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EDWARDS v. CITY OF CHICAGO

November 18, 2004.

PRISCILLA EDWARDS, Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WAYNE ANDERSEN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the Court on the defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint pursuant to FED R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). The charges contained in the complaint are summarized as follows: Count I alleges race and gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981"); Count II alleges age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied in part and granted in part.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff Priscilla Edwards ("Edwards"), an African-American woman, was employed by the defendant City of Chicago ("City") as a communicable disease investigator for the City's Department of Public Health ("DPH"). From October 17, 2001 through January 16, 2002, Edwards alleges she was subjected to different terms and conditions of employment on the basis of her race and gender. She further alleges the City created an "inherently discriminatory" working environment where she was harassed and was the target of racially derogatory comments. In addition, Edwards, who was then fifty-four years old, alleges the City discriminated against her based on age.

  On March 5, 2002, Edwards filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). In her EEOC claim, Edwards alleges that from October 17, 2001 through January 16, 2002, Osagie Igbinosun, a tuberculosis field supervisor within DPH, attempted to have her transferred to another work location due to her race, gender, and age. According to her EEOC claim, similarly situated, non-African-American and non-female communicable disease investigators under the age of forty were not harassed. The EEOC dismissed Edwards' claim on February 11, 2004 and issued a right-to-sue letter. Edwards filed this complaint on May 14, 2004.

  DISCUSSION

  When reviewing a motion to dismiss, we accept as true all "well-pleaded factual allegations and view them, along with the reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff]." Cornfield v. Consolidated High School Dist. No. 230, 991 F.2d 1316, 1324 (7th Cir. 1993). Furthermore, under the federal notice pleading requirements, a plaintiff is only required to set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . ." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a). In other words, a "pleading must only contain enough to allow the court and the defendant to understand the gravamen of the plaintiff's complaint." McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 323-24 (7th Cir. 2000). However, we will grant a defendant's motion to dismiss if it "appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [her] claim which would entitle [her] to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

  I. Count I: Race and Gender Discrimination Under § 1981 and Title VII

  In Count I of her complaint, Edwards raises allegations of race and gender discrimination under § 1981 and Title VII. The Court addresses each of these claims in turn.

  A. § 1981 Race and Gender Discrimination Claim

  The City challenges Edwards' § 1981 claim for racial discrimination on the theory that she has failed to state an appropriate cause of action under the statute. To allege a violation of her rights under § 1981, Edwards must allege that "(1) the City had an express policy that, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) the City had a widespread practice that, although not authorized by written law or express municipal policy, is so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or usage within the force of law; or (3) [her] constitutional injury was caused by a person with final policy-making authority." McCormick, 230 F.3d at 324 (citing McTigue v. City of Chicago, 60 F.3d 381, 382 (7th Cir. 1995)).

  In this case, Edwards satisfies the McCormick standards by alleging that the City created an "inherently discriminatory system" under which she was harassed and subjected to different terms and conditions of employment. We believe these allegations are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss under the criteria set forth by the Seventh Circuit in McCormack. See id. at 324-25 (pleading conclusions of widespread custom or practice is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss). Accordingly, the City's motion to dismiss Edwards' § 1981 claim for racial discrimination is denied. In addition, Edwards has agreed to voluntarily dismiss her § 1981 claim for gender discrimination. Therefore, that claim is dismissed with prejudice. B. Title VII Race and Gender Discrimination Claims

  The City challenges Edwards' Title VII claims for race and gender discrimination on the theory that she has failed to allege a prima facie case. To bring a claim under Title VII, Edwards can provide direct evidence of discrimination, or alternatively, she can provide indirect evidence of discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas framework. Kirk v. Federal Property Management Corp., 22 F.3d 135, 138 (7th Cir. 1994) ("[W]here disparate treatment of a single employee is at issue, a plaintiff can either produce direct or indirect evidence of discrimination."). In the present case, Edwards does not allege that she has direct evidence of discrimination. Accordingly, this Court uses the McDonnell Douglas framework to determine whether Edwards has sufficiently stated a cause of action for race and gender discrimination under Title VII.

  Under McDonnell Douglas, a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of race and gender discrimination by showing that she (1) belongs to a protected class; (2) performed her job satisfactorily; (3) suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) was treated differently than similarly situated employees outside of her class. Hughes v. Brown, 20 ...


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