ILNews

Judge: IFD discrimination suit can go to trial

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A federal district judge is allowing a sexual discrimination suit against an Indianapolis Fire Department chief to proceed to trial.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis issued an order Tuesday in Morrison v. Indianapolis Fire Department Chief James Greeson, denying the chief's motion for summary judgment.

Filed in January 2006, the suit comes from what 10-year department veteran Ruth Morrison, a fire captain, describes as routine and repeated discrimination because she is female, including her not getting a promotion to chief in 2005. She accuses Greeson and the department of making her follow an order of hygiene and personal appearance when male employees are not required to do so, for reprimanding her for following similar practices that others use and don't get in trouble for, and for changing promotion procedure to adversely affect her application. Morrison wants a jury trial, compensation and damages, and promotion to chief with retroactive pay to December 2005.

In her 39-page order, Judge Barker points to several incidents that are later summed up as "serious and disturbing mistreatment alleged by Morrison."

Those include a "hair grooming incident" where Morrison was reprimanded in front of her crew for not pulling back her hair into a ponytail; the "missing radio incident" where she was reprimanded for a radio that went missing while she was on vacation; a "fuel run incident" where she was punished for sending a lone engineer to get fuel as her male counterparts often do without trouble; and several allegations of discrimination and retaliations involving the chain of command.

"Morrison has provided more than enough evidence of a hostile work environment at the IFD to withstand Greeson's motion for summary judgment," Judge Barker wrote. "The discriminatory treatment Morrison alleges is frequent and substantially severe and could certainly be understood to alter the conditions of her employment. Morrison has clearly met her burden here and has the right to present her hostile work environment claim at trial."

While neither party devoted much space in briefings to the failure to promote claim, and little caselaw is offered by the parties, Judge Baker cited the overall evidence presented as sufficient to allow it to go forward despite it being "far from watertight."
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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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