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BERTONCINI v. SCHRIMPF

May 4, 1989

JERELYNN BERTONCINI, Plaintiff,
v.
MAYOR CARL SCHRIMPF, VILLAGE OF ROUND LAKE BEACH, DONNA LANGEL, WILLIAM BEADLE, JOHN C. THOMAS, WALTER J. ANTCZAK, and RICHARD MASTON, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUFF

 BRIAN BARNETT DUFF, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Plaintiff Jerelynn Bertoncini, former Deputy Village Clerk and payroll clerk of the Village of Round Lake Beach ("the Village"), has filed a three-count complaint against various Village officials. In Count I she alleges sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., against Mayor Carl Schrimpf, Treasurer Donna Langel, and Trustees John Thomas, Walter Antczak and Richard Maston. In Count II she alleges a conspiracy by these defendants to violate her equal protection rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). In Count III she alleges libel per se against Mayor Schrimpf. The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

 FACTS

 The allegations of the complaint are straightforward, and are taken as true for the purposes of this motion. Plaintiff began working for the Village on May 18, 1981. At some point prior to December, 1986, Mayor Schrimpf made unsolicited sexual advances to her. She rebuffed them, and in December 1986 the mayor's sexual advances ceased.

 His harassment, however, did not. Instead, from December 1986 until plaintiff resigned the mayor and defendant Langel sought to embarrass, discredit and punish plaintiff for her refusal to engage in sexual relations with the mayor. The three defendant trustees knew of these activities, but took no action to prevent them. On March 18, 1988, while still employed with the Village, plaintiff filed a charge of sexual discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("the IDHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("the EEOC") against the Village, alleging that Mayor Schrimpf and an unidentified Village employee had taken action against her for having rejected the mayor's sexual advances.

 On May 18, 1988, Diane Kuyper, a reporter with the Waukegan News Sun, reported that plaintiff had resigned her positions with the Village earlier in the month. In the article, Kuyper also reported statements Mayor Schrimpf had made to the Village Board regarding "irregularities" in connection with plaintiff's work as payroll clerk, irregularities which had been discovered during an independent audit of the Village payroll.

 On August 10, Kuyper reported that the IDHR charge had been dismissed. In the article, Kuyper also quoted and paraphrased statements made by Mayor Schrimpf (apparently to Kuyper) that the Village was "still investigating additional offenses involving Bertoncini." Two days later, the mayor held a press conference in which he repeated that the discrimination charge against him had been dismissed, and then stated that some procedural irregularities on plaintiff's part were still being investigated. These statements were subsequently reported in the Round Lake News.

 Plaintiff later withdrew her EEOC charge and received a right to sue letter from the EEOC giving her the right to file a judicial proceeding within 90 days. She filed this action within 90 days of receiving the letter.

 DISCUSSION

 Title VII

 The defendants assert a number of grounds for the dismissal of Count I, some applicable to all defendants and others pertaining to particular defendants. The court will address them in turn.

 The defendants first argue that the Title VII claim is time-barred because plaintiff did not file her EEOC charge until March 1988, 15 months after Mayor Schrimpf's alleged sexual advances ended in December 1986, and thus well beyond the 180-day limitations period for bringing a charge. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). This argument misconstrues the nature of her Title VII claim.

 Plaintiff does not predicate her claim on Mayor Schrimpf's sexual advances. She does not state that these activities offended her, nor does she assert that the sexual advances caused her to quit. Instead, plaintiff alleges here, as she did in her EEOC charges, that the wrongdoing against her lies in the defendants' conduct after plaintiff rebuffed Mayor Schrimpf, and that this conduct continued through the time that she filed her charge with the EEOC.

 Contrary to the defendants' assertions, then, the complaint does not establish that plaintiff must have known of the basis of her claim in December, 1986. It may be that plaintiff was not bothered at all by the mayor's sexual advances, and that things became unbearable for her only when the mayor and Langel engaged in their alleged efforts to embarrass, discredit and punish her for her rejection of the mayor. See Horn v. Duke Homes Division of Windsor Mobile Homes, 755 F.2d 599 (7th Cir. 1985). If so, then plaintiff can hardly be expected to have filed a charge with the EEOC before she discovered the discriminatory campaign against her. And the defendants, who allegedly participated in this continuing violation of plaintiff's rights, cannot rely on the statute of limitations as a defense to plaintiff's claims. See Herman v. National Broadcasting Co., Inc., 744 F.2d 604, 606 (7th Cir. 1984).

 Perhaps recognizing that allegations of a continuing campaign of harrassment would get plaintiff through the statute of limitations door, the defendants argue that the complaint here does not adequately ...


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