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WILLIS v. CITY OF CHICAGO

October 5, 2004.

LILLIE M. WILLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Lillie Willis filed a two-count complaint against Defendant City of Chicago, alleging sexual harassment in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq. (Count I), and disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 12101 (Count II). Defendant has moved to dismiss Count I pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Defendant further argues that the Court should strike Plaintiff's request for punitive damages.*fn1

LEGAL STANDARD

  A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint, not the merits of the case. See Triad Assocs., Inc. v. Chic. Hous. Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 1989). When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court considers "whether relief is possible under [any] set of facts that could be established consistent with [the] allegations." Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G. (Zurich), 953 F.2d 1073, 1078 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court views the complaint "in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, taking as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and making all possible inferences from those allegations in his or her favor." Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 459 (7th Cir. 2003); see also Thomas v. Law Firm of Simpson & Cybak, 354 F.3d 696, 697 (7th Cir. 2004). The Court is not, however, "obliged to accept as true legal conclusions or unsupported conclusions of fact." Hickey v. O'Bannon, 287 F.3d 656, 658 (7th Cir. 2002).

  BACKGROUND

  The City of Chicago (the "City") is a municipality that employed Plaintiff as a bridge operator in the Department of Transportation. (Id. ¶ 2.) The City continues to employ Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 4.)

  In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the following facts. In 1996 or 1997, Plaintiff found Hustler and Playboy magazines in the bathroom when she was working as a roving operator at the 3300 E. 92nd Street bridge. (Id. ¶ 8.) She complained to superintendent Darryl Rouse ("Rouse"), who removed the magazines but did nothing to prevent further incidents. (Id.) In 1998 or 1999, Plaintiff saw a photograph of a nude woman from Hustler magazine with Plaintiff's name written across it when she was working as a Rover 4 at the Dearborn Street bridge tower. (Id.) She removed the photo and complained to Rouse, who did nothing about the incident. (Id.) Around this time, Plaintiff also found Hustler magazines and photos of naked people engaging in sexual activity in the East Grand Avenue trailer. (Id.) Plaintiff again complained to Rouse, who circulated a memorandum prohibiting sexual harassment, but did not take any further actions. (Id.) On May 28, 2003, Plaintiff found a pair of women's panties laying on the floor next to the Kinzie Street bridge door. (Id.) Plaintiff called foreman Jim Forbes, who took pictures, called Rouse, and asked Plaintiff to write it up. (Id.)

  Plaintiff contends that her co-workers have harassed her since she began reporting the sexual harassment incidents. (Id.) Specifically, her co-workers stopped up the toilet so that Plaintiff could not use it and left a dead fish lying on a paper towel in Plaintiff's workplace. (Id.) In addition, a co-worker asked Plaintiff to leave the bridge controls at 2470 S. Loomis so that he could have privacy during his personal phone calls. (Id.)

  Plaintiff alleges that as a result of these incidents she does not feel comfortable working as a bridge operator for the City. (Id.) She contends that her work environment is intimidating, unsettling, worrisome, and hostile, and that any reasonable person would perceive her work environment this way. (Id. ¶ 10.)

  ANALYSIS

  I. The Continuing Violation Doctrine

  Defendant argues that Plaintiff's sexual harassment claim is barred because the conduct complained of occurred more than 300 days before Plaintiff filed her charge with the EEOC. Specifically, Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot sue under Title VII for any conduct that occurred before October 8, 2002 because she filed her charge of sexual harassment on August 4, 2003. Plaintiff counters that such claims are timely under the continuing violation doctrine. The Court agrees with Plaintiff.

  Under the continuing violation doctrine, an employee can recover on a hostile work environment theory for acts that occurred more than 300 days before the employee filed a charge of discrimination as long as the acts were part of the same hostile work environment and at least one of the acts occurred within the 300-day period. National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 117-18, 122 S. Ct 2061, 2074-75 (2002). Plaintiff alleges specific acts of harassment constituting a pattern of ongoing discrimination in Paragraph 8a-g of the Amended Complaint. Defendant admits that at least one of these acts (finding women's panties in Plaintiff's workplace) took place ...


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