Case: Lewis v. City of Chicago

1:98-cv-05596 | U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Filed Date: Sept. 9, 1998

Closed Date: 2013

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On September 9, 1998, a group of African American firefighter applicants in Chicago filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, proceeding under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against the City of Chicago. Represented by several lawyers, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Chicago Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, the plaintiffs sought injunctive, compensatory and declaratory relief, alleging that a 199…

On September 9, 1998, a group of African American firefighter applicants in Chicago filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, proceeding under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against the City of Chicago. Represented by several lawyers, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Chicago Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights, the plaintiffs sought injunctive, compensatory and declaratory relief, alleging that a 1995 written examination in the application process discriminated against and had a disparate impact on African American applicants and could not be justified as a business necessity.

The lawsuit was brought after the City publicized results of the 1995 test in a press release. The written test was scored out of 100 and set a threshold of 89 and above as "well qualified,” which would allow applicants to advance to the next stage of the hiring process. Those who scored 65-88 were considered "qualified" and those with a 64 or below failed the exam. On January 26, 1996, Mayor Richard Daly announced the results of the test; those who were within the "well qualified" group were 75.8% white and 11.5% were African American. On November 6, 1996, the plaintiffs' attorney received a copy of the exam and results from the City. The attorney then gave the data to a consultant, who submitted a preliminary report on March 15, 1997, indicating that the test had a substantial adverse impact. Over the next year, six plaintiffs filed complaints with the EEOC, and on July 28, 1998, the EEOC issued letters of the right to sue. The plaintiffs filed suit on September 9, 1998.

On December 15, 1999, the court (Judge Gottschall) granted class certification. Though the original opinion is unavailable, future court orders describe the class as "approximately 6,000 African-Americans who applied for entry-level firefighter jobs with the City and scored from 65 to 88 (inclusive) on the 1995 firefighter written examination." 2007 WL 869559.

The City moved for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiffs did not file with the EEOC within 300 days. The court (Judge Gottschall) denied this motion on the grounds that the City's ongoing refusal to process the plaintiff's applications constituted a continuing violation. 2000 WL 690313.

Litigation and discovery continued for the next several years.

On March 22, 2005, Judge Gottschall found the City liable for race discrimination. In the opinion, the court stated that there was no statistical relevance to the cutoff score of 89, that the correct threshold was actually a score of 87, and that this administrative decision had an adverse impact on African American applicants. Further, the court stated that the ability to take notes during the movie was not a skill necessary for firefighters’ jobs or training. As such, the test was invalid. 2005 WL 693618.

For the next two years, the parties litigated the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief. On April 19, 2007, the Court ordered injunctive relief for the plaintiffs, requiring the City to place all class members in a database and give them the opportunity to go through the hiring process again. The court mandated that the City select new employees from this database until 132 class members went through the process, accepted their employment offers, and received training in the firefighter academy. Once through the academy, the class members would be eligible for senior positions, back-pay, and compensation for lost benefits. Further, the Court mandated that the plaintiffs’ attorney's fees be paid by the City. 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24378. The City appealed on May 4, 2007.

On June 7, 2007, the court granted City’s motion for stay pending appeal. The court recognized the harm the order had on the plaintiffs, who still had not been given their rights to employment. However, the court justified the stay based on the possible irreparable harm to the City and the public if the plaintiffs' training was to proceed and then the court’s decision was later overturned. 2007 WL 1686975.

On September 2, 2008, the Seventh Circuit (Chief Judge Easterbrook) found that the plaintiffs’ suit was untimely and a “fatal mistake,” since the 300 day limit for filing such claim began when the plaintiffs learned that they had been placed in the “qualified” category and that the City would be hiring those in the “well qualified” category. Thus, the time for filing a Title VII claim began when the discriminatory decision was made and not when it was executed. The Seventh Circuit reversed the District Court’s judgment with directions to enter judgment for the City. On remand, Judge Gottschall vacated the earlier order that entered injunctive relief and judgment for plaintiffs and instead entered a judgment for the City on October 9, 2008.

On January 21, 2009, the plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court, which was granted on Sept. 30, 2009.

On May 24, 2010, the Supreme Court reversed the Seventh Circuit’s judgment. It found that plaintiffs could file Title VII disparate impact claims within 300 days after the employer executed the allegedly unlawful practice as long as the plaintiffs alleged each of the elements of a disparate impact claim. The Supreme Court found that the case turned on whether the firefighters’ claims stated a Title VII violation, and concluded that the firefighters successfully stated a Title VII violation within the claim-filing period when they alleged that the City caused a disparate impact on African Americans each time it used its hiring list. In other words, the City’s application of the practice did not give rise to a new claim or a new violation, but rather, comprised the same disparate impact claim. Additionally, the time to file renewed whenever the City used a test to make hiring decisions. The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings. 130 S. Ct. 2191.

On June 6, 2011, the Seventh Circuit (Chief Judge Easterbrook) affirmed the district court’s April 2007 judgment ordering injunctive relief for the plaintiffs, except with respect to the remedy based on the first batch of hires. The Seventh Circuit remanded with instructions to modify the remedy to eliminate any relief based on the hires of May 1996 because that charge came too late to contest these employment decisions as the Supreme Court stated. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs demonstrated that the City’s use of a cutoff score had a disparate impact. 643 F.3d 201.

Back in the district court, on August 17, 2011, Judge Gottshall issued an injunctive order favoring 111 class members. The order provided rightful place hiring and retroactive seniority credit dating back to June 1999. Additionally, the order provided back pay that consisted of attrition, lost wages and non-pension fringe benefits, mitigating earnings from interim employment, prejudgment interest, funding of pension and other applicable benefit plans and programs back to June 1999. The court was to henceforth retain jurisdiction solely with regard to the enforcement of the order for 24 months.

Over the subsequent years, individuals occasionally filed motions to intervene, but were motions all denied on the basis of untimeliness.

On August 12, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the seniority provisions of the injunctive relief order. Specifically, the firefighters who filed the motion argued that the court’s injunctive order required the City to award them two service bars (a stripe pin awarded when firefighters served in the department for ten years). On February 13, 2014, the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion, arguing they would have been awarded the service bars had the City not unlawfully discriminated against them. As such, the firefighters hired pursuant to the court’s judgment were permitted to wear two service bars on their dress uniforms. 2014 WL 562527.

Regarding attorneys’ fees, the court awarded the plaintiffs $137,194.83 for costs accrued since September 2011 and an additional $1.39 million on December 27, 2013 and March 21, 2014, respectively.

On March 22, 2016, an individual plaintiff filed a motion to enforce the employment provisions of the injunctive order, which the court denied without prejudice on August 8, 2016. The individual had also filed a disability discrimination case against the City pending before Judge Tharp (Gray Jr v. City of Chicago) and the summary judgment filings in that case showed substantial overlap with the issues raised in this case. The case remains closed.

Summary Authors

Matthew Aibel (4/20/2008)

MJ Koo (4/9/2017)

Virginia Weeks (11/15/2017)

Richa Bijlani (11/24/2019)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/5093653/parties/lewis-v-city-of-chicago/


Judge(s)

Bauer, William Joseph (Illinois)

Easterbrook, Frank Hoover (Illinois)

Gottschall, Joan B. (Illinois)

Manion, Daniel Anthony (Indiana)

Posner, Richard Allen (Illinois)

Scalia, Antonin (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Adegbile, Debo Patrick (New York)

Archer, Deborah N. (New York)

Arimond, Bridget (Illinois)

Civin, Joshua I. (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Bauer, William Joseph (Illinois)

Easterbrook, Frank Hoover (Illinois)

Gottschall, Joan B. (Illinois)

Manion, Daniel Anthony (Indiana)

Posner, Richard Allen (Illinois)

Scalia, Antonin (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Adegbile, Debo Patrick (New York)

Archer, Deborah N. (New York)

Arimond, Bridget (Illinois)

Civin, Joshua I. (District of Columbia)

Clayton, Fay (Illinois)

Colangelo, Matthew B. (District of Columbia)

Cummings, Jeffrey Irvine (Illinois)

Hyndman, Cynthia H. (Illinois)

Karsh, Joshua (Illinois)

Katyal, Neal Kumar (District of Columbia)

Milligan, Joy (New York)

Miner, Judson Hirsch (Illinois)

Mitchell, Gregory T. (Illinois)

Moore, ReNika C (New York)

Murphy, Clyde E. (Illinois)

Patterson, Patrick O. (Wisconsin)

Payton, John A. (District of Columbia)

Piers, Matthew J. (Illinois)

Pollack, Joyce Amy (Illinois)

Rowland, Mary Margaret (Illinois)

Strauss, Paul Leonard (Illinois)

Stroup, Robert H (New York)

Wardell, Laurie Arden (Illinois)

Willenson, Marni (District of Columbia)

Wilson, Cynthia A. (Illinois)

Winslow, Elyssa Balingit (Illinois)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Avendano, Naomi Ann (Illinois)

Burke, Edward J. (Illinois)

Cohen, Diane S. (Illinois)

Crowe, Brian L. (Illinois)

Dominguez, Blanca R. (Illinois)

Donham, Cary E. (Illinois)

Hara, Glenn L. (Illinois)

Harper, Valerie Depies (Illinois)

Horwitz, Stephen Bernard (Illinois)

Hurst, Matthew Todd (Illinois)

Jackson, Heather Ann (Illinois)

Kennedy, John Francis (Illinois)

Kertez, Jay Michael (Illinois)

Ladner, Tracey Renee (Illinois)

Pinelli, Vincent Dominick (Illinois)

Ramsey, Douglas Michael (Illinois)

Reilly-Bates, Gabriel (Illinois)

Robling, Kenneth Charles (Illinois)

Schaller, Rachel L. (Illinois)

Slagel, Allan T. (Illinois)

Solomon, Benna R. (Illinois)

Thornton-Pierce, Sherri (Illinois)

Wichern, Nadine J (Illinois)

Other Attorney(s)

Browne, Sharon L. (California)

Heffner, Matthew Thomas (Illinois)

Kagan, Elena (District of Columbia)

Koerner, Leonard J. (New York)

Norton, Helen L. (Colorado)

Rocks, Patrick J. Jr. (Illinois)

Russell, Kevin K. (District of Columbia)

Vann, Rae T. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

08-00974

Docket (U.S. Supreme Court)

Lewis v. Chicago

Supreme Court of the United States

Feb. 22, 2010

Feb. 22, 2010

Docket

1:98-cv-05596

Docket [PACER]

Aug. 8, 2016

Aug. 8, 2016

Docket
94

1:98-cv-05596

Order denying summary judgment

Lewis v. Chicago

2000 WL 690313

May 25, 2000

May 25, 2000

Order/Opinion
274

1:98-cv-05596

Memorandum Opinion and Order Judgment of Liability Against City

Lewis v. Chicago

2005 WL 693618

March 22, 2005

March 22, 2005

Order/Opinion
405

1:98-cv-05596

Injunctive Relief Order (Approved)

Lewis v. Chicago

2007 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 24378

April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007

Order/Opinion
425

1:98-cv-05596

Memorandum Opinion and Order Granting Stay

2007 WL 1686975

June 7, 2007

June 7, 2007

Order/Opinion
46

07-02052

Opinion (7th Circuit Court of Appeals)

Lewis v. Chicago

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

528 F.3d 488

June 4, 2008

June 4, 2008

Order/Opinion
447

1:98-cv-05596

[Opinion]

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Sept. 2, 2008

Sept. 2, 2008

Order/Opinion

1:98-cv-05596

08-00974

Transcript of Supreme Court Argument

Lewis v. Chicago

Supreme Court of the United States

Feb. 22, 2010

Feb. 22, 2010

Transcript

Press Release

No Court

Feb. 22, 2010

Feb. 22, 2010

Press Release

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/5093653/lewis-v-city-of-chicago/

Last updated June 5, 2022, 3:16 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
94

MINUTE ORDER of 5/25/00 by Hon. Joan B. Gottschall : Defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied [64-1]. Plaintiffs' motion to strike and deem certain facts admitted is denied as moot [84-1] [84-2]. Entered Memorandum Opinion and Order. Mailed notice (ar)

May 25, 2000

May 25, 2000

RECAP
274

MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order. Signed by Judge Joan B. Gottschall on 3/22/2005. Mailed notice (air, )

March 22, 2005

March 22, 2005

RECAP
391

MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by Judge Joan B. Gottschall on 3/20/2007(vmj, )

March 20, 2007

March 20, 2007

RECAP
425

MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by Judge Joan B. Gottschall on 6/7/2007:Mailed notice(hp, )

June 7, 2007

June 7, 2007

RECAP
715

MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable Joan B. Gottschall on 2/13/2014. Mailed notice(ef, )

Feb. 13, 2014

Feb. 13, 2014

RECAP

Case Details

State / Territory: Illinois

Case Type(s):

Equal Employment

Special Collection(s):

Private Employment Class Actions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Sept. 9, 1998

Closing Date: 2013

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

African-American firefighter applicants who passed the written exam but were not considered for selection

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

City of Chicago, City

Defendant Type(s):

Fire

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1981

Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

U.S. Supreme Court merits opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Attorneys fees

Damages

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Amount Defendant Pays: $1,527,194.84

Order Duration: 2011 - 2013

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Hire

Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention

Preliminary relief granted

Retroactive Seniority

Utilize objective hiring/promotion criteria

Issues

General:

Disparate Impact

Pattern or Practice

Discrimination-area:

Hiring

Testing

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black