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HEGY v. COMMUNITY COUNSELING CENTER OF FOX VALLEY

August 30, 2001

ELAINE M. HEGY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMUNITY COUNSELING CENTER OF FOX VALLEY, AN ILLINOIS NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION; EDWARD I. DUFFY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRESIDENT OF THE CENTER; WALTER E. DEUCHLER, JR., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TREASURER OF THE CENTER; AND CAROL ARLISKAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER, DEFENDANTS.



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

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Elaine Hegy filed a suit against Community Counseling Center of Fox Valley (the "Center"), Edward Duffy, Walter Deuchler, Jr. and Carol Arliskas pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), after she was discharged. She also included the following pendant state law claims: (1) Intentional Interference with Employment; (2) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; and (3) Breach of Contract. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), on Count II (Intentional Interference with Employment Relationship), Count III (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress) and the retaliation portion of Count IV (Breach of Contract). Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied as to Counts II and IV but granted as to Count III. (R. 8-1.)

RELEVANT FACTS

Hegy, a 78 year-old female, was employed by the Center, a Not-For-Profit Corporation organized and existing under the laws of Illinois, from about August 1968 until she was formally informed of her discharge on May 19, 2000. In 1986, Hegy was selected as the Executive Director of the Center. Hegy states that at all times material to this lawsuit, she "proved her industriousness" and "demonstrated her capacity and ability to perform all job tasks to which she was assigned." (R. 1, Compl. ¶ 14.)

On December 13, 1999, Duffy (President of the Center), Deuchler (Treasurer of the Center) and Arliskas (present Executive Director of the Center) held an executive meeting with Hegy. At this meeting, Hegy alleges that Duffy demanded Hegy's retirement, without stating any reasons to justify this request. (Id. ¶ 15.) Hegy did not comply with the demand. In late January 2000, Duffy, Deuchler, Arliskas and Bernard Weiler (the Center's attorney) held another executive meeting with Hegy. At this meeting, Defendants urged Hegy's retirement. (R. 7, Defs.' Answer ¶ 16.) On February 4, 2000, while Hegy was absent due to illness, and before she could obtain legal counsel, Hegy contends that Defendants ejected her from her office by locking her out and terminating her salary. (R. 1, Compl. ¶ 17.) Hegy maintains that she learned of the lockout from other Center employees, who called her inquiring about a sign posted on her door that stated, "Locked by Order of the Board of Directors." (Id.) She further claims that Arliskas instituted the lockout, with the concurrence of Duffy and Deuchier. (Id. ¶ 18.) Hegy asserts that she was formally informed of her discharge on May 19, 2000, when the Center gave her false reasons for her termination. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Hegy states that Count I of the Complaint (Age Discrimination) arises because at the time of her expulsion she was 77 years old. Arliskas, who is approximately twenty years younger, replaced her as Executive Director of the Center. (Id. ¶ 21.) Hegy declares that she was discharged because of her age in violation of the ADEA and that Arliskas was less qualified for the position of Executive Director. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 22.)

Hegy contends that Count II (Intentional Interference with Employment) arises because Defendants "maliciously, without just cause or excuse and with the willful intent to injure [her]," conspired to deprive Hegy of the right to employment as Executive Director of the Center by "attempting to force [her] to retire and, ultimately, causing her discharge from employment." (Id. ¶ 25.) In furtherance of the conspiracy, Hegy alleges that Arliskas, whom Hegy states was designated as the acting Executive Director only after her discharge, did not have the prior authority of the Center's Board when he locked her out of the office. (Id. ¶ 26A, 26B.) The Center's Bylaws state that "[t]he Board shall select and employ a competent chief administrative officer who shall be its direct exclusive representative in the management of the corporation." (Id. ¶ 19.) Because Hegy interprets the Bylaws to require full Board approval before the Executive Director may be discharged, she claims that Arliskas' actions were contrary to this requirement. (Id.) Hegy contends that as a result of these malicious acts, she has been unable to attain employment in her usual vocation. (Id. ¶ 28.) As such, Hegy alleges that Defendants have interfered with her employment. (Id.)

Hegy states that Count III (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress) arises because Defendants deliberately and intentionally locked Hegy out of her office and posted the sign on her door. (Id. ¶ 30.) Hegy asserts that Defendants should have known of her susceptibility to mental and physical stress, because of her illness, her age and her long-standing association with the Center. (R. 12, Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 8.) Given the position of authority that Defendants had over Hegy, and because Defendants' acts were allegedly "despicable, cold, callous and intentional," she claims to have suffered "embarrassment, anxiety, humiliation and emotional distress." (R. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 31, 32; R. 12, Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 7.)

Hegy's Count IV (Breach of Contract) arises from two loans that she gave the Center to cover operating costs. Between June 1997 and January 1998, Hegy lent the Center $45,000 because the Center lacked funds to cover operating costs. (R. 1, Compl. ¶ 34.) In early 1998, she loaned an additional $19,946 to the Center in order to cover the costs for a construction project that the Center had approved. (Id. ¶ 35.) Hegy made the loans in her capacity as Executive Director of the Center, and she contends that she expected to be reimbursed for the loans. (Id. ¶ 36.) Hegy claims that she made repeated demands for payment of the loans after her lockout; the Center, however, did not make any payments. (Id. ¶ 38.) Before Hegy filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), the Center acknowledged the debt and offered to repay the bulk of it. (Id.) After the charges were filed, however, Hegy claims that the Center — in retaliation — refused to pay any part of the debt. (Id.)

Presently before this Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Counts II and III of Hegy's Complaint as well as the retaliation portion of Count IV. Defendants argue that Hegy fails to allege the basic elements of the tort of intentional interference with employment (Count II) and that Hegy's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count III) should be dismissed because the allegations do not set forth the requisite "extreme and outrageous" conduct by Defendants. Furthermore, Defendants contend that Hegy fails to satisfy the administrative exhaustion requirement necessary to state a cause of action in Count IV for retaliation. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is denied for Counts II and IV but granted for Count III.

LEGAL STANDARDS

The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the suit. Autry v. Northwest Premium Servs., Inc., 144 F.3d 1037, 1039 (7th Cir. 1998). When considering a motion to dismiss, this Court views all facts alleged in the complaint, as well as any inferences reasonably drawn from those facts, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Doherty v. City of Chicago, 75 F.3d 318, 322 (7th Cir. 1996). We will grant a motion to dismiss only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling her to relief. Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 432 (7th Cir. 1993). See also Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). To survive a motion to dismiss, "a pleading must only contain enough to allow the court and the defendant to understand the gravamen of the plaintiff's complaint." McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 323-24 (7th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

ANALYSIS

I. Count II (Intentional Interference with ...


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