Purtue v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections, No. 19-2706 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Purtue, a Dodge Correctional Institution officer, reported that inmate Reddick had thrown an empty box from his cell, hitting her. Reddick was taken to segregation. A video recording showed the box flying out of Reddick’s cell but the box didn’t fly toward Purtue nor strike her. Work Rule 6 prohibits correctional officers from falsifying records or knowingly giving false information to prison authorities. Reddick stated that he and Purtue had quarreled earlier and that he threw the box out of frustration but purposefully directed it away from Purtue. Purtue reiterated that the box had hit her. After watching the video, Purtue agreed that the box had not hit her but maintained that something else hit her. The investigators doubted that story because on the video Purtue did not react. The warden decided to skip progressive discipline and immediately terminate Purtue’s employment. Executive Directive #2 classifies “[l]ying or providing false information” as “Serious Acts of Misconduct” that may result in termination. Other officials agreed with that recommendation. A memorandum identified comparators for Purtue—one man and two women—all of whom were fired for lying or falsifying records.
Purtue filed suit, alleging sex discrimination under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. The investigation accurately summarized Purtue’s conduct. Purtue’s expert testimony was speculative and offered nothing more than his opinion that termination was unwise but not necessarily pretextual. Although there were gender disparities in a statistical report, those disparities revealed little about Purtue's dismissal.