United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
January 10, 2005.
ARNISSA BELL, TIFFANY FIELDS-FEAGINS, and JULIA POSLEY Plaintiffs,
LASALLE BANK N.A./ABN AMRO N.A., INC., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs, Arnissa Bell, Tiffany Fields-Feagins, and Julia
Posely, have filed a four-count Second Amended Complaint against
defendant, LaSalle Bank N.A./ABN AMRO N.A., Inc. ("LaSalle"),
their former employer. Plaintiffs allege that LaSalle
discriminated against them by denying them promotions in
violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II).
Plaintiffs also allege that LaSalle violated Title VII (Count
III) and the Illinois Whistleblower Act, 740 ILCS 174/1 (Count
IV), by retaliating against them for filing Charges of
Discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.
Before the court is the defendant's motion to dismiss Count IV
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). LaSalle argues
that plaintiffs' claim under the Illinois Whistleblower Act is
preempted by the terms of the Illinois Human Rights Act,
775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq., and that the court thus lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over the claim. For the reasons stated below, the
court grants LaSalle's motion. MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARDS
A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) challenges the court's subject matter jurisdiction. In
determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, the court
is not required to accept plaintiffs' allegations as true. A
"district court ha[s] not only the right, but the duty to look
beyond the allegations of the complaint to determine that it
ha[s] jurisdiction. . . ." Hay v. Indiana State Bd. of Tax
Comm'rs, 312 F.3d 876, 879 (7th Cir. 2002). However, when
examining the material allegations of the complaint, the court
must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the
plaintiff. Retired Chicago Police Ass'n v. City of Chicago,
76 F.3d 856, 862 (7th Cir. 1996).
ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT
Plaintiffs, who are all African-American, worked for LaSalle in
Chicago, Illinois as Trust Compliance Analysts I. Though their
performance in these positions was satisfactory, plaintiffs were
not given the same opportunity to advance as similarly situated
white employees. On one occasion, a white employee was
transferred into plaintiffs' department as a Trust Compliance
Analyst II, also referred to as "Senior Analyst," a position with
higher pay and a higher grade than the Trust Compliance Analyst I
position occupied by plaintiffs, though the white employee did
not meet the stated requirements for the position. On another
occasion, a white employee began as a temporary worker. One month
after receiving training from one of the plaintiffs, the white
employee was hired as a full-time Trust Compliance Analyst I at a
salary higher than that which the plaintiffs received. This
employee was soon promoted to Trust Compliance Analyst II. After plaintiffs complained to LaSalle about the bank's failure
to promote any qualified African-American employees to the
position of Trust Compliance Analyst II, in February, 2002, the
plaintiffs each filed charges with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging racial discrimination
under Title VII. During the course of the EEOC's investigation
and at the EEOC's request, plaintiffs provided the EEOC with
documentary evidence in support of their Charges of
Discrimination. After LaSalle learned that the plaintiffs had
provided this material to the EEOC they took adverse employment
action against them, firing two and making the third ineligible
for rehire after she resigned. In September, 2002, the EEOC found
that the evidence in the agency's investigation had provided
reasonable cause to believe that the defendant had discriminated
against the plaintiffs. The Commission issued the plaintiffs a
right to sue letter on October 31, 2002. Their federal complaint
followed. The plaintiffs later amended their Complaint adding a
count under the Illinois Whistleblower Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101,
etc., alleging that the LaSalle had a policy preventing
disclosure of bank information to regulators and that LaSalle had
retaliated against them for reporting illegal behavior to
appropriate regulatory agencies.
LaSalle argues that plaintiffs' claim under the Illinois
Whistleblower Act should be dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction because the claim is preempted by the Illinois Human
Rights Act (IHRA), 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. The IHRA provides a
"comprehensive scheme of remedies and administrative procedures"
to deal with allegations of human rights violations. Mein v.
Masonite Corp., 485 N.E.2d 312, 315 (1985). This "comprehensive
scheme" is the "exclusive source for redress of human rights
violations" under Illinois law. Id. The IHRA states that "[e]xcept as otherwise provided by the law, no court
shall have jurisdiction over the subject of an alleged civil
rights violation other than as set forth in this Act."
775 ILCS 5/8-111(c). This provision divests courts, both state and
federal, of jurisdiction to hear state law claims of civil rights
violations unless those claims are brought under the IHRA. See
Talley v. Washington Inventory Serv., 37 F.3d 310, 312
(7th Cir. 1994) ("As we recently discussed, in light of the
[IHRA], courts have no jurisdiction to hear independent actions
for human rights violations."); Guy v. State of Illinois,
958 F. Supp. 1300, 1312 (N.D. Ill. 1997) (noting that "Illinois state
courts (and federal courts sitting in their stead) lack
jurisdiction over such claims, which proceed instead in front of
the Illinois Human Rights Commission."); see also Thomas v.
L'Eggs Products, Inc., 13 F. Supp. 2d 806, 808 (C.D. Ill. 1998)
("[I]f an Illinois state court lacks jurisdiction to hear such a
claim, so does a federal district court sitting in Illinois.").
The IHRA thus preempts any claim "inextricably linked" to an
alleged violation of an employee's civil rights under the IHRA.
Brewer v. Board of Trustees of the Univ. of Illinois,
791 N.E.2d 657, 664 (4th Dist. 2003). The issue before the court
is therefore whether the plaintiffs' claim under the Illinois
Whistleblower Act is "inextricably linked" to an alleged civil
rights violation. The court holds that it is.
The Illinois Supreme Court has held that a claim will be
preempted by the IHRA unless the plaintiff can allege the claim
"without reference to legal duties created by the [IHRA]."
Maksimovic v. Tsogalis, 687 N.E. 2d 21, 23 (1997). Here,
plaintiffs allege that LaSalle violated the Illinois
Whistleblower Act by "retaliat[ing] against Plaintiffs by taking
adverse employment actions against [them]" because they
"disclosed information to the United States Equal Employment
Commission . . . that they had reasonable cause to believe showed
that LaSalle bank had violated federal and state employment laws." (Id. ¶ 56,
58.) This claim explicitly references the "legal duties created
by" the IHRA. Indeed, the claim would be a nullity without such a
reference; but for plaintiffs' belief that LaSalle discriminated
against them, violating the "legal duties created by" the IHRA in
the process, they would have no claim under the Whistleblower
The IHRA specifically prohibits employers from retaliating
against a person "because he or she has opposed that which he or
she reasonably and in good faith believes to be unlawful
discrimination . . . or because he or she has made a charge,
filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in an
investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this Act."
775 ILCS 5/6-101(A). Under Illinois law, this provision is the exclusive
source of redress for employees who have been subjected to an
adverse employment action for reporting alleged discrimination.
See Mein, 485 N.E.2d at 315. This is exactly what plaintiffs
allege in Count IV. Thus, plaintiffs' claim under the
Whistleblower Act is preempted by the IHRA.
For the reasons stated above, defendants' motion to dismiss
Count IV is granted [#62]. Count IV is dismissed.
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