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YOUNG v. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSPITALS

May 7, 2003

JUANITA ELLISON YOUNG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSPITALS AND BERNARD WITTELS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John W. Darrah, Judge United States District Court

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Juanita Ellison Young ("Plaintiff'), filed a four-count complaint against Defendants, the University of Chicago Hospitals ("the Hospitals") and Bernard Wittels ("Wittels"), alleging sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000 (e) et seq. (Count I); violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (a) (Count II); and two state law claims for battery (Count III); and assault (Count IV). The Hospitals move, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), to dismiss Counts I and II. For the reasons that follow, the Hospitals' Motion to Dismiss is granted.

LEGAL STANDARD

When considering a motion to dismiss, well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are accepted as true. Turner/Ozanne v. Hyman/Power, 111 F.3d 1312, 1319 (7th Cir. 1997). Any ambiguities in the complaint are construed in favor of the plaintiff. Kelly v. Crosfield Catalysts, 135 F.3d 1202, 1205 (7th Cir. 1998). Dismissal is proper only when it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts to support the allegations in his or her claim. Strasburger v. Board of Education, 143 F.3d 351, 359 (7th Cir. 1998).

"Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff "to set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his claim,'. . . he must `set out sufficient factual matter to outline the elements of his cause of action or claim, proof of which is essential to his recovery."` Benson v. Cady,761 F.2d 335, 338 (7th Cir. 1985) (internal citation omitted). A complaint will not avoid dismissal if it contains "bare legal conclusions" absent facts outlining the basis of the claims. Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 467 (7th Cir. 1991).

BACKGROUND

For purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the following allegations are taken as true.

Plaintiff, an African-American woman, is employed by the Hospitals as a Registered Nurse. At the relevant times, Plaintiff was assigned to the labor and delivery department. Wittels, a white man, is a licensed physician, specializing in the field of anesthesiology. Both Plaintiff and Wittels are Illinois residents.

On June 13, 2002, while Plaintiff was assisting Wittels in preparation to deliver a baby, Wittels physically attacked Plaintiff. When Plaintiff questioned Wittels' conduct, he made threatening gestures in an attempt to intimidate her. At the time Wittels attacked Plaintiff, the Hospitals had in effect a policy that prohibited aggressive or violent actions directed toward any person. Under this policy, anyone who violated the policy was subject to removal from the premises, arrest and prosecution. Plaintiff reported the incident to Jamie O'Malley ("O'Malley"), the Vice President of Nursing and a member of the Executive Board of Directors of the Hospitals. O'Malley instructed Plaintiff not to call the police and stated that the matter would be handled internally. Another physician stated, "He pushed her, just let the guy apologize."

Plaintiff then went home to calm down. After several hours, Plaintiff returned to the premises with her husband and summoned the Chicago Police Department. O'Malley then informed Plaintiff that Wittels was not going to be arrested and that Plaintiff should not humiliate Wittels by having him arrested. When Plaintiff asked O'Malley what would have been done if Plaintiff had attacked Wittels, O'Malley replied that Plaintiff would have been terminated and escorted off the premises. When the police arrived, an officer arrested Wittels' and a battery charge was filed against him.

Although the Hospitals were aware of Wittels' violent tendency, they failed to take any action to apply the zero tolerance policy to Wittels' behavior. As a result, Plaintiff was unable to perform her duties.

The Hospitals apply their zero tolerance policy against females and blacks and against the nursing personnel, who are predominately female and/or black, while not applying the zero tolerance policy to its male and white physicians and attempting to conceal male and white physicians' violent behavior.

DISCUSSION

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