700 F.3d 944 (7th Cir. 2012), 11-2006, Porter v. City of Chicago

Docket Nº:11-2006.
Citation:700 F.3d 944
Opinion Judge:BAUER, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Latice PORTER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:Matthew P. Weems (argued), Attorney, Law Office of Matthew Weems, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Suzanne M. Loose (argued), Attorney, City of Chicago Law Department, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before BAUER, POSNER, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:November 08, 2012
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 944

700 F.3d 944 (7th Cir. 2012)

Latice PORTER, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 11-2006.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

November 8, 2012

Argued Sept. 11, 2012.

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Matthew P. Weems (argued), Attorney, Law Office of Matthew Weems, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Suzanne M. Loose (argued), Attorney, City of Chicago Law Department, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before BAUER, POSNER, and WOOD, Circuit Judges.

BAUER, Circuit Judge.

Latice Porter sued the City of Chicago, alleging that the City failed to accommodate her religious practice, discriminated against her on the basis of her religion, and retaliated against her for engaging in protected activity in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The district court granted the City's motion for summary judgment and denied Porter's motion for partial summary judgment, and Porter appealed. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

As this is an appeal from an award of summary judgment to the City, we must construe the facts in the light most favorable to Porter. See Montgomery v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 626 F.3d 382, 389 (7th Cir.2010). Porter has been employed by the City in the Field Services Section (" FSS" ) of the Records Services Division of the Chicago Police Department since June 10, 1991. The FSS receives and responds to information requests from police personnel and other law enforcement agencies. The FSS staff includes sworn police sergeants, police officers, and civilian employees. Since January 1, 2001, Porter has been a Senior Data Entry Specialist, which is a civilian position. Porter was most recently assigned to the " auto desk," where employees process information in various electronic databases about towed, stolen, repossessed, or recovered vehicles.

The FSS operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. FSS employees are divided into " watches" for purposes of scheduling: the first watch runs from 11:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.; the second watch runs from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and the third watch runs from 3:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Employees are also assigned to groups for their days off; certain employees are assigned to the Friday/Saturday days-off group or the Saturday/Sunday group, and others are assigned to other days-off groups.

During Porter's employment in the FSS, several people were involved in determining or approving FSS employees' work schedules. Joseph Perfetti was the manager of the FSS from April 2002 until August 2008. As manager, Perfetti supervised several sergeants who served as watch commanders and ran the day-to-day operations of the FSS, including determining employees' schedules. Sergeants Geraldine Sidor, Wanda Torres, and H.A. McCarthy served as watch commanders in the FSS and had the authority to change the days-off schedules of FSS employees at various times between 2004 and 2009. Marikay Hegarty was the Director of Records from late 2004 until late 2006, and, in this capacity, had the authority to determine and approve FSS employees' work

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schedules. Perfetti assumed the role of Acting Director of the Records from November 2006 until August 2008.

Porter identifies herself as Christian, and she attends church services, bible studies, and prayer services at the Apostolic Church of God. Sunday church services are held at 9:00 a.m., 11:45 a.m., and sometimes 4:00 p.m. Porter has also attended services on Friday nights, Wednesday night bible study, and prayer services on Tuesdays.

Before 2005, Porter worked in a different section of the FSS and had a schedule that required her to work the second watch. She initially had a rotating-weekend days-off schedule, which was changed to an alternating-weekend days-off schedule. This meant that Porter had every other Saturday and Sunday off.

On March 18, 2005, Sergeant Sidor assigned Porter to the Friday/Saturday days-off group beginning March 31, 2005. That same day, Porter sent a memorandum to Hegarty requesting to be assigned to the Sunday/Monday days-off group. She also informed Sergeant McCarthy that she wanted Sundays off because she was involved in her church and sang in the church choir. Sergeant McCarthy approved Porter's request and reassigned her to the Sunday/Monday days-off group effective March 27, 2005.

In August 2005, Porter sent a letter to her supervisors requesting to work a later shift on Saturdays so she could attend classes as a student minister. Sergeant Torres approved Porter's request, and she was assigned to work from 1:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays for the duration of the class, approximately ten weeks. Porter remained on the second watch schedule for the other days of the week.

In October 2005, Porter took leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ) due to a car accident and pregnancy complications. Following her three months of FMLA leave, Porter took a medical leave of absence for another six months. She returned to the FSS on July 16, 2006.

Upon Porter's return, Sergeant Sidor recommended assigning Porter to the Friday/Saturday days-off group, and Perfetti approved the assignment. Porter remained on the second watch. According to Sergeant Sidor and Perfetti, Porter's assignment was based on " operational needs" to " balance the workforce" because more civilian employees were in the Sunday/Monday days-off group than the Friday/Saturday group at the time of Porter's return. Sergeant Sidor was not aware that Porter preferred Sundays off in order to attend church services.

After receiving her assignment, Porter met with Perfetti and asked to be reassigned to the Sunday/Monday days-off group because of her church involvement. On July 24, 2006, following the advice of her union president, Porter submitted a Request for Change of Job Assignment Form asking for a change to the Sunday/Monday days-off group. Perfetti told Porter that her request would be accommodated when an opening became available in the Sunday/Monday group. Perfetti also asked a sergeant in the FSS to find out if any other employee assigned to the auto desk would be willing to switch days-off groups with Porter. Sergeant McCarthy asked the auto desk employees if anyone would switch with Porter; no one volunteered.

Porter also communicated with Hegarty regarding her request to change her schedule. Hegarty said she wanted to help Porter and mentioned the option of Porter " going to 3:00 to 11:00" on Sundays. Porter did not follow up with Hegarty about that option.

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Porter contends that she was intimidated and harassed by her supervisors at the FSS, both before and after she returned from medical leave. According to Porter, the sergeants and other supervisors in the FSS yelled at her and taunted her, calling her " church girl." She was also threatened with being written up in a complaint register by Sergeant McCarthy for coming to work on a day that she was scheduled to have off. When Porter complained to Perfetti, Perfetti refused to change her days-off schedule. As a result of these incidents, Porter filed internal grievances.

On August 25, 2006, Porter filed a Chicago Commission on Human Relations (" CCHR" ) complaint alleging religious discrimination against the City, Sergeant Sidor, and Perfetti.1 She also filed a charge alleging religion-based discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on September 14, 2006.

Between the time Porter returned to the FSS on July 16, 2006, and November 12, 2006, Porter was absent from work on some or all of thirty-four days. Sixteen of these days were Sundays. On November 12, 2006, Sergeant Patrick Chambers issued Porter a " counseling session report" regarding her pattern of taking Sundays off. The report contains preprinted text stating that it " is not a disciplinary action," and that its purpose is " to identify concerns or poor performance" and to " advise[ ] the [employee] that continued action of this kind is unacceptable and may result in either more formalized counseling or intervention." The report also sets forth the reasons Porter provided Sergeant McCarthy for failing to report to work on Sundays: that her " chest hurts after working (5) days" and that she " has a(7) month old baby she has to hold which she holds in a special way." Porter also said that her absences were not intentional.

On November 14, 2006, Porter requested medical leave " due to chronic pain and physical therapy." She took a leave of absence on November 16, 2006, and has not returned to the FSS.

Porter filed suit on December 12, 2008, alleging that the City violated Title VII by failing to accommodate her religious practices, discriminating against her based on her religion, and retaliating against her for requesting an accommodation and complaining of religious discrimination. Following discovery, Porter moved for summary judgment as to her failure-to-accommodate claim, and the City moved for summary judgment on all claims.2 The district court denied Porter's motion and granted summary judgment in favor of the City, concluding that the City had reasonably accommodated Porter's religious practice, and that Porter had failed to put forth sufficient evidence in support of her...

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