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MORGAN v. CENTERS FOR NEW HORIZONS

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois


March 12, 2004.

CHERYL MORGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CENTERS FOR NEW HORIZONS, INC., Defendant

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Cheryl Morgan ("Morgan") filed a complaint of employment discrimination against. Defendant Centers for New Horizons, Inc. ("New Horizons"), asserting that New Horizons failed to promote, "harassed and belittled," and terminated Morgan on the basis of her color in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 12 U.S.C. S 2000e et seq. New Horizons moves to dismiss Morgan's complaint on the grounds that. the claims raised In the complaint were not raised in Morgan's EEOC charge, and that. Morgan fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. S 1981, For the following reasons, New Horizons's Motion to Dismiss is granted.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

  A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(b) tests whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim, upon which relief could be granted, not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail en the merits. Scheuer v. Page 2 Rhodes, 116 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must construe all well-pled allegations of the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. id. A motion to dismiss will not by granted unless it "appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 401, 45-46 (1957).

  DISCUSSION

  Now Horizons argues that Morgan's complaint cannot stand because it is comprised solely of allegations that were not part of the EEOC charge that Morgan filed. The general rule is that a Title VII plaintiff cannot raise claims in a complaint that were not included in the governing EEOC charge. See Cheek v. western and Southern Lite Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1994). The purpose of this rule is to provide the EEOC and the employer with the opportunity to settle disputes through conciliation, as well as to provide the employer with notice of the employee's grievances. See id. "Nevertheless, because most EEOC charges are completed by laypersons rather than by lawyers, a Title VII plaintiff need not allege in an EEOC charge each and every fact that, combines to form the basis of each claim in her complaint." Id., citing Taylor v. Western and Southern Life Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 1183, 1195 (7th Cir. 1995). Page 3

  Instead, a plaintiff's complaint will survive so long as the claims in the complaint are (1) "like or reasonably related to" those in the EEOC change and (2) reasonably expected Lo grow out: of an EEOC investigation of the allegations in the charge, See id.; Cheek v. Peabody Coal Co., 97 F.3d 200, 202 (7th dr. 1996). Claims are "like" if there is a factual relationship between them, meaning that, at a minimum, the complaint must "describe the same conduct and implicate the same Individuals" as the EEOC charge See Cheek, 31 F.3d at [50] (emphasis in original). In addition, the claims in am EEOC charge (emphasis in encompass similar time periods as those in the complaint. See Malhotra v. Cotter & Co., 885 F.2d 1305, 1312, (7th Cir. 1989).

  Here, Morgan's EHOC charge WSH fairly terse:

I have been employed by the Respondent [New Horizons] since September 10, 1996 as an Assistant Teacher. On April 2, 2001, I WAS suspended. I believe I have been discriminated against on the basis of my color, light complected, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.
A fair reading of t this charge indicates that Morgan was complaining only of the discrete act of the April 7, 2003 suspension as a basis for discrimination. Morgan's complaint, however, makes no mention of the April 2, 2003 suspension (or any other suspension). Instead, Morgan alleges in her complaint that New Horizons failed to promote her, "harassed and belittled" her in public, "failed to turn in [sic] doctor's statement to justify Lime off," and finally Page 4 terminated her. Morgan left blank the section of the complaint requesting documentation of the "facts supporting the plaintiff's claim of discrimination. " (Morgan's complaint relies on a preprinted form that allows pro se plaintiffs to check boxes and enter specific information relating to questions geared toward employment discrimination claims.)

  The issue that arises here is whether Morgan's EEOC charge pertaining to a discriminatory suspension encompasses her subsequent claims or harassment failure to promote, and termination, as alleged in her complaint. Seventh Circuit authority is not favorable to Morgan's position. For instance, in Conley v. Village of Bedford Park, the Seventh Circuit, held that allegations of discriminatory suspension were not "like or reasonably related LO" EEOC charges pertaining to other discriminatory employment actions, such as unpleasant. job assignments and failure to promote. See Conley v. Village of Bedford Park, 215 F.3d 703, 710 (7th Cir. 2000), The Court noted that a "suspension is a discrete action, taken at. a definite time, in response to [plaintiff's] alleged failure to report for work in a timely manner" and that, "although all of these actions implicate conduct. by [Defendant], they are not related in any other way." id. Similarly, in the absence of a clear factual lineage, allegations are "rot like or reasonably related to" claims of disparate treatment or other forms of discrimination. Page 5 See, e.g., Cheek, 31 F.3d at 501-02; Vela v. Village of Sauk Village, 218 F.3d 661, 664 (7th Cir. 2000).

  Here, Morgan's EEOC charge is limited Le a discrete act of purported discriminatory suspension, and the controlling case law indicates that this is insufficient to encompass the additional allegations in the complaint that go well beyond the damns in the EEOC charge. In addition, Morgan chose to not provide any factual support for the additional claims of discrimination in her complaint, and thus has failed to provide any potential factual Linkage between her purported discriminatory suspension and the claims in her complaint. Nor has Morgan provided any argument: to connect, these separate claims.

  Instead, Morgan argues that the EEOC "failed Lo investigate thoroughly," and presumably asserts this as a basis for allowing the additional discrimination claims in her complaint Lo stand. It is true that an certain limited circumstances a court may look beyona the four corners of the EEOC charge and consider additional allegations, but only when it is clear that the charging party intended that the EEOC investigate the allegations. See Vela, 218 F.3a at 664 (citing cases); Cheek, 31 F.3d at 502. For instance, where a charging party files a sworn affidavit (or other written instrument) with the EEOC that effectively amends the EEOC charge, a court may allow such allegations to be included in the complaint, See id. Here, however, Morgan makes no showing that she attempted Page 6 to amend the EEOC charge, but rather expresses only dissatisfaction with the EEOC's investigatory process, This alone cannot revive the claims in her complaint. See id.

  New Horizons raises a final argument that can be quickly addressed. Specifically, New Horizons contends that Morgan's claims cannot tall under 42. U.S.C. ยง 1981 ("Section 1981"), which New Horizons argues is the "only other employment discrimination Statute which could even conceivably cover plaintiff's claims." because Section 1981 does not cover the type of intra-racial color discrimination alleged here between "Light-complected" and "dark-complicated" African-Americans. New Horizons advances this argument because Morgan's complaint does not clearly indicate under which statutes she is alleging her cause of action. (Morgan failed to check any of the boxes in her complaint indicating the type of discrimination alleged and the statutory basis.) In response to New Horizons's Motion to Dismiss, Morgan does not. state that she is asserting any claims under Section 1981, nor does she offer any argument that any of her claims fit under Section 1981. Thus, Morgan. has waived these issues, See Laborers' lnt'l Union of North America v. Caruso, 197 F.3d 1195, 1197 (7th Cir. 1999). Accordingly, the Court. need not reach the issue of whether Morgan's claims could fail under Section 1981.

  The Court recognizes that pleadings by pro se plaintiffs are to be liberally construed and should not be held to the stringent Page 7 standards of lawyers. See McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000); cf. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (holding that procedural rules pertaining to exhaustion of administrative remidies should be applied to pro se plaintiffs). Even under the relaxed standards governing pro se pleadings, however, Morgan has failed to provide any basis upon which to connect the claim in the EEOC charge with the apparently newfound claims in her complained. The controlling authority in this circuit makes clear that her complaint must therefore be this circuit makes clear that her complaint must therefore be dismissed.

  CONCLUSION

  For the reasons stated herein, New Horozons's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

  IT IS SO ORDERED.

20040312

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