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Tolston-Allen v. City of Chicago

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

September 6, 2019




         Plaintiff Sheryl Tolston-Allen brings this suit against the City of Chicago alleging race discrimination, retaliation for engaging in protected activities, and a hostile work environment. Currently before the Court is the City's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons explained below, the City's motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Sheryl Tolston-Allen, an African American woman, began working in the City's Department of Finance in 1996. On September 24, 2012, Tolston-Allen filed a complaint against the City for Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) discrimination. This case was settled on August 12, 2014. Tolston-Allen alleges that after her case settled, her supervisor engaged in retaliatory conduct. Specifically, Tolston-Allen asserts that Eugenia Iskos, a white woman, began harassing her at work.

         Disciplinary Write-ups

         Iskos prepared a pre-disciplinary notice form, dated November 18, 2014, that identified several City employee policy violations by Tolston-Allen including insubordination, loafing, sleeping on duty, and other inappropriate conduct. Specifically, on September 10, 2014, Tolston-Allen refused to meet with Iskos regarding incorrectly filled time sheets, spoke loudly and unprofessionally in an attempt to “make a scene, ” and made several personal phone calls. Iskos also noted that on September 30, 2014, Tolston-Allen arrived late without explanation, left customers on hold while she engaged in excessive socializing, and made several personal phone calls. Finally, Iskos wrote that on the morning of November 18, 2014, Tolston-Allen was socializing for a long period although not on break. After a supervisor asked that the socializing end, Tolston-Allen attempted to start an argument. Tolston-Allen then made personal phone calls, where she spoke loudly, used foul language, and disturbed the work environment.

         The November 18, 2014 pre-disciplinary notice stated that Tolston-Allen violated Rule 18 subsection 2, 23, 25, 29, 36, 38, 48, and 50 of the City's personnel rules. Tolston-Allen denies that she violated any employment policies. Iskos conducted a pre-disciplinary meeting with Tolston-Allen on December 15, 2014. During the meeting, Iskos discussed Tolston-Allen's employee violations and recommended a one-day suspension. This recommendation was supported by three other members of management. After completing the union required process, Tolston-Allen was suspended for one day on February 23, 2015.

         On January 15, 2015, Iskos issued a pre-disciplinary notice to Tolston-Allen for submitting an edit sheet to a manager whom she did not report to on January 9, 2015 and not complying with the City's call-in policy on January 15, 2015. The pre-disciplinary notice did not result in a suspension or recommendation for a suspension. On April 27, 2015, Tolston-Allen received a pre- disciplinary notice for practicing law without a license. This notice did not result in disciplinary action.

         On June 15, 2015, Wanda Mohead, a supervisor in the Revenue Collections department sent an assignment to Tolston-Allen. As Mohead was not her direct supervisor, Tolston-Allen sent an email to her supervisor, Dana Bussie, stating that she would not take an assignment from someone she had a “case” against. After this was reported to Anthony Smith, Manager of the Revenue Collections department, he reminded Tolston-Allen that she was already warned that complaining about work sent from an indirect supervisor was inappropriate. Based on this incident, Smith submitted a pre-disciplinary notice to Tolston-Allen on July 21, 2015 for insubordination. After the union process, Tolston-Allen was suspended for three days on August 31, 2015.

         Tolston-Allen Allegations

         Tolston-Allen states that shortly following the settlement of her first case, Iskos began following her around the office and staring at her through the office windows. Although the timing is unclear, sometime in 2013, Tolston-Allen alleges that when she warned a supervisor that she would file an employment grievance, Iskos responded stating “nobody is going to help your black ass.” The City denies this occurrence. On June 27 and June 28, 2013, Iskos sent an e-mail to Tolston-Allen's direct supervisor, Dana Bussie, asking her to monitor Toston-Allen's actions to ensure compliance with workplace policies.

         Tolston-Allen submitted a request for FMLA leave on January 9, 2015. On January 14, 2015, she filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging race discrimination. On April 8, 2015, the City's Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) division received another complaint from Tolston-Allen. On August 24, 2015, Tolston-Allen took an unpaid leave of absence until December 16, 2015. When she returned, Tolston-Allen was transferred to the Department of Transportation, where she currently works.

         Tolston-Allen filed this claim alleging that the City committed retaliation against her for engaging in protected activities, race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000(e) et. seq., and subjected her to a hostile work environment.

         Legal ...

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