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COMPTON v. CHINN ENTERPRISES

August 14, 1996

LYNN COMPTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CHINN ENTERPRISES, INC., d/b/a BOB CHINN'S CRABHOUSE and BOB CHINN, individually, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORDBERG

 Plaintiff Lynn Compton ("Compton") sued Chinn Enterprises d/b/a Bob Chinn's Crabhouse ("the Crabhouse") and Bob Chinn ("Chinn") in a four count First Amended Complaint, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq., assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, respectively. The case is currently before the Court on Defendants' separate Motions to Dismiss.

 ALLEGED FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 Compton has been employed by the Crabhouse as a wait person since December of 1991 and has allegedly endured unwelcome sexual remarks and touching by Chinn during her employment, which she categorizes as "sexual harassment." Additionally, "on numerous occasions, Chinn grabbed plaintiff's arm or hand and pulled her towards something he wanted her to see" and "has threatened plaintiff and other employees with physical harm." (Compl. PP 44-45). Although Compton has complained of this conduct on numerous occasions, no remedial action has been taken, but rather she was met with advice that the way to get along with Chinn was to make a sexual comment back to him or that it is "Bob's Restaurant and he can do whatever he wants." (Compl. PP 20-23). Moreover, after Compton's EEOC sexual harassment charges were sent to Defendants' counsel, Compton was denied a trainer's bonus and told by a supervisor upon inquiry that "she could not believe plaintiff was asking because she is so unhappy with the Crabhouse." (Compl. PP 29-30). Additionally, Compton was made to cover management shifts for vacation days on her time off, her tips have been affected because her tables and stations have been continually unfilled, she has been subjected to continuous surveillance and scrutiny as to her job performance, and her complaints of retaliation have not been acted upon by other managers. (Compl. PP 31-34). Finally, Compton has suffered sleeplessness, nausea, anxiety, depression, humiliation, other emotional and mental injuries, loss of income, and has resumed her smoking habit.

 ANALYSIS

 The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Adams v. Cavanagh Communities Corp., 847 F. Supp. 1390, 1396 (N.D. Ill. 1994). In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege sufficient facts to outline a cause of action. Davis v. Frapolly, 747 F. Supp. 451 (N.D. Ill. 1989). The complaint "must state either direct or inferential allegations concerning all of the material elements necessary for recovery under the relevant legal theory." Carl Sandburg Village Condominium Ass'n No. 1 v. First Condominium Dev. Co., 758 F.2d 203, 207 (7th Cir. 1985).

 The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and view them, along with the reasonable inferences to be drawn, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Cornfield v. Consolidated High Sch. Dist. No. 230, 991 F.2d 1316, 1324 (7th Cir. 1993). However, the Court need not accept conclusory legal allegations as true. Baxter v. Vigo County Sch. Corp., 26 F.3d 728, 730 (7th Cir. 1994). A strict standard applies when a court evaluates the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff's factual allegations. A court may grant a motion to dismiss only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957); Cushing v. City of Chicago, 3 F.3d 1156, 1159 (7th Cir. 1994).

 I. The Motions to Dismiss Counts III & IV

 Both Chinn and the Crabhouse move the Court to dismiss the Illinois tort claims of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress pursuant to the exclusive remedy provision of the Illinois Human Rights Act (the "Act"). 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. The Act erects an administrative regime for the redress of civil rights violations. Pursuant to Section 8-111(C), the Act's procedure is the exclusive remedy for such violations, such that a victim may not bring a direct civil action. Rather, the state courts have jurisdiction only over appeals from "any final order entered under the Act." 775 ILCS 5/8-111(A)(1) (July 18, 1996). Specifically, the statute provides that "except as otherwise provided by law, no court of this state shall have jurisdiction over the subject of an alleged civil rights violation other than as set forth in this Act." 775 ILCS 5/8-111(C). This Court may not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the tort claims if an Illinois court would not have jurisdiction.

 The Illinois Supreme Court has explained that claims are barred if "construed as seeking redress for a 'civil rights violation' within the meaning of this statute." Geise v. Phoenix Co., 159 Ill. 2d 507, 203 Ill. Dec. 454, 457, 639 N.E.2d 1273 (1994). The Illinois appellate court's have interpreted the statute as allowing a direct tort action where it "does not depend on the policies or provisions of the Act for its viability." Ritzheimer v. Insurance Counselors, Inc., 173 Ill. App. 3d 953, 527 N.E.2d 1281, 123 Ill. Dec. 506, 513 (5th Dist. 1988). See also Sutton v. Overcash, 251 Ill. App. 3d 737, 191 Ill. Dec. 230, 623 N.E.2d 820 (3d Dist. 1993) & Pavilon v. Kaferly, 204 Ill. App. 3d 235, 149 Ill. Dec. 549, 561 N.E.2d 1245 (1st Dist. 1990). Applying that test, the Ritzheimer court held that "intentional infliction of emotional distress is a common law tort theory, not a 'civil rights violation' as defined by the Act." Id.

 The Illinois Supreme Court subsequently addressed Section 8-111(C) and found that it barred a direct action against an employer for "negligent hiring of employee" and "negligent retention of employee," reasoning that:

 
the concept of sexual harassment is inextricably linked to the [tort] claims made by [the plaintiff] . . . . Absent the allegations of sexual harassment, [the plaintiff] would have no independent basis for imposing liability on her former employer under the facts presented here. [The tort counts] depend on the [Act's] prohibitions against sexual harassment for their viability.

 Geise, 203 Ill. Dec. at 458 (emphasis added). The highlighted language of Geise is more than analogous to Ritzheimer 's, it is identical. Both cases define the inquiry as whether the tort claim depends upon the Act for its viability. Nevertheless, in a recent flurry of opinions, several judges of the Northern District of Illinois have dismissed claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress pursuant to Geise, thus effectively finding Ritzheimer overruled by Geise.1 However, only two of these opinions actually recognizes Ritzheimer, including Schwitzenberg v. Lifeline, Ltd., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17298, No. 94 C 5123, 1994 WL 684984 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 6, 1994), the first opinion to construe Geise, while the remaining opinions merely follow Schwitzenberg. Other judges have held that Geise does not require dismissal of claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Tolson v. HHL Fin. Serv., Inc., 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10850, No. 94 C 5136, 1995 WL 461883 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 1995) (Holderman, J.) & Bustos v. Illinois Inst. of Cosmetology, Inc., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18023, No. 93 C 5980, 1994 WL 710830 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 15, 1994) (Hart, J.). Although neither opinion relies upon Ritzheimer, both employ Ritzheimer 's standard: whether the claim depends upon the Act for its viability. Tolson, at *4; Bustos, at *4. Finally, one judge declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over such a tort claim after dismissing all federal claims, finding that the exercise of jurisdiction would be improper because "Illinois law is not clear in this area," at least as to an employee-defendant. Rushing v. United Airlines, 919 F. Supp. 1101, 1112 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (Shadur, J.) (emphasis in original).


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