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QUELA v. PAYCO-GENERAL AMERICAN CREDITS

February 17, 2000

ANNAMARIE QUELA, SHELBY MIGNAULT, TABATHA IRVIN, AND MICHAEL HAKIM, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
PAYCO-GENERAL AMERICAN CREDITS, INC. AND OUTSOURCING SOLUTIONS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Castillo, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Annamarie Quela, Shelby Mignault, Tabatha Irvin, and Michael Hakim ("Plaintiffs") sued Payco-General American Credits, Inc. and Outsourcing Solutions, Inc. ("Defendants"), alleging sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), harassment under the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance ("Ordinance"), assault, and battery.*fn1 Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the three state claims, which we grant in part and deny in part.

RELEVANT FACTS*fn2

In November 1997, Hakim began work as a collector at Payco, a debt collection company. Hakim alleges that, shortly after he began working at Payco, Defendants, through Payco manager, George Chaharbakhski, and other employees, began verbally and physically harassing him because of his perceived sexual orientation. As a result, Hakim filed a charge with the Cook County Human Rights Commission ("Commission"), alleging that Defendants discriminated against him in violation of the Ordinance. The Commission granted him the right to proceed to civil court in accordance with the Ordinance. Subsequently, Hakim brought the claim as Count III in Plaintiffs' amended complaint filed in this Court. In addition, he presents claims for assault (Count V) and battery (Count IV). Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Counts III, IV, and V.

ANALYSIS

I. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not test whether the plaintiff will prevail on the merits, but instead whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim for which relief may be granted. Pickrel v. City of Springfield, Ill., 45 F.3d 1115, 1118 (7th Cir. 1995). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must presume all of the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint to be true. Miree v. DeKalb County, 433 U.S. 25, 27 n. 2, 97 S.Ct. 2490, 53 L.Ed.2d 557 (1977). We also presume "that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim." Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 889, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper 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, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); see also Panaras v. Liquid Carbonic Indus. Corp., 74 F.3d 786, 791 (7th Cir. 1996).

II. Count III: Discrimination under the Ordinance

In Count III, Hakim alleges discrimination under the Ordinance, based on perceived sexual orientation. Defendants move to dismiss this claim, arguing that Cook County's attempt to vest original subject matter jurisdiction over claims involving the Ordinance in the civil courts was an unconstitutional attempt to exercise authority over state-wide institutions. Specifically, Defendants assert that the Ordinance provision authorizing Hakim to bring his claim before this Court via our supplemental jurisdiction over certain state law claims is unconstitutional because it places a prohibited burden on the judicial system.

Hakim argues that the Ordinance is a valid exercise of Cook County's home rule authority under Section 6(a) of Article VII of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. That section of the 1970 Constitution provides that:

Except as limited by this Section, a home rule unit may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, morals and welfare; to license; to tax; and to incur debt.

The Ordinance at issue in this case grants plaintiffs a private right of action to bring their complaints before a state tribunal. The Ordinance authorizes the Commission to determine, inter alia, when a complainant can file suit in a court of general jurisdiction and the time limits on a complainant's right to bring suit. A Cook County trial court, considering the same Ordinance at issue in this case, found it to be unconstitutional because it created a private right of action for sexual harassment and impermissibly burdened the judiciary by attempting to control or dictate procedures to the state judiciary. See Lucas v. Zeta Int'l, No. 96 M3 2687 (Cook Cy. Cir. Ct. Jan. 26, 1998) (attached to R. 19, Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. B). The Lucas court relied on Ampersand, which explained that the administration of justice in Illinois is a matter of state, and not local, concern. Ampersand, 338 N.E.2d at 18. In Ampersand, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a home rule county's ordinance that imposed filing fees in civil suits, which were used to finance the county law library. The court was unable to "accept defendants' argument that since the operation of the library is a local function so also is the imposition of the fee to support it. The payment of the fee under the ordinance is the price of admission to the courts of the State of Illinois and not to the Cook County Law Library." Id. at 18-19. The court stated that "[a]rticle VI of the 1970 Constitution does not contemplate nor does it authorize the exercise of any control over or permit the imposition of a burden on the judicial system by any local entity." Id. at 18.

The Lucas court also relied on City of Carbondale, in which the Illinois Supreme Court stated that, while the concerns underlying a home-rule city's eminent domain ordinances were local in character, enforcement of the ordinance attempted to dictate procedures that state courts were to follow and therefore "impermissibly interfere[d] with the State judiciary system." City of Carbondale v. Yehling, 96 Ill.2d 495, 71 Ill.Dec. 683, 451 N.E.2d 837, 840 (1983). Applying these cases to the Ordinance, the Lucas court held that enforcement of the Ordinance impermissibly burdened the ...


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