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ANDERSON v. VILLAGE OF OSWEGO

August 9, 2000

CRAIG ANDERSON, PLAINTIFF,
V.
VILLAGE OF OSWEGO, AN ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bobrick, United States Magistrate Judge.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Before the court is the motion of defendant Village of Oswego to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff Craig Anderson.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff worked for the defendant as a building and zoning administrator from 1991 to 1999. He testified pursuant to a subpoena on July 16, 1998, in a civil case brought against defendant as a result of a contract dispute. The defendant lost the case and was found liable for $1.3 million. Defendant suspended plaintiff in February of 1999 and, on March 8, 1999, terminated him. Plaintiff claims he was terminated in retaliation for his testimony in response to the subpoena. He brings a two-count complaint, alleging retaliatory discharge under the common law of Illinois, and denial of equal protection under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants now move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint.

A. Plaintiff's Allegations

In considering a motion to dismiss, we accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all possible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. Thompson, 161 F.3d 449, 456 (7th Cir. 1998). As already noted, the defendant in this case was named defendant in a lawsuit. The suit alleged that defendant had refused to honor certain contractual obligations regarding payment of construction costs of water and sewer improvements. Plaintiff was subpoenaed as a witness and, on July 16, 1998, testified at trial. At trial's end, judgement was enter against the defendant in the amount of approximately $1.3 million. (Complaint, ¶¶ 5-7).

According to plaintiff, shortly after he testified, defendant accused him of wrongfully providing confidential information — an accusation which plaintiff denies. Defendant suspended plaintiff on February 9, 1999, stating that he had wrongly issued a variance and for other unstated performance issues. Finally, on March 8, 1999, plaintiff was terminated. (Complaint, ¶¶ 9-13).

Under Count I of his complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant violated clearly mandated public policy by firing plaintiff for testifying truthfully against it. This, plaintiff claims, constitutes retaliatory discharge under the common law of Illinois. (Complaint, ¶¶ 15-17). In addition, under Count II, plaintiff claims defendant's actions violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, wrongfully treating him disparately as a "class of one." (Complaint, ¶¶ 20-24).

B. Defendant's Arguments

Defendant argues that plaintiff has not adequately alleged a claim for retaliatory discharge, because he has not alleged that he was terminated in violation of a clearly mandated public policy. Defendant also contends that plaintiff's equal protection claim must fail because he has not alleged that he was terminated based on a policy or custom of disparate treatment.

II. ANALYSIS

A complaint will not be dismissed unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of its claim which would entitle it to relief. Cook v. Winfrey, 141 F.3d 322, 327 (7th Cir. 1998). We must read the complaint liberally and accept as true the well-pleaded allegations and the inferences that may reasonably be drawn from those allegations. Sapperstein v. Hager, 188 F.3d 852, 855 (7th Cir. 1999). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether he is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Id.

A. Retaliatory Discharge Claim

Plaintiff brings Count I under the Illinois common law, alleging retaliatory discharge. Defendant moves to dismiss. Now it gets complicated. First, the boilerplate. An employee can state a claim for retaliatory discharge only if he can demonstrate that he was terminated for his actions, and that the termination violated a clear mandate of public policy. Palmateer v. International Harvester Co., 85 Ill.2d 124, 52 Ill.Dec. 13, 421 N.E.2d 876 (1981). The public policy must be found in the state's constitution, statutes or, where they are silent, in the judicial decision of the state's courts. Id. Here, plaintiff alleges he was fired for truthfully testifying against his employer, the defendant, in response to a subpoena. The issue defendant raises in its motion to dismiss is whether firing an employee for complying with a ...


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