Rodriguez v. City of Chi.

Decision Date27 March 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 18-cv-0372
Citation370 F.Supp.3d 848
Parties Leonardo RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, Human Resources Board of the City of Chicago, Salvador A. Cicero, Chairman, Samuel L. Evans Jr., Member, Karen Coppa, Member, and Roger J. Balla, Hearing Officer, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Jeffrey Wayne Finke, Law Office of Jeffrey W. Finke, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Daniel W. Myerson, Joann Giyun Lim, Susan Margaret O'Keefe, City of Chicago, Department of Law, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.


Robert M. Dow, Jr., United States District Judge

Plaintiff Leonardo Rodriguez brings this action against the City of Chicago (the "City"), his former employer; the City's Human Resources Board (the "HRB"); the HRB's chairman, Salvador A. Cicero; a member of the HRB, Samuel L. Evans Jr.; and a hearing officer at the HRB, Roger J. Balla. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants subjected him to an unconstitutional drug test and used that test as a basis to terminate his employment with the City. He seeks reinstatement to his former position with the City, among other relief, pursuant to this Court's authority under the Illinois common law writ of certiorari (Count I), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II).

Currently before the Court are Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on Count I [34] and the City's motion for summary judgment on Count II [31]. In this opinion, the Court addresses only the federal claims in Count II on the merits. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the City's motion for summary judgment [31] on Count II. As Count II represents the sole basis for this Court's federal jurisdiction, Plaintiff's petition for certiorari under Illinois law in Count I is dismissed without prejudice pursuant to the "usual practice" in the Seventh Circuit when "all federal claims have been dismissed prior to trial." Consequently, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [34] is denied without prejudice with leave to refile in state court. The Court shall enter judgment in favor of Defendant and against Plaintiff on Count II. Finally, Plaintiff's motion for oral argument [52] is denied as moot.

I. Background1

The Court takes the relevant facts from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements of undisputed material facts and supporting exhibits: [33], [36], and [37]; and the underlying administrative record from the City of Chicago's Human Resources Board (the "HRB") [17]. The Court construes the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party—here, Plaintiff. The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. "When we cite as undisputed a statement of fact that a party has attempted to dispute, it reflects our determination that the evidence cited in the response does not show that the fact is in genuine dispute." King v. Chapman , 4 F.Supp.3d 1017, 1022 (N.D. Ill. 2013).

The Court has jurisdiction over Count II pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1343 because Plaintiff asserts a claim against the City under 28 U.S.C. § 1983. [37-1, ¶¶ 1–5.] Venue is proper in this District because the alleged events giving rise to Plaintiff's claims occurred within the Northern District of Illinois.

Plaintiff is a 51-year-old man who was employed by the City of Chicago until he was discharged in the administrative proceedings before the HRB. [33, ¶ 1]; [36, ¶ 1]. The City is a municipal corporation located in Cook County, Illinois. [33, ¶ 2.] From 1998 until the events at issue in this case, Plaintiff was employed as a Production Assistant with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events ("DCASE"). [33, ¶ 4.] His duties included (1) performing various manual labor and routine clerical tasks (such as loading/unloading and delivering heavy furniture and equipment); (2) assembling and setting up stage production sets, tables, chairs, etc. for City events (such as festivals)—which required the operating of hand and power tools; (3) processing outgoing mail; and (4) sorting and distributing incoming mail. [Id. ] Additionally, Plaintiff regularly drove DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly and occasionally other DCASE employees. [Id. ¶ 5.] Given these responsibilities, DCASE required Plaintiff to maintain a valid State of Illinois driver's license. [Id. ] Plaintiff reported to John Trick, his immediate supervisor, and Jose Chao ("Chao"), DCASE's Director of Facilities. [Id. ¶ 6.]

Lisa Lorick ("Lorick") has been DCASE's Assistant Commissioner since July 2004. Lorick serves as DCASE's Director of Human Resources and is responsible for all personnel matters, including discipline, timekeeping, payroll, benefits, labor relations, and training and development. [Id. ¶ 7.] Plaintiff, Chao, and Lorick all worked at the DCASE's main office—the Chicago Cultural Center, which is located at 55 E. Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602. [Id. ¶ 9.]

A. City Policies, Practices, and Procedures

The City has a city-wide Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy (the "Policy") that applies to all of its employees. [Id. ¶ 10] Under the Policy, the City may require an employee to undergo drug and/or alcohol testing under three circumstances: (1) when there is a reasonable suspicion that the employee has used drugs or alcohol or is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work, on City property, or on City business; (2) if the employee is involved in a fight while at work, on City property, or on City business; or (3) if an "an employee [is] involved in an accident which results in significant injury requiring medical attention or significant property damage while at work, on City property or on City business." [Id. ¶ 10; 17-2, at 72.] The City enacted the Policy in July 1993 and has not changed the Policy's language regarding post-accident testing since that time. [33, ¶ 11.] An employee who tests positive for drugs and/or alcohol or refuses to cooperate with testing procedures is terminated for a first offense. [Id. ¶ 17.] A refusal of a drug test is treated as a positive test. [Id. ] Plaintiff acknowledged that he received a copy of the Personnel Rules sometime around 2000 and that he was generally aware that the City had a drug and alcohol policy. [Id. ¶ 19.] However, Plaintiff also stated that he had been unaware of the Policy's post-accident testing standard. [Id. ]

B. March 10, 2017 Accident & Drug Test

On Friday, March 10, 2017, Plaintiff was assigned to drive a van of nine DCASE employees from the Chicago Cultural Center to the Clarke House Museum, approximately two miles away. [Id. ¶ 20.] One of those DCASE employees was approximately seven and a half months pregnant. [Id. ] The Clarke House Museum trip marked the fourth time Plaintiff had driven that week. [Id. ] Chao planned to drive a second City vehicle to the Clarke House Museum. [Id. ¶ 21.]

Plaintiff left the Chicago Cultural Center at approximately 10:45 a.m. Moments later, the vehicle driven by Plaintiff was involved in an accident with another vehicle as he attempted to make a right turn onto Michigan Avenue from Washington Street. The other vehicle was driven by Keianna Stone ("Stone"), a non-City employee. The accident occurred sometime between 10:50 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Plaintiff was in the outside lane when he was attempting to make a right turn onto Michigan Avenue, and Stone was in the inside lane. The inside lane was partially blocked by cones due to construction, and as a result, Stone made an extra wide turn to avoid the cones and made contact with the City vehicle. Plaintiff informed Chao that he had been involved in an accident, and Chao came to the scene of the accident. At that time, Chao observed damage to both the City vehicle and the other vehicle. Chao took most of the passengers who had been riding in Plaintiff's vehicle with him and drove them the rest of the way to the Clarke House Museum. [Id. ¶¶ 22–24.]

Before he left, Chao instructed Plaintiff to report the accident to the Chicago Police Department and not to leave the scene of the accident until a police report was generated; Plaintiff did as instructed. [Id. ¶ 25.] By 11:10 a.m., Officer Mark Mirabelli arrived on scene and spoke to both Plaintiff and Stone in order to determine what had occurred. He examined both vehicles and completed an Illinois Motorist Report, i.e. , a police report. [Id. ¶ 26.] Officer Mirabelli provided Plaintiff a copy of the police report at the scene of the accident. [Id. ¶ 29.]

Within approximately an hour (and no later than 12:30 p.m.), Lorick became aware of Plaintiff's accident and called him in for a meeting. [Id. ¶ 30.] Chao, and later Trick, were also present for the meeting. [Id. ] Chao attended the meeting as Plaintiff's supervisor, and not as a witness to the accident. [Id. ] During the meeting, Lorick brought up the Policy and drug testing under the post-accident prong of the Policy. [Id. ¶ 33.] While Lorick and Plaintiff disagree exactly where the following conversation took place, Plaintiff testified before the HRB that after Lorick explained that she was going to have to send him for testing Plaintiff admitted that he might have a hot drop and admitted that he had previously consumed drugs.2 [17-4, at 76:17–77:16, 78:7–16.] However, Plaintiff did not provide all the specifics of the drug use until the following Monday, which was after he took the drug test. [Id. at 77:21–78:2.]

After the conversation, Lorick informed Plaintiff that he had the option to undergo testing or to refuse testing, but that a refusal would be considered a positive drug test. [33, ¶ 36.] Chao proceeded to read the Voluntary Consent and Notice of Physical and/or Drug or Alcohol Testing forms out loud to Plaintiff. [Id. ¶ 37.] Plaintiff then signed the forms. [Id. ]

Immediately after the meeting, Chao and Trick accompanied Plaintiff to U.S. Healthworks' Downtown Clinic at 614 West Monroe, Chicago, Illinois to undergo drug testing. Upon their arrival, one of the men provided U.S. Healthworks' staff with a copy of the...

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    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
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