Emerson v. Dart, No. 17-2614 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Emerson, a Cook County Department of Corrections corrections officer, alleged that County employees unlawfully discriminated against her during her “tumultuous” tenure at a County detention facility. During that time, she twice filed formal personnel grievances. She claims that she was subsequently the victim of retaliation. She was on paid medical leave from September 2012 until March 2014, and she has remained on unpaid leave ever since. While her claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, were pending, Emerson took to Facebook to threaten potential witnesses with legal action if they testified against her. The district judge sanctioned Emerson ($17,000) for the threat and eventually entered summary judgment for the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reasoning that Emerson’s grievance regarding scheduling did not qualify as protected activity under Title VII because it did not allege that Grochowski (who made the schedule) targeted her because of her race, sex, or other protected characteristic. Emerson had no proof that Grochowski ever knew of her earlier grievance, so she cannot establish that they harbored the retaliatory motive necessary for a Title VII retaliation claim.