United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
July 2, 2004.
LYNETTE MANNIE, Plaintiff,
JOHN E. POTTER, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT GETTLEMAN, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Lynnette Mannie filed the instant complaint on March
1, 2004, against her employer, the United States Postal Service,
seeking damages for discrimination, retaliation, and creation of
a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701.
Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), which the court has converted to a
Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein,
defendant's motion is denied.
Plaintiff Lynnette Mannie was hired as a part-time regular mail
processor by the United States Postal Service in August 1994.
Plaintiff has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and has
previously filed administrative complaints of employment
discrimination and retaliation with the United States Postal
Service Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).
On November 27, 2001, plaintiff filed an employment
discrimination complaint in the Northern District of Illinois
based on EEO Complaint of Discrimination in the Postal Service
1-J-607-0085-00. Plaintiff sought damages for discrimination,
retaliation, and creation of a hostile work environment arising
from events which occurred in 2000. Plaintiff alleged that
because of her disability, she was not allowed to work as many
hours as her co-workers and was deprived of the opportunity to
work overtime hours, which constituted both discrimination and
retaliation. In addition, she alleged that actions and statements made by her
supervisors and co-workers created a hostile work environment.
Defendant's motion for summary judgment was granted as to
plaintiff's retaliation and hostile work environment claims, but
denied as to plaintiff's discrimination claim. Mannie v.
Potter, No. 01 C 9097, 2003 WL 21799963 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 4, 2003)
(the "2001 Action"). On December 5, 2003, a jury rendered a
verdict against plaintiff's discrimination claim, which is
currently being appealed to the Seventh Circuit.
The instant case was filed on March 1, 2004, and is based on
EEO Complaint of Discrimination in the Postal Service
1-J-607-0115-01. Here, plaintiff again seeks damages for
discrimination, retaliation, and creation of a hostile work
environment, but bases her claims on events that occurred in May
and June 2001. In her complaint, plaintiff alleges that she was
ridiculed by her supervisors because of her disability and denied
hours of employment, that personal information regarding her
disability was revealed to co-workers, and that defendant failed
to reasonably accommodate her disability. The text of her
administrative complaint concerns two incidents in which she
alleges that she was not paid for requested sick leave, and the
investigative affidavit attached to plaintiff's response to
defendant's motion to dismiss discusses plaintiff's assertions
that she was humiliated, ridiculed, and discriminated against.
Defendant has moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim
pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that plaintiff's
complaint makes no allegations concerning the underlying
administrative complaint. When considering a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a "court's inquiry is generally
limited to the factual allegations contained within the four
corners of the complaint." In re Nat'l Indus. Chem. Co. v.
Steege, No. 98 C 4081, 1998 WL 887065, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 11,
1998) (citing Hill v. Trustees of Ind. Univ., 537 F.2d 248, 251
(7th Cir. 1976)).
Consideration of material extraneous to the four corners of the
complaint requires the court to treat the motion to dismiss as a
Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). In
order to review the past record of the administrative complaint
underlying this action, such as plaintiff's pre-complaint counseling documents and
investigative affidavit, this court converted defendant's motion
to dismiss to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, which
requires a determination of whether there is no genuine issue as
to any material fact and whether the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
The instant complaint, like plaintiff's 2001 Action, makes
claims of discrimination, retaliation, and creation of a hostile
work environment. Defendant argues that plaintiff's claims are
barred by the doctrine of res judicata, which requires: 1) an
identity of the parties or their privies; 2) an identity of the
causes of action; and 3) a final judgment on the merits. People
Who Care v. Rockford Bd. of Educ., 68 F.3d 172, 177 (7th Cir.
1995). Although there was a final judgment on the merits in the
first suit, and there is identity of parties between plaintiff's
two actions, the second element of res judicata is met only
when the second action is "based on the same facts and raise[s]
the same issues" as the 2001 Action. Id. at 177. A different
set of facts taking place one year later than the circumstances
giving rise to the first action can legitimately result in a
separate cause of action with similar claims of discrimination,
retaliation, and creation of a hostile work environment against
the same employer. Thus, plaintiff's claims are not precluded by
the doctrine of res judicata, because they arose from a new and
different set of facts.
Defendant argues that the facts alleged in plaintiff's
complaint do not arise out of the underlying administrative
complaint and instead use the same wording as plaintiff's 2001
Action. However, it is possible that similar factual situations
could have repeated themselves, and could give rise to a separate
cause of action. In addition, the text of plaintiff's
administrative complaint was very brief, stating only that "[o]n
May 30, 2001[,] I reque[s]ted 4 1/2 hours of sick from supervisor
Georgia Eaton and was not paid. Then on June 6, 2001[,] I
requested 3 weeks of sick leave and annual to be used and I was
not paid." This handwritten text filled the space limit provided
on the administrative complaint form for explaining the
discriminatory treatment, without additional space for details or
specific incidents. Thus, the brief handwritten complaint may not
have included all the facts involved in the dispute, as is
indicated by plaintiff's investigative affidavit, which discusses
additional humiliation, ridicule, and discrimination that was not addressed in her administrative complaint.
However, "`the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures do not require
a claimant to set out in detail the facts upon which he bases his
claim.'" Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and
Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993) (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Instead, the rules simply
require a "short and plain statement of the claim" that gives
defendant fair notice of plaintiff's claim and the grounds on
which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a); Id. at 168. Because
plaintiff's complaint provides factual allegations, the types of
claims alleged, and the administrative complaint number
underlying the action, the complaint satisfies the minimum
requirements of notice pleading.*fn1
Whether the factual allegations in the complaint, the
administrative complaint, or the investigative affidavit are true
is a not matter to be resolved on a motion to dismiss or a motion
for summary judgment prior to discovery.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, which has been converted to a
Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, is denied. This matter is set for a
report on status July 15, 2004.