United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
February 26, 2004.
NATACHA BOWMAN, both individually and as a representative of all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiff,
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS and MICHAEL McMANUS, in his official and individual capacities, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES KOCORAS, District Judge
This matter comes before the court on Defendant Illinois Department
of Corrections' ("IDOC") motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below,
the motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Because this is a motion to dismiss, we accept all well pleaded facts
and allegations in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in
favor of the Plaintiff. Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regulation,
300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002).
Due to the bare-boned factual allegations contained in Plaintiff
Natacha Bowman's ("Bowman") complaint, very little information is known
concerning the circumstances giving rise to this case. At some point in
time Bowman was employed by IDOC. Her supervisor was Michael McManus, a
named defendant in this case, who allegedly terminated Bowman on account
of her sex. On October 21, 2003, Bowman filed the present lawsuit on
behalf of herself and a class of female IDOC employees who have been
sexually harassed or discriminated against on account of their sex.
Bowman's putative class action complaint contains the following
allegations: (1) Violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") for sex based discrimination; (2)
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for depriving Bowman of her 14th Amendment
property interest in her employment without due process of law; (3)
violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for depriving Bowman of her 14th Amendment
right to equal protection under the law; and (4) tortious interference
with a contract under Illinois law.
IDOC now moves to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). In the alternative IDOC moves for a more definite
statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) and to strike
portions of Bowman's complaint.
"The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the
complaint, not to decide the merits." Gibson v. City of Chicago,
910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990) (quoting Triad Assocs., Inc. v.
Chicago Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989)). A complaint need
only specify "the bare minimum facts necessary to put the defendant on
notice of the claim so that he can file an answer." Higgs v. Carver.
286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Beanstalk Group. Inc. v. AM
General Corp., 283 F.3d 856, 863 (7th Cir. 2002)). Dismissal is proper
only when "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 (1957). With these principles in mind, we
now address the motion before us.
As previously noted, Bowman's complaint is almost totally devoid of any
specific facts surrounding IDOC's alleged inappropriate behavior. For her
Title VII claim, all the complaint tells us is that Bowman was fired on
account of her sex. As the Seventh Circuit has repeatedly reminded us, in
order to survive a 12(b)(6) motion all that is required is "a short and
plain statement showing the plaintiff is entitled to relief, the purpose
of which is to give the defendant notice of the claims and the grounds
they rest upon." Thompson, 300 F.3d at 753. So lax is the pleading
for Title VII claims that a plaintiff need not even plead a prima facie
case of discrimination under the well known standard of McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Skierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506,
510 (2002). For instance, a plaintiff could successfully plead race
discrimination by offering nothing more in its complaint than "I was
turned down for a job because of my race." Bennett v. Schmidt
153 F.3d 516,518 (7th Cir. 1998). We sympathize with IDOC's contention
that Bowman could be much more helpful to both her adversary and this
court by including such uncontroversial facts as the location, job
description, and period of her employment. However, under the Seventh
Circuit's liberal pleading regime, Bowman's assertions that she was an
IDOC employee, Michael McManus was her supervisor, and that she was fired
on account of her sex provide IDOC sufficient notice to answer her
complaint of sex discrimination.
IDOC also seeks to dismiss Bowman's Title VII claim on the ground that
she did not include her EEOC Charge of Employment Discrimination or
Notification of Right to Sue with her complaint. Failure to include such
documents does not provide a per se ground to dismiss the complaint for
jurisdictional reasons. See Philbrick v. Marriot Madison West 2004 WL
231131, *1 (W.D. Wis. 2004) (citing Gibson v. West, 201 F.3d 990 (7th
Cir. 2000)), However, for the sake of confirming to the court
and IDOC that such documents exist, we hereby order that they be
produced to IDOC and filed with this court within ten days of the date of
Count Two of Bowman's complaint alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
in that her termination constituted a deprivation of a property interest
in her employment without due process of law. To have a property interest
in a benefit, a plaintiff must have a legitimate claim of entitlement and
that claim of entitlement is found either in contract or state law. Board
of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577-78 (1971). However, beyond claiming
that she had a property interest in her employment, Bowman fails to
identify the state law or contract that entitled her to continued
employment with IDOC. She has pleaded far less than the § 1983 plaintiffs
in Perkins v. Silverstein. 939 F.2d 463, 468-469 (7th Cir. 1991), whose
allegations of due process violations had much more factual support than
Bowman's complaint yet were still dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). As such, Count Two is dismissed.
IDOC next moves to dismiss Bowman's claims of equal protection
violations, Counts Three and Five, solely on the grounds that she has not
"allege[d] any history of disparate treatment" by IDOC. Def. Mot. at p.
5. However, because Bowman did allege that "similarly situated male
employees were treated differently," Compl. ¶ 29, we find that she
has sufficiently pleaded allegations of a history of disparate treatment
to put IDOC on notice of her claims and survive a motion to dismiss
Counts Three and Five.
IDOC moves to dismiss Count Four of Bowman's complaint on the grounds
that she has not sufficiently pleaded the requisite elements of an
Illinois tortious interference with a contract claim. To plead tortious
interference with a contract under Illinois law a plaintiff must allege
the following elements: (1) The existence of a valid and enforceable
contract between the plaintiff and another; (2) the defendant's awareness
of this contractual relation; (3) the defendant's intentional and
unjustified inducement of a breach of the contract; (4) a subsequent
breach by the other caused by the defendant's wrongful conduct; and (5)
damages. HPI Health Care Services. Inc. v. Mt. Vernon Hospital. Inc.,
545 N.E.2d 672, 676 (Ill. 1989). Bowman's complaint fails to satisfy this
requirement as it alleges that IDOC, not Bowman, breached her employment
contract. Also, since a claim of tortious interference with a contract
involves a defendant's wrongful actions towards an existing contract
between the plaintiff and a third party, it is not a an appropriate cause
of action for a dispute where the plaintiff and defendant are the two
contracting parties. As such, Count Four of Bowman's complaint must be
dismissed, with prejudice.
IDOC next moves to strike Bowman's prayers for punitive or exemplary
damages because Counts One, Two, Three, and Five are against either IDOC,
agency, or McManus acting in his official capacity. A Title VII plaintiff
may not recover punitive damages against a governmental agency, Baker v.
Runyon, 114 F.3d 668, 669 (7th Cir. 1997), so Bowman's request for such
damages against IDOC is hereby stricken. Also, a plaintiff suing a
government official in his official capacity pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
may not recover punitive damages, Hill v. Shelander, 924 F.2d 1370, 1373
(7th Cir. 1991), so Bowman's requests for punitives as to the remaining
counts of her complaint are stricken as well.
As to IDOC's contention that Bowman lacks standing to seek injunctive
or declaratory relief, we will address this issue later should Bowman
file a motion for class certification.
IDOC's motion to dismiss Bowman's complaint is granted in part and
denied in part. Bowman is ordered to produce her EEOC Charge and Right to
Sue letter within ten days.
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