The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO
Plaintiff, Romell Giddens, filed a six count complaint against the defendants, Steak and Ale of Illinois, Inc., Steak and Ale of Illinois, Inc. d/b/a Bennigan's,
Michael Hoffer, William Sorenson, Don Holly, Christopher Robertson, and Rob Auw, alleging employment discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Robertson move to dismiss the complaint against them for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). For the reasons set forth below, their motions to dismiss are granted.
Mr. Giddens worked as a manager at a Bennigan's restaurant in Madison Heights, Michigan. While employed there, Mr. Giddens alleges that he was subjected to a racially hostile environment. He says Mr. Robertson, the general manager of that Bennigan's, made numerous racially discriminatory comments to him and other employees. Mr. Giddens alleges that he repeatedly complained to Mr. Sorenson, the Area Director, and Mr. Hoffer, the Regional Vice President, about Mr. Robertson's conduct and the existence of discriminatory practices. Mr. Giddens further alleges that subsequently, Mr. Robertson gave him a written reprimand. Mr. Giddens says he continued to discuss the problems of discrimination with Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Hoffer but no disciplinary action was ever taken against Mr. Robertson or other managers. According to Mr. Giddens' complaint, Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Hoffer acknowledged that there was a problem but stated that the best way to resolve the problem was to transfer Mr. Giddens to Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, Mr. Giddens alleges that he experienced similar discrimination by different managers. He then filed this suit against the corporation as well as managers in Illinois and Michigan.
On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is proper. RAR, Inc. v. Turner Diesel, Ltd., 107 F.3d 1272, 1276 (7th Cir. 1997). To exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a federal question case, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) bringing the defendant into federal court accords with Fifth Amendment due process principles, and (2) the defendant is amenable to process. Lifeway Foods, Inc. v. Fresh Made, Inc., 940 F. Supp. 1316, 1318 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (citing United States v. Martinez De Ortiz, 910 F.2d 376, 381 (7th Cir. 1990) and Omni Capital Int'l v. Rudolf Wolff & Co., 484 U.S. 97, 104, 98 L. Ed. 2d 415, 108 S. Ct. 404 (1987)).
Fifth Amendment due process is satisfied where the defendant "has sufficient contacts with the United States as a whole rather than any particular state or other geographic area." Martinez De Ortiz, 910 F.2d at 381. Both Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Robertson reside and work in the United States.
Under Illinois law, the long-arm statute permits in personam jurisdiction over a party to the extent allowed "by the Illinois Constitution and the Constitution of the United States." 735 ILCS 5/2-209(c). The Illinois due process guarantee is not necessarily coextensive with the federal due process guarantee. Rollins v. Ellwood, 141 Ill. 2d 244, 565 N.E.2d 1302, 1316, 152 Ill. Dec. 384, 398 (1990).
Under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the defendants must have "certain minimum contacts with [Illinois] such that the maintenance of [this] suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" RAR, 107 F.3d at 1277 (citing International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 90 L. Ed. 95, 66 S. Ct. 154 (1945)). The standard a defendant is judged by depends upon whether the state asserts "general" or "specific" jurisdiction. Id. General jurisdiction is permitted only where the defendant has "continuous and systematic general business contacts" with the forum state. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416, 80 L. Ed. 2d 404, 104 S. Ct. 1868 (1984). Mr. Giddens concedes that this court does not have general jurisdiction over Mr. Robertson or Mr. Sorenson and thus, I will only address whether the court has specific jurisdiction over the two defendants.
Specific jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction over a defendant in a suit "arising out of or related to the defendant's contacts with the forum." Id. at 414 n.8. Mr. Giddens claims that both Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Robertson went to Illinois for management or training meetings and that this case arises out of those meetings.
Mr. Sorenson was an Area Director for Steak and Ale. As Area Director, he managed eight restaurants in Michigan, including the one where Mr. Giddens worked. As part of his management duties, he was required to travel to Illinois four to five times a year to attend management meetings. Presumably, at those meetings, personnel policies and procedures were discussed, and Mr. Sorenson implemented those policies and procedures. Thus, Mr. Giddens' claims of discrimination and retaliation in Michigan could have arisen out of Mr. Sorenson's management meetings in Illinois such that it was reasonable for him to expect to answer for his actions in Illinois.
In contrast, Mr. Robertson's training in Illinois was limited to training on the implementation of a new beer menu. Mr. Giddens has not shown any possible nexus between that training and the allegedly discriminatory practices at the Bennigan's restaurant in Michigan. Thus, ...