Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

KISER v. NAPERVILLE COMMUNITY UNIT

August 29, 2002

MICHAEL L. KISER, PLAINTIFF,
V.
NAPERVILLE COMMUNITY UNIT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joan B. Gottschall, United States District Judge.

      MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Michael L. Kiser pursues this action against his former employers, Naperville Community School District 203, DuPage and Will Counties, Illinois, and the Board of Education of Naperville Community School District 203 (collectively, the "District"), along with Donald E. Weber, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the District, and seven individually named Board members ("Board Members"), also in their official capacities. In his three-count complaint, Kiser alleges that defendants: (1) violated his fights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; (2) breached his employment contract; and, in the alternative to Count 1, (3) deprived him of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The District moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), and to strike Kiser's request for punitive damages. Weber and the Board Members have filed a separate motion to dismiss all claims against them as individuals. For the reasons set forth below, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

In July 1999, Kiser entered into a four-year employment contract with the District for the position of Executive Administrator. This contract included the following relevant provisions. First, it provided five grounds for terminating Kiser's employment contract: mutual agreement, death, permanent disability, cause, or irreconcilable differences. Second, it stipulated that should the Board terminate Kiser's contract for irreconcilable differences, it would reclassify Kiser to a different position and continue to pay him the contractual salary until the expiration of the contract, provided that Kiser release all claims, rights, or causes of actions that he might have against it. Kiser asserts that these provisions were part of his consideration for the contract, because pursuant to 105 ILCS 5/24-11, he had to relinquish his tenure rights upon entering this contract. Third, the contract added to Kiser's retirement benefits. Should Kiser give two-years notice of his intent to retire at the end of his contract to take a TRS annuity, he would receive salary increases of twenty percent of the prior year's salary in each of the last two years of employment, partial payment at retirement for unused sick days, and access to the District's group life insurance for ten years after retirement.

In March 2001, Kiser gave the District notice that he intended to retire on June 30, 2003 when the contract expired. He would then be 55 years old, the minimum age permitted to receive a retirement annuity of 74.6% of his final average salary under Illinois law. 40 ILCS 5/16-132. On April 25, 2001, Kiser met with two members of the Board to discuss his retirement letter. These two members informed Kiser that "it would be more cost effective to eliminate the position of in-house counsel." (Compl. ¶ 22.) They confirmed their intention to eliminate Kiser's position in a letter dated April 27, 2001. On June 12, 2001, the District offered to reclassify Kiser. The offer included a reduced salary and required Kiser to waive all claims against the District and the Board. Kiser attempted to accept the offer of reclassification, including the reduced salary, but conditioned acceptance on the reservation of any potential claims. The District rejected Kiser's counter-offer.

On June 25, 2001, the Board unanimously approved a resolution to eliminate the position of General Counsel, and Kiser was terminated on June 30, 2001. Kiser alleges that at no time did the District provide him with either a pre-termination or post-termination hearing, nor did it explain why it was terminating Kiser's employment position except to state that it was "cost effective." (Id. ¶ 62.) Kiser claims that the Board terminated him to prevent him from remaining employed until age 55 to avoid paying him "age-based retirement benefits." (Id. ¶ 32.) He further contends that the District replaced him with younger employees and contractors. Finally, he notes that "cost effectiveness" was not a ground for termination under the contract. (Id. ¶ 57.) Based on these allegations, Kiser brings two counts: violation of the ADEA (Count 1) and breach of contract (Count 2).

Because of, "but not limited to," these acts (id. ¶ 70), Kiser brings Count 3 under § 1983 alleging violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment fights. Specifically, Kiser claims that the District retaliated against him for exercising his freedom of speech and freedom of association rights, deprived him of his substantive and procedural due process rights, and violated his right to equal protection.

II. Analysis

In ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(6), the court assumes the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 732 (7th Cir. 2001). "A court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c), "[a] copy of any written instrument which is an exhibit to a pleading is a part thereof for all purposes." Thus, the court considers the exhibits attached to Kiser's complaint for the purpose of these motions to dismiss. See Wright v. Associated Ins. Cos., Inc., 29 F.3d 1244, 1248 (7th Cir. 1994). Failure to state a federal claim is the basis of defendants' jurisdictional argument, so their invocation of Rule 12(b)(1) does not affect the standard of review. See Peckmann v. Thompson, 966 F.2d 295, 297 (7th Cir. 1992) ("If a defendant's Rule 12(b)(1) motion is an indirect attack on the merits of the plaintiff's claim, the court may treat the motion as if it were a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.").

A. Individual Defendants

Weber and the seven individual Board Members argue that they must be dismissed from the case. As noted above, Kiser sues each only in his or her official capacity. Because official capacity suits are equivalent to suing the entity itself, Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55 (1978), the individual defendants argue that naming them in their official capacities serves no legitimate purpose. The court agrees. See Admiral Theatre v. City of Chicago, 832 F. Supp. 1195, 1200 (N.D. Ill. 1993) ("Where the unit of local government is sued as well, the suit against the officials is redundant and should therefore be dismissed."). The claims against the individual defendants are therefore dismissed.*fn2

B. Punitive Damages

Kiser requests punitive damages. The District asserts that punitive damages are not recoverable against municipal corporations, citing chiefly City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247 (1981). The holding of Fact Concerts is limited to § 1983 claims, id. at 271, but the discussion reveals that punitive damages against municipal corporations are also barred under Illinois law, id. at 260 (citing Chicago v. Langlass, 52 Ill. 256, 259 (1869)). None of the cases cited by the District involves the ADEA. In Pfeiffer v. Essex Wire Corp., 682 F.2d 684, 688 (7th Cir. 1982), the Seventh Circuit held that punitive damages and damages for pain and suffering — beyond the statutorily prescribed liquidated damages limit for "willful violations," 29 U.S.C. § 626 (b) — are not available under the ADEA. Subsequent to Pfeiffer, the Supreme Court clarified that "Congress intended for liquidated damages [under the ADEA] to be punitive in nature." Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 125 (1985). Unlike other types of punitive damages, liquidated damages for willful violations of the ADEA are available against municipal corporations. See, e.g., Kossman v. Calumet County, 800 F.2d 697, 702 (7th Cir. 1986), overruled on other grounds by Coston v. Plitt Theatres, 860 F.2d 834, 836 (7th Cir. 1988); Orzel v. Wauwatosa Fire Dep't, 697 F.2d 743 (7th Cir. 1983).

The result is a mixed bag for the District. Because a school district is treated like a municipal corporation, Sherman v. Community Consol. Sch. Dist., 714 F. Supp. 932, 938 n. 5 (N.D. Ill. 1989), the District is immune from a punitive damages award on Kiser's federal constitutional and state law claims. Kiser may nonetheless be entitled to recover liquidated damages from the District under the ADEA. Reading the complaint in the light most favorable to Kiser and taking Trans World Airlines into account, this court interprets Kiser's request for punitive damages as seeking such liquidated damages. Accordingly, the District's motion to strike Kiser's request for punitive damages is granted in part and denied in part.

C. Count 1: Age Discrimination

The District moves to dismiss Kiser's ADEA claim on two grounds. First, it contends that Kiser falls into a category of employees which is not covered by the ADEA. Alternatively, it argues that Kiser has not alleged age-based discrimination.

1. Definition of Employee

The ADEA protects only "employees," a category that is defined to exclude:

any person elected to a public office in any State or political subdivision by the qualified voters thereof, or any person chosen by such officer to be on such officer's personal staff, or an appointee on the policymaking level or an immediate adviser with respect to the exercise of the constitutional or legal powers of the office.

29 U.S.C. § 630 (f). The District asserts that Kiser's position as General Counsel made him both an appointee on the policymaking level and an immediate advisor. Thus, the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.