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Olendzki v. Rossi

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 29, 2014

DONALD OLENDZKI, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
NEIL ROSSI, Assistant Warden of Jacksonville Correctional Center, et al., Defendants-Appellees

Page 743

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 3:08-cv-03196-RM-BGC -- Richard Mills, Judge.

For DONALD OLENDZKI, Plaintiff - Appellant: James P. Baker, Attorney, BAKER, BAKER & KRAJEWSKI, Springfield, IL.

For NEIL ROSSI, Assistant Warden of Jacksonville Correctional Center, BECKY SUDBRINK, Health Care Administrator of Jacksonville Correctional Center, RICH PILLOW, Assistant Warden of Jacksonville Correctional Center, JENNIFER STOUDT, Warden of Jacksonville Correctional Center, TERRY POLK, Warden of Jacksonville Correctional Center, RICK ORR, Deputy Director of Illinois Department of Corrections, Defendants - Appellees: Evan Siegel, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Civil Appeals Division, Chicago, IL.

Before BAUER, CUDAHY, and POSNER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 744

Bauer, Circuit Judge

Donald Olendzki is a psychologist at an Illinois state prison. After he was elected to his union's Executive Board, Olendzki began to advocate on behalf of his fellow union members and to voice his concerns to the management staff at the prison. Olendzki believes that this advocacy led to hostile relationships with his superiors and caused them to retaliate against him. So Olendzki sued six of his superiors under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that they retaliated against him for his union advocacy, a violation of his First Amendment rights. The defendants moved for summary judgment and the district court granted their motion. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

Olendzki joined the Illinois Department of Corrections in 1989 as a psychologist in the healthcare unit at the Jacksonville Correctional Center (" JCC" ). He provided mental health services to inmates and advised his superiors about how best to operate the healthcare unit. His job duties also required him to maintain health and safety standards and report unusual incidents to his superiors.

Throughout his employment, Olendzki was also a member of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (" the union" ). In April 2004, Olendzki was elected to the union's Executive Board. Until this time, Olendzki enjoyed an amicable working relationship with his superiors.

Olendzki took his appointment as a union official seriously. He regularly attended labor management meetings and served on the Health and Safety Committee (" HSC" ), which held separate meetings related to the union. At both types of union meetings, Olendzki frequently raised ongoing complaints common to him and other union members. For example, Olendzki commented at both the labor management and the HSC meetings that mentally ill inmates were creating a " dangerous condition" for staff at JCC. In February 2008, Olendzki voiced his concern that a " dangerous dental tool" went missing and that the tool posed a safety risk to JCC staff. Olendzki made comments similar in nature at these meetings from April 2004 until January 2010, at which point Olendzki took a voluntary medical leave of absence.

The six defendants in this case were all, at one time or another, employed in a managerial role above Olendzki. Becky Sudbrink was the Health Care Unit Administrator at JCC and Olendzki's direct supervisor from 2005 to November 2006; Neil Rossi was the Assistant Warden of Programs at JCC and Olendzki's direct supervisor from November 2006 on; Terry Polk became the Warden of JCC in December 2005; Jennifer Stoudt succeeded Polk as the Warden in January 2008; Richard Pillow was the Assistant Warden of Operations and was the Acting Warden between Polk's and Stoudt's tenures; Richard Orr[1] was Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. We refer to the defendants collectively as JCC management throughout this opinion, unless a specific actor is important.

There is a voluminous record in this case because Olendzki claims not only that the defendants retaliated against him for the statements he made at the union meetings between 2004 and 2010, but also for statements he made concerning the union during his ...


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