on January 28, 2015. Docs. 146, 150 at ¶ 15; Doc. 102-6 at ¶ 4.

         B. Fall 2015 Complaints ...


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