Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, October 14, 2019

Discrimination claim against state department fails due to insufficient evidence provided, court rules

Federal Court

By John Breslin | Oct 7, 2019


MT. VERNON - An African-American state agency worker cannot move forward with a claim of discrimination over his failure to secure a promotion because he did not provide sufficient evidence to support his allegation.

James Dabney, who represented himself in his case against the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, had asked a federal judge for summary judgment in his civil rights claim against the agency.

Instead, U.S. District Chief Judge Nancy Rosenstengel granted summary judgment to the IDNR in the dispute that began with Dabney's failure to be promoted to a superintendent's position. He claimed it was because of his race, a violation, if found true, of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Rosenstengel, of the Southern District of Illinois, had to parse the two competing motions for summary judgment prior to issuing her order in favor of the state agency. She noted that instead of responding to the IDNR's motion for summary judgment, Dabney filed a competing one.

In his 2017 original and amended complaints, Gabney claimed he was not selected for the higer level position because he did not have a bachelor's degree, but that "many Caucasian" superintendents did not have the degree or his experience. He added, "there are only two black employees" working for the department.

When he learned of his selection failure, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which granted him a right to sue in early 2017.

Following the closure of discovery, the IDNR filed its motion for summary judgment, arguing that the claim failed as it was not supported by any evidence, that Dabney was not qualified for the position, that no employee was selected, and that it was the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (“CMS”) that assessed and graded Dabney.

CMS found he did not have enough training and experience for the superintendent position, and his failure was not because of his lack of a bachelor’s degree.

In his motion for summary judgment, Dabney included allegations from his original complaint and added more, including that two other IDNR employees "were offered a temporary assignment to the vacant superintendent position," and that a third was similarly assigned at a different location.

He also added "what appears to be a new employment discrimination and retaliation complaint," the memorandum and order noted.

Rosenstengel wrote, "Dabney did not supply the Court with any affidavits or other testimonial documentation, nor did he cite to the record with regard to his allegations."

She added, "In sum, Dabney failed to produce admissible evidence in support of his allegations and instead relied solely upon speculation and conclusory statements. This is insufficient to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination under Title VII, and his motion for summary judgment must be denied.

"Moreover, the IDNR produced evidence that CMS assessed Dabney’s grade for the vacant Site Superintendent II position and issued the decision that he was ineligible for the position.

"Because Dabney did not genuinely dispute this evidence demonstrating he was not qualified for the position, summary judgment is warranted in favor of the IDNR."

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