Sommerfield v. City of Chicago, No. 13-1265 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe that Chicago Police Department violated Title VII by harassing Officer Sommerfield based on his national origin, German, and religion, Jewish. Sommerfield alleged that his complaints led to retaliation. He filed another EEOC charge alleging retaliation. The agency again found reasonable cause. After years of litigation in his subsequent 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983 suit, a jury awarded Sommerfield $30,000, rejecting his retaliation claim. Sommerfield’s lawyer requested $1.5 million in attorney’s fees, which the district court reduced to $430,000. The attorney claimed to have worked 3,742 hours at an hourly rate of $395; the judge reduced the hours to 2,878 and the rate to $300, which yielded a lodestar of $863,000. The judge took into account the modest degree of success Sommerfield had achieved and halved the lodestar. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding the district court’s decisions to grant partial summary judgment for the city by confining the discrimination counts to the question whether a fellow officer’s statements had created a hostile work environment; eliminating two counts for lack of any evidence that would permit a finding that Sommerfield’s injury resulted from an express policy, a widespread practice, or a policymaker’s final action; and restricting the retaliation claim period.