United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 18, 2004.
PRISCILLA EDWARDS, Plaintiff
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.
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.
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
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 F.3d 745, 746 (7th
Cir. 1994) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792 (1973)).
We believe Edwards' complaint meets the pleading requirements
for a prima facie case of race and gender discrimination under
McDonnell Douglas. Edwards' complaint states that, as an
African-American woman, she belongs to a protected class under
Title VII. She maintains that she had a satisfactory record of
employment. Furthermore, Edwards' EEOC charge, which was attached
to the complaint and is therefore construed in connection with
the complaint under FED. R. CIV. P. 10(c), states that similarly
situated non-African-American males received more favorable treatment.
The City argues that Edwards fails to meet the third prong of
the McDonnell Douglas standards for proving a prima facie case
because, she has not asserted that she suffered an adverse
employment action. However, her complaint states that she was
subjected to different terms and conditions of employment due to
her race and gender. We believe these allegations plead
sufficient facts to establish a cause of action for race and
gender discrimination under McDonnell Douglas.
In reaching this conclusion, we are also supported by the
holding of the U.S. Supreme Court that "an employment
discrimination complaint need not [meet the prima facie standard]
and instead must contain only `a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'"
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 (2002) (citing
FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)). As the Court emphasized in Swierkiewicz,
the "prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas . . . is an
evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement." Id. at 510.
We believe Edwards' Title VII claim meets the required pleading
standards. Therefore, we deny defendant's motion to dismiss.
II. Count II: Age Discrimination Claim Under the ADEA
In Count II of her complaint, Edwards brings a claim for age
discrimination under the ADEA. The City challenges Edwards' ADEA
claim on the theory that she fails to allege a prima facie case
of age discrimination because she fails to allege she suffered an
adverse employment action. A plaintiff who brings a claim under
the ADEA can either present direct evidence of age
discrimination, or alternatively, can provide indirect evidence
of discrimination under McDonnell Douglas. Hoffmann v. Primedia
Special Interest Publications, 217 F.3d 522, 523-24 (7th Cir. 2000). 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 age discrimination under the ADEA.
To state a prima facie case of age discrimination under
McDonnell Douglas, Edwards must allege that: (1) she was over
the age of forty; (2) she was performing at a satisfactory level;
(3) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) she was
treated less favorably than younger, similarly situated
employees. Crady v. Liberty Nat. Bank and Trust Co. of Indiana,
993 F.2d 132, 134 (7th Cir. 1993).
In this case, Edwards' complaint states that she was over the
age of forty and thus she is a member of a protected class under
the ADEA. She maintains that she performed her job satisfactorily
and performed her duties consistent with the City's rules and
regulations. Furthermore, she alleges that she was subject to
unequal terms and conditions of employment due to her age and
claims that similarly situated communicable disease
investigators, under the age of forty, were treated more
favorably. Based on these allegations, we believe Edwards' ADEA
claim satisfies the pleading requirements.
The City also argues that Edwards must limit the temporal scope
of her age discrimination claim to the dates contained in her
EEOC claim. In her EEOC claim, Edwards alleges age discrimination
during the time period from October 17, 2001 to January 16, 2002.
In her present lawsuit, she changed the time period from October
17, 2001 to "the present."
As a general rule, a "plaintiff cannot bring claims in a
lawsuit that were not included in the EEOC charge." Cheek v.
Western and Southern Life Insurance Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th
Cir. 1994). However, claims that are "like or reasonably related
to the allegations of the [EEOC] charge and grow? out of such allegations" are permitted. Id.
In this case, Edwards has pled the same substantive allegations
of age discrimination in this lawsuit as she did in her EEOC
complaint. The change in time period in which Edwards claims the
City discriminated against her is a closely related allegation to
those made in her EEOC complaint. Thus, we deny defendant's
motion to dismiss on these grounds.
For the foregoing reasons, the City's motion to dismiss
Edwards' complaint is denied in part and granted in part. We
grant the City's motion to dismiss Edwards' claim for gender
discrimination under § 1981. We deny the City's motion with
respect to all other parts of Counts I and II [6-1].
It is so ordered.
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