Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Arms v. Milwaukee County

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

August 9, 2019

JONETTE ARMS, Plaintiff,
v.
MILWAUKEE COUNTY, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Jonette Arms filed this action alleging discrimination on the basis of race and disability. Defendant Milwaukee County, her employer at the time, moved to dismiss the complaint. That motion was granted in part and denied in part, and Arms was granted leave to file an amended complaint. Arms v. Milwaukee Cty., No. 18-CV-1835, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73970 (E.D. Wis. May 1, 2019). Arms timely filed an amended complaint. Milwaukee County has now filed a motion to dismiss part of that amended complaint. That motion has been fully briefed and is ready for resolution.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts, taken from Arms's original complaint, were recounted in this court's prior decision. The amended complaint is not materially different as to these allegations.

         Arms is an African-American female over the age of forty. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 4.) She began her employment with the Milwaukee County Department on Aging in May 2010 as the Assistant Director. (Id., ¶ 7.) When the Director of the Department on Aging, Stephanie Sue Stein, retired on or about June 5, 2015, she recommended to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele that he appoint Arms as her successor (id., ¶ 9), and fourteen out of sixteen Commissioners of the Milwaukee County Commission on Aging signed a letter requesting that Arms be appointed as Director (id., ¶ 13). Instead, Abele assigned Arms to a “Temporary Appointment to a Higher Position” as “Interim Director of the Milwaukee County Department on Aging.” (Id., ¶ 10.) Arms was required to perform the duties of Assistant Director while also performing the duties of Director. (Id.)

         Shortly after Arms's appointment as Interim Director, Abele and his Chief of Staff, Raisa Koltun, began to treat Arms differently than they had treated Stein. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 14.) Koltun restricted Arms's contact with the media (id., ¶ 15-16), denied Arms the ability to carry over the vacation hours she earned in 2015 to 2016 (id., ¶ 22), and undermined Arms's ability to perform her jobs (id., ¶¶ 23-24). Abele failed to acknowledge Arms while speaking at a number of public events (id., ¶¶ 17-18, 20-21) and did not show up for a previously- scheduled meeting with Arms on September 14, 2015 (id., ¶ 19). Arms was also paid at a lower rather than Stein had been paid when she retired as Director. (Id., ¶ 11.)

         In the summer of 2015, Koltun told Arms that Abele needed to hold off on appointments until after the budget process in November. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 26.) Then, after the budget process in November, Koltun told Arms that Abele needed to hold off on appointments until after the County Executive election in April 2016. (Id., ¶ 27.) Nonetheless, in December 2015 Abele appointed Ismael Bonilla as Airport Director. (Id., ¶ 28.)

         During a Milwaukee County Commission on Aging meeting on January 22, 2016, county board member and commissioner Steve Taylor, other commissioners, and Department on Aging employees asked Abele's Director of Communications, Claire Zautke, why Arms's appointment was being delayed. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 29.) They vowed to stop supporting Abele as County Executive unless Arms was appointed to Director prior to the April 2016 election. (Id.) Koltun later reprimanded Arms for not intervening during the January 22, 2016 meeting, suggesting that Arms should have stated that she had an agreement with Abele to wait for her appointment until after the April 2016 election. (Id., ¶ 30.)

         On or about February 2, 2016, Zautke contacted Vonda Nyang to ask whether Arms had taken any sick, personal, or vacation time in the previous two weeks, which Arms alleges “disrupted the [Department on Aging], undermined Arms's authority, and suggested that Abele was looking for a reason to not appoint Arms to the position of Director.” (ECF No. 1, ¶ 25.)

         On or about February 3, 2016, Arms filed her first complaint of discrimination, alleging discrimination on the basis of color and race. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 31.) After she filed her complaint, Arms was treated with “continuous disrespect” (id., ¶ 32): at the Milwaukee County Commission on Aging meeting on February 26, 2016, Abele's aide, Jon Janowski, implied that he had inside information on Arms and the Department of Aging that he did not want to share in public (id., ¶ 33); on March 10, 2016, Janowski walked pasted Arms “with a stern, or disapproving, look on his face, ” would not make eye contact, and would not acknowledge Arms with a greeting (id., ¶ 34); on March 11, 2016 and May 27, 2016, Abele failed to acknowledge Arms at public events (id.); and Koltun canceled Arms's regular bi-weekly meetings from April 2016 through June 2016 (id.).

         On May 15, 2016, Arms formally applied for the position of Director of the Department on Aging. (ECF No. 1, ¶ 35.) Arms had thirteen years of experience working on issues related to aging. (Id., ¶ 36.) In June 2016, Arms began taking medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “because she was unable to work due to her various disabilities, which are fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, osteoarthritis, depression and anxiety.” (Id., ¶ 39.) On August 18, 2016, Arms was informed that she was not selected for the position. (Id., ¶ 37.) “Instead, a younger apparently bi-racial woman with no work experience related to issues of aging was selected.” (Id., ¶ 38.)

         Beginning in June 2016 Arms was on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “due to her various disabilities, which are fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, osteoarthritis, depression and anxiety.” (ECF No. 1, ¶ 39.) In September and October 2016 Arms asked Milwaukee County to extend her medical leave “because she was not yet adequately recovered to return to work.” (ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 41-42.) Although “Arms is aware of several [Milwaukee] County employees who have been allowed extended leaves of absence for their medical conditions, ” Milwaukee County denied her requests. (Id., ¶¶ 41-43.) To avoid a discharge, “Arms resigned her position as Assistant Director by letter dated October 31, 2016, effective November 1, 2016.” (Id., ¶ 44.)

         Milwaukee County moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that Arms had failed to state a claim for relief under Title VII and Section 1981, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). (ECF Nos. 10, 11.)

         The court granted Milwaukee County's motion as to Arms's claims of racial discrimination under Title VII and Section 1981. In doing so, the court stated that the complaint “fails to allege facts from which it can be inferred that Milwaukee County's failure to promote her to Director (both before and after engaging in a national search) was because of her race-that is, she makes no allegation that the adverse employment actions she allegedly suffered were because of her race.” (ECF No. 16 at 9 (emphasis in original).)

         The court also granted Milwaukee County's motion as to Arms's retaliation claim under Title VII on the ground that “Arms does not allege that Milwaukee County failed to select her as Director ‘as a result of' her having filed a ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.