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Jordan v. Evans

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

September 9, 2019

ANTHONY JORDAN, KENNETH GREENLAW, PATRICK NELSON, and THEODIS CHAPMAN Plaintiffs,
v.
TIMOTHY EVANS, CHIEF JUDGE OF THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         After working as Cook County Juvenile Probation Officers and having been terminated or transferred to a less desirable position, Plaintiffs Anthony Jordan, Kenneth Greenlaw, Patrick Nelson, and Theodis Chapman, on behalf of themselves and a putative class of similarly situated individuals, sued Defendant Timothy Evans, in his official capacity as Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, alleging discrimination based on race and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003 (“ICRA”), 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 23/5(b). Evans moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' class claims and for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' individual claims. The Court grants Evan's motion to dismiss the class claims because Plaintiffs have abandoned those claims. The Court grants Evan's motion for summary judgment in part and denies it in part. Because no reasonable juror could conclude that either Jordan's or Greenlaw's race caused their termination based on the evidence presented on summary judgment, the Court grants Evans' motion for summary judgment against both Plaintiffs. Additionally, because the statute of limitations bars Nelson's and Chapman's claims regarding the supervisor's exam, the Court grants Evans' motion for summary judgment on those claims. Finally, because genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether Nelson's and Chapman's transfers effectively amounted to a demotion and whether Evans' reason for the transfers was merely pretext, the Court denies Evans' motion for summary judgment on those claims as to Nelson and Chapman.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Timothy Evans, as Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, has the ultimate authority in termination and other disciplinary actions in the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department (“JPD”). As such, Plaintiffs are suing him in his official capacity. Jason Smith is the Union representative for each Plaintiff. He compiled an analysis of JPD's past disciplines, finding that, although African-Americans made up approximately forty percent of the JPD probation officer workforce, from 2008 to 2013, JPD issued approximately seventy-five percent of the total suspensions and terminations to African American officers.

         I. Anthony Jordan

         Anthony Jordan, an African American, began working for JPD as a Juvenile Probation Officer in April 1998. In 2007, JPD suspended Jordan following an arrest for possession of cannabis and domestic battery. Michael Rohan, the director of JPD at the time, made the decision to suspend Jordan. The following year, in 2008, JPD again suspended Jordan following allegations that he sexually harassed an intern. Rohan made the decision to suspend Jordan after this incident as well. In 2010, Jordan received a verbal reprimand for using profanity toward a coworker. Because of these disciplinary issues, JPD placed Jordan on a three-month supervision plan in November 2010. In 2011, Jordan received another suspension and JPD also suspended his supervisor, Michael Willis. In October 2011, Jordan entered into a Last Chance Agreement with JPD, which stipulated that in lieu of termination, Jordan would comply with certain restrictions and expectations, and if he failed to abide by the restrictions or meet the expectations, JPD would terminate his employment.

         In April 2014, Jordan moved to the Electronic Monitoring Division, where he supervised the electronic monitoring of fifteen to twenty juveniles. On September 16, 2014, JPD suspended Jordan because a probationer on Jordan's caseload committed rape while under Jordan's supervision. This incident received significant media coverage. Jordan submitted a violation report for this probationer on September 14 but did not submit any earlier violation reports for the probationer despite unauthorized movements overnight on August 29 and September 3. Following a final suspension and a pre-disciplinary meeting, JPD terminated Jordan on February 3, 2015, citing his failure to monitor the electronic monitoring software on a daily basis and appropriately respond, his failure to abide by JPD's code of conduct, and the fact that he was still subject to the Last Chance Agreement. Neither his supervisor, Brian Modjeski, or Modjeski's supervisor, William Pieroth, suffered any discipline as a result of Jordan's failure to submit a violation report. Rose Golden made the decision to terminate Jordan in this instance.

         Jordan only knows of one white employee who entered into a Last Chance Agreement, Joseph Wozniak, a white non-officer at JPD. Wozniak entered into the Last Chance Agreement after making serious threats to a supervisor, and JPD did not terminate Wozniak after excessive absenteeism while he was still subject to the Last Chance Agreement.

         II. Kenneth Greenlaw

         Kenneth Greenlaw, an African American, began working as a Juvenile Probation Officer in 1999. When JPD terminated Greenlaw in 2014, he was serving as a Compliance Officer with the Intensive Probation Services Division (“IPS”). His job responsibilities included making visits to juveniles' homes and schools to verify that juvenile probationers were complying with the conditions of probation. In carrying out these responsibilities, Greenlaw used a JPD-administered gas card for his department vehicle. JPD required users of the JPD-issued gas cards to keep their receipts and document the information on a vehicle inspection sheet before and after their shifts.

         On March 10, 2013, JPD convened an investigatory hearing relating to Greenlaw's alleged misuse of his JPD-issued gas card, specifically forty-five instances of gas purchases made twice daily that did not correspond with the miles Greenlaw traveled, three instances of gas purchased at the beginning of a shift when gas had been purchased at the end of the previous shift, three instances of gas purchases made outside of documented work hours, one instance of a gas purchase made on a day Greenlaw documented he worked the full day in the office, twenty-eight occasions of missing gas receipts, and forty instances of missing vehicle inspection forms. After Greenlaw's rebuttal hearing a month later, Rohan recommended Greenlaw's termination based on JPD's investigation, finding that Greenlaw had fraudulently used his gas card on multiple occasions and that his non-compliance with department protocols and misuse of the gas card constituted the equivalent of theft of services. JPD subsequently terminated Greenlaw's employment. The only other individual whom Greenlaw knows JPD terminated for misuse of an assigned department gas card was Ernest Boyd, his former partner, who is also African American.

         III. Patrick Nelson and Theodis Chapman

         Patrick Nelson and Theodis Chapman, both African American, began working for JPD as Probation Officers with the Jumpstart program in 2001 and 2003, respectively. During their training, JPD did not pay Nelson and Chapman the time-and-a-half out-of-state rate that other, non-African American, employees received. The Jumpstart program provided education to juvenile probationers who are not complying with educational services or not going to school. Both Nelson and Chapman worked as teachers in the Jumpstart program. During their time with the Jumpstart program, the attendance at the program fell significantly from a high of seventy students per class to approximately twelve students per class.

         Both Nelson and Chapman filed two Charges of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against JPD, first in August 2014, and then in December 2015, alleging race discrimination, and subsequently, retaliation for their original discrimination charges and for joining this lawsuit.

         On September 18, 2015, a little over a month after serving Evans with the complaint in this case, Evans notified the Union that he intended to close or reorganize Jumpstart and transfer Chapman and Nelson to field probation officer positions. He did so in November 2015, eliminating the instruction component of Jumpstart and transferring Nelson and Chapman to field probation positions. No. one filled their former positions with Jumpstart. Their salaries did not change; however, they worked more hours and the hours were less regular. Both Nelson and Chapman lost any opportunity for professional development in the field of alternative education, an area in which both had expertise and in which they wished to continue working. During a meeting with Avik Das, the Acting Director and Chief Probation Officer of JPD, Das told Nelson, unsolicited, that Nelson's filing of this lawsuit was not why JPD removed him from the Jumpstart program.

         After the reorganization, a few desirable education and advocacy positions in the Jumpstart program remained. The collective bargaining agreement requires JPD to fill new positions by seniority after a department-wide bid. Neither Nelson nor Chapman submitted bids for the new positions created by the reorganization of Jumpstart; however, JPD departed from standard procedure and did not put new positions, such as the one given to Tatanisha Jackson, up for bid. ...


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