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Wuerffel v. Cook County Sheriff's Office

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

September 25, 2019



          Charles P. Kocoras, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants Sheriff Thomas Dart (“Dart”), Undersheriff Zelda Whittler (“Whittler”), Helen Burke (“Burke”), Marlon Parks (“Parks”), Dana Wright (“Wright”), Alex Figueroa (“Figueroa”), Ronald Zychowski (“Zychowski”), in their individual capacities, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office’s (“CCSO”) (collectively, “the Defendants”) motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the Court grants the Defendants’ motion.


         The following facts are taken from the record and are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

         Plaintiff Tamara Wuerffel (“Wuerffel”) is a former police sergeant with the CCSO. Dart is the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois. Whittler is the Undersheriff of Cook County, Illinois and is a female. Burke has served as the Chief of the Bureau of Administration since January 2013. Wright has served as the First Deputy Chief of the Sheriff’s Police since September 2013. Parks has served as the Deputy Chief of Patrol since 2012. Zychowski worked as a Commander in the Sheriff’s Police Department and was in Wuerffel’s chain of command for part of 2012 and 2013. Figueroa was employed by the CCSO as an investigator for the Office of Professional Review (“OPR”).

         Initial Overtime Concerns

         On November 16, 2012, Zychowski received a Court Time/Attendance Report from Wuerffel, claiming nine overtime hours for attending court on November 15, 2012. Four days later, Zychowski inquired about the overtime request and discovered that the juries in the case were dismissed at lunch time. Accordingly, Zychowski questioned the validity of the overtime request and addressed the issue with Wuerffel. Based on the conversation, Wuerffel resubmitted the overtime request for a lesser number of hours. At this point, Wuerffel claims that she believed the matter to be resolved. However, this incident sparked a much larger inquiry into Wuerffel’s court overtime requests.

         On January 29, 2013, Zychowski wrote a memorandum to Parks informing him of the November 2012 incident concerning Wuerffel’s overtime request. Parks then asked his assistant to pull the court overtime hours for his sergeants in patrol. Though the parties dispute the accuracy of the results, the summary chart showed that Wuerffel had 247.5 annual court overtime hours, while the next highest sergeant had 64.5 hours.

         Harassment Allegations

         Starting in January 2013, Wuerffel claimed that Zychowski singled her out by making her get days off or benefit time approved by him. She also claims that Zychowski would not allow her to adjust her schedule, despite male officers being allowed to do so. Moreover, Wuerffel alleges that she was denied the opportunity to work overtime assignments, such as two roadside safety checks. Wuerffel raised these concerns in an e-mail to Parks, and they had a phone conversation regarding her concerns. At the time of this conversation, Parks already reviewed the chart of court overtime hours.

         On February 13, 2013, Parks filed a complaint register (“CR”) with OPR, requesting that they investigate Wuerffel “due to inconsistencies in court overtime.” In Spring 2013, Figueroa was assigned to investigate the initial CR filed by Parks. Shortly thereafter in June 2013, Parks removed Wuerffel as a field training supervisor due to her pending OPR investigation.

         Lieutenant Promotion Process

         Since Wuerffel served as a sergeant with the CCSO, she was eligible for promotion to the rank of lieutenant. In order to qualify for promotion to lieutenant, Wuerffel had to pass a written examination facilitated by the Merit Board. Afterward, the promotion process was run pursuant to Article B of the Sheriff’s Employment Action Manual (“SEAM”). Mike Smith (“Smith”) was the department head and the designee who handled this process for the 2012–2013 promotions.

         Pursuant to the SEAM process, the lieutenant candidates are run through a battery of tests for purposes of evaluation and ranking. Qualified candidates are promoted in order of their SEAM ranking, except that the department head has the option of exercising a “discretionary pick” whereby he can promote a candidate from the list out of order. On December 3, 2012, Smith issued a memorandum to Chief of Staff Brian Towne (“Towne”) that included a ranked list of the lieutenant candidates. On the list, Nathan Camer (“Camer”) was ranked first, Wuerffel was second, ...

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