1985 Carpenter filed a sex discrimination suit against Ford, alleging denial of promotions and overtime, lower salary than a male with the same job duties, and sexual harassment by the assistant plant manager. In January of 1989 Carpenter and Ford settled that suit. In return for a promotion and a $ 50,000 cash payment, Carpenter agreed to dismiss the suit and refrain from filing further suits based on these previous events. As part of the settlement Ford acknowledged no violation of Title VII, either by the company or by the two other named defendants, Robert Stevenson and Richard Ross.
The present suit arises from incidents which Carpenter alleges were retaliatory moves against her by the defendants, as a result of her success in the previous action. These events occurred between January, 1989 and June, 1989, with a substantial portion of them occurring in a three month period from January to April of that year. During this time Carpenter alleges that Defendants Stafford, Bookhout, and Franklin intentionally harassed her by, among other things: requiring her to answer telephones; interrupting her conversations with other employees; prohibiting her from attending meetings or submitting reports under her own name; attempting to overload her with extra assignments, while refusing to allow her overtime; assigning her work which was not included in her job description; screaming at her; refusing to let her put her lunch in the refrigerator; and refusing to let her polish her fingernails at the office before work.
As a result of these events Carpenter allegedly developed various illnesses including severe sinus problems, headaches and backaches, numerous gastrointestinal problems, and other stress related problems which required her taking a medical leave of absence on April 9, 1989. Carpenter alleges that while she was on leave Ford had her under surveillance, and that unidentified agents of Ford told people who knew her that Carpenter was a criminal. Carpenter alleges that these events greatly increased her emotional stress, humiliated her, and were undertaken for the purpose of harassing her. On April 13, 1989 Carpenter filed a verified charge of sexual harassment with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Upon returning to work on May 15, 1989 Carpenter alleges that she was suspended by defendants Stafford, Franklin, Bookhout, and Creen, without cause, for the purposes of retaliation and harassment. On June 20, 1989 Carpenter was terminated in alleged continuation of this retaliatory and harassing activity.
Upon losing her job, the plaintiff filed suit against her employer and certain employees. On February 8, 1990 this court dismissed Count III of the plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Now, plaintiff moves to strike the defendants' three affirmative defenses.
In support of her motion, the plaintiff first argues that the defendants' first affirmative defense, which claims that the plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages, is improperly pled as it requests a set-off from liability and speculates wages that the plaintiff could have earned. Next, plaintiff moves to strike the defendants' second affirmative defense of "unclean hands" as inapplicable to Title VII claims. Finally, plaintiff moves to strike the defendants' third affirmative defense that their failure to perform their obligations under the settlement agreement was attributable to the plaintiff's own failure to perform her obligations. Plaintiff contends that this defense is simply a denial of the allegations in the complaint.
In response, the defendants argue that (1) failure to mitigate damages is a proper affirmative defense, (2) "unclean hands" is a proper equitable defense, and (3) the third affirmative defense is not a denial of the allegations in the complaint, but rather, an excuse for any nonperformance by the defendants of their contract obligations.
1. Legal Standard
Federal Rule 12(f) gives a court the authority to strike "any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). The rule is an appropriate tool for weighing the legal implications to be drawn from undisputed facts and for streamlining litigation. See United States v. 416.81 Acres of Land, 514 F.2d 627, 631 (7th Cir. 1975). However, such motions are not favored and may be granted only if the defense is patently defective and could not succeed under any set of circumstances. Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago v. United States Dept. of Commerce, No. 87 C 8439, slip op. at 6 (N.D.Ill. September 12, 1990) (citations omitted). "A defense should not be stricken if it is sufficient as a matter of law or if it fairly presents questions of law or fact that the court should hear." Id., citing Lirtzman v. Spiegel, Inc., 493 F. Supp. 1029, 1031 (N.D.Ill. 1980). In determining whether the challenged defenses are legally sufficient, we will accept as true the defendants' factual allegations.
The Affirmative Defenses
Defendants make the following three affirmative defenses in their answers to the plaintiff's complaint:
1. That with respect to plaintiff's claim for monetary relief under Title VII, defendants are entitled to a set-off from any potential liability in the amount equal to the sums earned by the plaintiff since her termination or which plaintiff could have earned had she exercised reasonable diligence to mitigate her damages.