Francis J. Golla v. Office of the Chief Judge, et al
Filed opinion of the court by Judge Bauer. AFFIRMED. William J. Bauer, Circuit Judge; Daniel A. Manion, Circuit Judge and David F. Hamilton, Circuit Judge. [6883906-1]  [15-2524]
United States Court of Appeals
For the Seventh Circuit
FRANCIS J. GOLLA,
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF JUDGE OF COOK
COUNTY, ILLINOIS and COOK COUNTY,
Appeal from the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
No. 11 C 8149 — Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.
ARGUED SEPTEMBER 28, 2017 — DECIDED NOVEMBER 15, 2017
Before BAUER, MANION, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
BAUER, Circuit Judge. Francis Joseph Golla brought this
Title VII race discrimination action against his former em‐
ployer, the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County, Illinois,
and Cook County, Illinois, itself for purposes of indemnifying
any judgment (collectively, “Defendants”). After discovery, the
district court granted Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment. Golla appeals that decision, and we affirm.
Golla’s complaint alleged that the Office of the Chief Judge
(“the Office”) had engaged in intentional reverse racial
discrimination by paying Deotis Taylor, an African‐American
male, a significantly higher salary than Golla, a white male,
despite working in the same department and performing the
same duties under essentially the same title.
The Office is the administrative arm of the Cook County
circuit courts with numerous departments, including Adult
Probation, Juvenile Probation, Social Services, Forensic Clinical
Services, and the Chief Judge’s Office. Golla, who has a law
degree, started working in the Office in 1983 as a Court
Coordinator. Golla’s employment with the Office was termi‐
nated on March 16, 1995, but he was reinstated ten months
after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Oppor‐
tunity Commission (EEOC) and the parties reached a settle‐
ment. As part of the settlement agreement, Golla was rein‐
stated at a Grade 14 pay position. Golla assumed the title of
Law Clerk I, and was assigned to assist in the jury room at
other circuit courts, before moving into the juvenile court‐
In 2004, Golla transferred to the Social Services Department.
While there, Golla retained the title of Law Clerk I, and
continued to be paid at Grade 14 until he resigned on May 31,
2013. Golla’s duties in the Social Services Department were
administrative in nature, and included filing, creating reports,
case initialization, and processing intakes.
Deotis Taylor began working at the Office in 1978 as a
Probation Officer, and then became a Jury Room Manager in
1998. Taylor’s personnel records indicated that in 1998, he was
paid at Grade 22. Taylor left the Office in 1999 to run for
Illinois State Senate.
The Office rehired Taylor in 2005, and assigned him to the
Social Services Department. Taylor assumed the title Legal
Systems Analyst at a Grade 22 pay position. He remained in
that position until he retired on September 26, 2013. Taylor’s
duties in the Social Services Department were also administra‐
tive, and included processing case files to courtrooms, conduct‐
ing criminal background checks, and organizing and disposing
Despite the different formal titles, Golla and Taylor were
both listed in the Social Services directory under the title
Administrative Assistant. In addition, both Golla and Taylor
worked on intake forms, called SCERTs, on a daily basis. These
forms were generated when an individual who had been
sentenced did not physically appear at the Social Services
Department for intake. Taylor wrote up the SCERT form,
assigned a caseworker to it, and conducted a criminal back‐
ground check on the individual. Golla received completed
SCERTs and entered the information into a computer system.
Vanessa Whitehead, who is African‐American, served as
the Deputy Director of Management Services in the Social
Services Department, in which position she was the direct
supervisor of both Golla and Taylor. Whitehead testified in her
deposition that she had no role in determining an employee’s
In support of their motion for summary judgment, Defen‐
dants introduced an affidavit from Sharon Hoffman, who was
the Assistant Director of the Social Services Department until
March, 2014. Hoffman’s affidavit affirmed that the Social
Services Department had no control over an employee’s pay
grade. Instead, employees who transferred into the Social
Services Department retained their pay grade from their prior
department. Hoffman’s affidavit also listed seventeen Social
Services employees, both white and African‐American, who
performed the same or similar administrative duties as Golla
at a lower pay grade.
In 2009, Golla learned that Taylor was making more money
than he was. On June 9, 2009, Whitehead overheard Golla
talking with Taylor and others about their salaries after a
website posted the salaries of all Cook County employees. On
July 7, 2009, Golla wrote a letter to the Chief Judge claiming
that Whitehead publicly announced that she knew Taylor
made more money than him, but Whitehead denied making
this statement, or any statements about the pay disparity
between Golla and Taylor. Whitehead stated that she was only
informed of the pay disparity when Golla approached her with
When Golla was asked during his deposition whether
anyone in the workplace made racial comments towards him,
No. You know, nothing direct racial. Now,
[Whitehead] had on numerous occasions said
that all my life people have been standing in my
way, and they all looked exactly like you. Is that
racial? Is that gender? Is that age? That’s what
she would say, you are a nobody, you are a
nothing, you are not an attorney. She would say
it repeatedly, loudly and to anybody who was
around to hear it. But is that racial? No. It’s
demeaning. It’s disgusting. It’s degrading. But
no, not directly racial. No nooses hanging any‐
On May 29, 2009, Golla filed a discrimination complaint
with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC.
The EEOC issued Golla a right‐to‐sue letter on August 11, 2011.
Golla filed his first complaint in the district court on Novem‐
ber 15, 2011, which was amended a number of times thereafter.
The operative complaint contained one count of race discrimi‐
nation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e‐2(a)(1); and, one count of a violation of Golla’s Equal
Protection and First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The district court dismissed the § 1983 count and allowed the
Title VII count to proceed.
On June 18, 2015, the district court granted summary
judgment in favor of Defendants. The court found no direct
evidence of reverse racial discrimination that resulted in the
pay disparity. The court also found that Golla had failed to
establish a prima facie case of reverse racial discrimination
under the indirect method of proof, a modified version of a
framework first established in McDonnell Douglas Corporation
v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Mills v. Health Care Serv. Corp.,
171 F.3d 450, 456–57 (7th Cir. 1999).
We review a district court’s grant of summary judgment
de novo. Cole v. Bd. of Trs. of N. Ill. Univ., 838 F.3d 888, 895 (7th
Cir. 2016). The question on a motion for summary judgment is
whether the moving party has shown there is “no genuine
dispute as to any material fact,” and is entitled to summary
judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). We construe
all factual disputes and draw all reasonable inferences in favor
of the non‐moving party. Cole, 838 F.3d at 895.
Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating against
an employee on the basis of race with respect to their compen‐
sation. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e‐2(a)(1). The district court analyzed
Golla’s race discrimination claim under both the “direct” and
“indirect” methods of proof. See Golla v. Chief Judge of Cook Cty.,
No. 11 C 8149, 2015 WL 3814650, at *3–6 (N.D. Ill. June 18,
However, after the district court had granted summary
judgment, we held that the “direct” and “indirect” methods
should no longer be treated as distinct legal standards. Ortiz v.
Werner Enters., Inc., 834 F.3d 760, 765–66 (7th Cir. 2016). Instead
of separating evidence under different methods of proof, we
held that “[e]vidence must be considered as a whole, rather
than asking whether any particular piece of evidence proves
the case by itself—or whether just the ‘direct’ evidence does so,
or the ‘indirect’ evidence.” Id. at 765. We clarified that the legal
standard is “simply whether the evidence would permit a
reasonable factfinder to conclude that the plaintiff’s race …
caused the … adverse employment action.” Id. Importantly,
Ortiz made clear that its holding did not alter McDonnell
Douglas or displace the indirect method of establishing a prima
facie case of discrimination. Id. at 766. Instead, the indirect
method remains “a means of organizing, presenting, and
assessing circumstantial evidence in frequently recurring
factual patterns found in discrimination cases.” David v. Bd. of
Trs. of Cmty. Coll. Dist. No. 508, 846 F.3d 216, 224 (7th Cir. 2017).
Accordingly, we will evaluate Golla’s claim under the ap‐
proach set forth in Ortiz.
Golla argues that he presented sufficient evidence of race
discrimination within the Social Services Department to
survive summary judgment. Golla stresses the similarities in
job titles and duties with Taylor and surmises that the only
explanation for Taylor’s higher pay grade is his race. Golla also
points to the comments of his African‐American supervisor,
Whitehead, as evidence of racial animus in the Social Services
Considering the evidence as a whole, we find that Golla has
not presented sufficient evidence from which a reasonable
factfinder could conclude Golla received lower pay than Taylor
because of his race. Golla’s reverse racial discrimination claim
is premised solely on Taylor: one African‐American employee
in the Social Services Department who performed similar
duties and received a higher salary. Golla presented no
evidence, beyond the fact that he is white and Taylor is
African‐American, to demonstrate that race contributed to
disparity in their pay.
The evidence showed that Golla’s Grade 14 pay was
established in 1996 pursuant to a settlement agreement with
the Office. Taylor’s Grade 22 was set in 1998 when he was a
Jury Room Manager. When Golla and Taylor were placed in
the Social Services Department in 2004 and 2005, respectively,
they maintained their pay grades that had been established
years prior. Golla presented no evidence that Whitehead, or
anyone in the Social Services Department, was a decision‐
maker on employee compensation. Golla’s only evidence that
Whitehead played any role at all in determining particular pay
grades is a single line statement from the deposition of Bruce
Wisniewski, the Office’s HR Administrator, that can be read to
suggest Whitehead could have recommended a higher pay
grade for Golla. But Golla has presented no evidence that
Whitehead every knowingly withheld such a recommendation,
or that she even knew she had that potential influence.
Moreover, Golla did not produce any evidence that the
Social Services Department engaged in any systematic pattern
or maintained a policy of reverse racial discrimination. In fact,
Defendants provided evidence that many other employees in
the Social Services Department with duties similar to Golla,
both white and African‐American, were compensated at a
lower pay grade than Golla.
Whitehead’s comments to Golla lend no support to his
claim of reverse racial discrimination. Golla argues that
Whitehead displayed racial animus when she told him “all my
life people have been standing in my way, and they all looked
exactly like you.” However, Golla presented no evidence that
Whitehead ever made this statement in reference to Golla’s
pay. See Merillat v. Metal Spinners, Inc., 470 F.3d 685, 694 (7th
Cir. 2006). In fact, Whitehead had no decision‐making role in
determining pay grades, and she was unaware of the disparity
in their pay until Golla informed her of it. Moreover, White‐
head’s comment is open‐ended, and there is no evidence that
Whitehead was referring to Golla’s race when she made the
ambiguous remark. Finally, Golla confirmed at his deposition
that this comment was not racially motivated when he stated:
“[I]s that racial? No. It’s demeaning. It’s disgusting. It’s
degrading. But no, not directly racial.”
In short, the evidence as a whole was insufficient for a
reasonable jury to conclude that the Office paid Golla at a
lower pay grade than Taylor on account of his race. Therefore,
Defendants are entitled to summary judgment.
For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the district court’s
grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants.
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