The opinion of the court was delivered by: Plunkett, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In this suit, Mary Ann J. Strama ("Plaintiff") alleges that the
City of Chicago (the "City"), James Maurer ("Maurer"), the
Executive Director of the Office of Municipal Investigation (the
"OMI"), and Paul Lewis ("Lewis"), Assistant to Maurer
(collectively, "Defendants"), violated her rights by firing her
for sexual and political reasons. Plaintiff sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for violations of her rights under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5,
the Fourteenth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the
Shakman decree. Presently before us is Defendants' motion to
dismiss Plaintiff's first amended complaint or sections thereof.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in
part and denied in part.
For purposes of the motion to dismiss we take as true the
limited allegations in Plaintiff's amended complaint. Plaintiff
was employed as an investigator in the OMI, a municipal
corporation, for an unspecified period of time until she was
discharged on September 16, 1983. The decision to terminate her
employment was made by Maurer and Lewis, who set or approved
policy and custom regarding employment in the OMI. Other
discharged OMI investigators were recalled, but Plaintiff was
not. Plaintiff had properly performed the duties of her office.
Her refusal to interact sexually with Maurer, Lewis and others in
the OMI and politics were substantial motivating factors in
Defendants' decisions to terminate her employment and not to
recall her. Plaintiff suffered financial loss and emotional
distress as a result of her termination and failure to be
reinstated, and seeks $70,000 in compensatory damages, additional
punitive damages against Maurer and Lewis, and attorney's fees.
Defendants maintain that this suit is barred by laches, citing
Kadon v. Bd. of Fire and Police Commissioners, 45 Ill. App.2d 425,
430, 195 N.E.2d 751, 754 (1st Dist. 1964), and several other
cases in which Illinois courts have required certain actions
challenging employment terminations to be brought within six
months of the date of termination. This suit was filed
approximately eleven months after Plaintiff's discharge.
Defendants properly look to state law to determine the
timeliness of this § 1983 action. See Wilson v. Garcia, ___ U.S.
___, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985). The state rules
governing laches, however, generally apply only where equitable
relief is sought. See Mother Earth, Ltd. v. Strawberry Camel,
Ltd., 72 Ill. App.3d 37, 28 Ill.Dec. 226, 239, 390 N.E.2d 393, 406
(1st Dist. 1979); Kadon, 45 Ill.App.2d at 430, 195 N.E.2d at 754
(reinstatement and back pay). Here, Plaintiff seeks damages only.
Defendants request that we specially apply the laches doctrine to
suits involving government employment so as not to disturb
government services more than necessary. We see no reason to
treat suits at law involving governmental employment decisions
differently than § 1983 suits at law involving any other form of
governmental action. Furthermore, delay is more likely to be
prejudicial where suits seek reinstatement and back pay, which
become more difficult to accord over time, than damages resulting
from termination, which are relatively fixed. Accordingly, we
apply the state statute of limitations for personal injury
actions, see Garcia, ___ U.S. at ___, 105 S.Ct. at 1947, which in
Illinois is two years, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 110, § 13-202 (1983).
Under this rule, Plaintiff's suit is timely.
Municipalities are § 1983 "person[s]" and can be sued for
deprivations of federally secured rights where such deprivations
are caused by the municipalities' official policies or customs.
Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services,
436 U.S. 658,
694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2037, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). The causation
requirement "provides a fault-based analysis for imposing
municipal liability." City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, ___ U.S.
___, ___, 105 S.Ct. 2427, 2434, 85 L.Ed.2d 791 (1985) (plurality
opinion) (footnote omitted). "Monell's `policy or custom'
requirement . . . was intended to prevent the imposition of
municipal liability under circumstances where no wrong could be
ascribed to municipal decisionmakers." Id.
This case presents the question of a municipality's liability
for the acts of its decisionmakers. Plaintiff has alleged that
Maurer and Lewis were municipal decisionmakers. At issue are
whether Plaintiff has successfully pled that their alleged acts
reflected their policy or custom, and if not, whether an isolated
act by individuals with the power to create city policy or custom
is caused by the city for § 1983 purposes.
Plaintiff has not sufficiently pled that Maurer and Lewis acted
pursuant to a policy or custom. While the complaint states that
Maurer and Lewis set policy for OMI, "[n]othing in the complaint
suggests that the incident was other than an isolated one
unrelated to municipal policy. . . ." Strauss v. City of Chicago,
760 F.2d 765, 767 (7th Cir. 1985). A policy need be applied only
once to give rise to § 1983 liability, see Tuttle, ___ U.S. at,
___, 105 S.Ct. at 2435 (plurality opinion), at 2439-41 (Brennan,
J., concurring), but here Plaintiff has provided no allegations,
such as of intended future discrimination against other women
employed by OMI, to suggest the existence of a policy.
This raises the second issue, namely, whether the Monell policy
or custom requirement applies when the city has delegated
policy-making authority to the person who performs the unlawful
act. The Monell standard is based on the § 1983 requirement that
the city have caused the deprivation of a constitutional or other
right in order to be held liable. Respondeat superior liability
for low level employees' acts which are not taken pursuant to a
policy or custom would nullify the causation requirement. Acts
taken pursuant to an official policy or custom, on the other
hand, are directly, not merely vicariously, attributable to the
city. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 691-694, 98 S.Ct. at 2036-2038. In
Monell itself, for example, the Court found that the city could
be liable where the plaintiff class members claimed they were
fired pursuant to a pre-existing, but newly invoked, official
discriminatory policy. Id. at 660-661, 694-695, 98 S.Ct. at
2020-2021, 2037-2038. Where as here no official policy exists,
the question is whether the city caused the alleged deprivations
by delegating authority over the OMI's employment decisions to
Maurer and Lewis, which authority they exercised unlawfully.
A number of courts addressing this issue have found that a city
can be found liable under Monell on the basis of an
unconstitutional employment decision of one of its officials if
the city has delegated final authority over such employment
decisions to that official. See, e.g., Williams v. Butler,
746 F.2d 431, 434-439 (8th Cir. 1984), and decisions of Second,
Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits cited therein. At
least one district court within the Seventh Circuit declined to
follow these authorities, however, because of the ...