United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
June 21, 2005.
PHILIP M. HOPKINS, Plaintiff,
AIRBORNE EXPRESS, AKA DHL, PHIL RENALDI, JOE EDEL & UNKNOWN INSURANCE COMPANY & et al. UNKNOWN, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID COAR, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before this Court is Defendants' DHL Express (USA), Inc., f/k/a
Airborne Express, Inc., Phil Renaldi and Joe Edell ("Defendants")
motion to dismiss portions of Philip M. Hopkins' ("Plaintiff" or
"Hopkins") Complaint. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED. Consequently, the Court
DISMISSES Plaintiff's: (1) Title VII claims against Renaldi and
Edell, in their individual capacities; (2) Fourteenth Amendment
claims against all Defendants; and (3) claim arising from the
denial of unemployment benefits. However, Plaintiff's Title VII
claim against Airborne Express, as well as his breach of
collective bargaining agreement claim, will proceed. I. Legal Standard For A Motion To Dismiss
In ruling on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court "must accept all well pleaded
allegations as true. In addition, the Court must view these
allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Gomez
v. Illinois State Board of Education, 811 F.2d 1030, 1039 (7th
Cir. 1987). A party's claim should only be dismissed if it is
clear that no set of facts in support of the claim would entitle
the party to relief. Ledford v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 354, 356
(7th Cir. 1997) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spaulding,
467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)). Additionally, Hopkins has filed his complaint
pro se, and when construing a pro se complaint, the court
must construe the complaint more liberally than a complaint
prepared by an attorney. Whitford v. Boglino, 63 F.3d 527, 535
(7th Cir. 1995). However, the complaint must still allege facts
that provide an adequate basis for each claim. Gray v. Dane
County, 854 F.2d 179, 182 (7th Cir. 1988).
II. Factual Background
Plaintiff, an African American man, was hired by Defendant DHL
Express (USA) ("DHL") on December 15, 1992 as a Driver/Dockworker
II. (Compl., ¶ 5, 13). At all relevant times, Phil Renaldi
("Renaldi") and Joe Edell ("Edell") were Plaintiff's supervisors.
(Compl., ¶¶ 1, 4). In December 2002, Hopkins attempted to renew
his driver's license with Illinois' Secretary of State office.
(Compl., ¶ 14). However, Plaintiff was informed that his driving
privileges had been suspended. (Id.). Hopkins informed Renaldi,
his immediate supervisor, of the driver's license suspension.
(Compl., ¶ 15). Renaldi immediately placed Hopkins on "out of
service/voluntary leave" status. (Id.). Plaintiff asked Renaldi
for time to clear up his suspended license, while still working on the docks, as the suspended
status of his license was in error. (Compl., ¶ 16). However,
Renaldi refused Hopkins' request. (Compl., ¶ 16). Plaintiff
alleges that Renaldi's refusal of Hopkins' request to continue to
work on the docks, despite the suspended license, was
discriminatory, because white employees were permitted to work on
the docks while correcting problems with their drivers' licenses.
(Compl., ¶ 17).
In June 2003, DHL discharged Hopkins for violating the
company's "loss of driver's license-leave of absence" policy.
(See Def. Ex. A., Aff. of Felicia Tank, ¶ 2). Subsequently,
Hopkins applied for unemployment benefits, pursuant to the
Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act. (Compl., ¶ 19). Plaintiff
was denied unemployment benefits; thereafter, he appealed that
decision. (Id.). On September 2, 2003, the Illinois Board of
Review denied Plaintiff's appeal. (See Def. Ex. A, Aff. of
Felicia Tank, ¶ 2). Plaintiff alleges that he attempted to
present to the Illinois Board of Review evidence that the matter
concerning his driver's license had been dismissed, and he should
have been permitted to drive. (See Compl., ¶ 19, Pl. Ex. B).
However, Plaintiff contends that the Illinois Board of Review
refused to consider this evidence; Hopkins believes this refusal
was based upon his race. (Compl., ¶ 20).
Subsequently, Hopkins filed a charge of discrimination with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On December 22,
2004, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter to Plaintiff. (See
Pl. Ex. A). In addition, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding
his termination. (See Def. Ex. A; Aff. of Felicia Tank, ¶ 2).
On April 15, 2004, the grievance was settled, and Plaintiff was
reinstated to his former position. (Id.) Plaintiff remains
employed with DHL. (Compl., ¶ 7). On March 21, 2005, Hopkins
filed his complaint in this court, which alleges the following
claims: (1) a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 ("Title VII"); (2) a violation of the due process clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment; (3) denial of his unemployment benefits;
and (4) a breach of the collective bargaining agreement.
Plaintiff did not file any response to Defendants' motion to
dismiss. Given that the deadline for filing a response was May 6,
2005, and Plaintiff has yet to file a response, or request
additional time to file a response, the Court rules on the motion
to dismiss based upon the record before it.
Defendants present three grounds for the dismissal of portions
of Plaintiff's complaint. First, Defendants argue that the Court
should dismiss Hopkins' Title VII claim against Defendants
Renaldi and Edell, because they cannot be held individually
liable. Second, Defendants contend that the Court should dismiss
Plaintiff's claim alleging a violation of the due process clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Third, Defendants assert that this Court lacks jurisdiction to
adjudicate plaintiff's claim arising from the denial of any
unemployment benefits. Each of Defendants' arguments will be
addressed in turn.*fn1
A. Can Defendants Renaldi And Edell Be Held Individually
Defendants contend that pursuant to Title VII, Defendants
Renaldi and Edell cannot be held individually liable. The Seventh
Circuit has determined that Title VII does not impose liability
on individual employees. Gastineau v. Fleet Mortgage
Corporation, 137 F.3d 490, 493 (7th Cir. 1998). Courts do not interpret Title VII as imposing
personal liability on agents, but rather invokes the doctrine of
respondeat superior to make employers responsible for the
actions of their agents. Id. The Seventh Circuit has held that
Congress did not intend to impose individual liability against an
employer's agents. Williams v. Banning, 72 F.3d 552, 553 (7th
Cir. 1995) (citing EEOC v. AIC Security Investigations, Ltd.,
55 F.3d 1276, 1279-82 (7th Cir. 1995)). Further, the Seventh
Circuit has made clear that, "a supervisor does not, in his
individual capacity, fall within Title VII's definition of
employer." Williams, 72 F.3d at 555.*fn2 Consequently,
because Title VII does not impose liability upon supervisors, the
Title VII claims against Renaldi and Edell are dismissed.
B. Should Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claims
Defendants contend that because Hopkins fails to (and cannot)
allege that Defendants are state actors, or that the Defendants'
actions were in any way related to the government, Plaintiff's
Fourteenth Amendment due process clause allegations must be
The Fourteenth Amendment provides, in pertinent part, "No state
shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty or property
without due process of law. "See Hawkins v. National
Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 652 F.Supp. 602, 605 (C.D. Ill.
1987). Consequently, "[t]he Fourteenth Amendment protects . . .
only from a deprivation by state action." Tulsa Professional
Collections Services, Inc. v. Pope, 485 U.S. 478, 485 (1988).
"This principle has become firmly embedded in our constitutional
law that the action inhibited by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment is only such action as may fairly be said to
be that of the state." Hawkins, 652 F.Supp. at 606 (quoting
Shelly v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 13 (1948)). As such, the
Fourteenth Amendment "erects no shield against merely private
conduct however discriminatory or wrongful." Hawkins,
652 F.Supp. at 606 (quoting Blum v. Yaretsky. 457 U.S. 991, 1002
The Defendants in this case are all private actors, and have no
affiliation with the state. Consequently, Plaintiff cannot bring
a Fourteenth Amendment claim for Defendants' purely private
conduct. Therefore, Hopkins' Fourteenth Amendment allegations are
dismissed, as they fail to state a claim upon which relief can be
C. Does This Court Have Jurisdiction Over Plaintiff's Claim
For Unemployment Benefits?
Defendants contend that pursuant to Illinois' Unemployment
Insurance Act, jurisdiction to review the denial of benefits by
the Illinois Board of Review does not rest with this Court, but
with the Illinois state courts. Hopkins' claim arising from the
denial of unemployment benefits is governed by Illinois'
Unemployment Insurance Act, 820 ILCS 405/1100. The statute
provides, in relevant part:
Any decision of the Board of Review . . . shall be
reviewable only under and in accordance with the
provisions of the Administrative Review Law, provided
that judicial review thereof shall be permitted only
after any party claiming to be aggrieved thereby has
exhausted his administrative remedies as provided by
Id. Pursuant to the Administrative Review Law, "[j]urisdiction
to review final administrative decisions is vested in the
[Illinois] Circuit Courts . . ." See 735 ILCS 5/3-104; see
also Schneider v. County of Will, State of Illinois,
190 F.Supp.2d 1082
, 1092 (N.D. Ill. 2002); C.L.U.B. v. City of Chicago, 157 F.Supp.2d 903
, 913 (N.D. Ill. 2001). "The
[Administrative] Review Law is a departure from common law, and
the parties seeking its application must adhere strictly to its
procedures." Fedorev v. Doherty, 711 N.E.2d 1223
(Ill.App. Ct. 1999) (internal citations omitted). Consequently, this
Court cannot review a decision of the Illinois Board of Review,
as the power to review those decisions lies with the Illinois
state courts. Consequently, Hopkins' claim arising from the
denial of unemployment benefits is dismissed. Moreover, because
the only allegations involving the defendants captioned as
"Unknown Insurance Company & et al. Unknown" arise from this
particular claim, those defendants are dismissed.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss is
GRANTED. Consequently, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff's: (1) Title
VII claims against Renaldi and Edell, in their individual
capacities; (2) Fourteenth Amendment claims against all
Defendants; and (3) claim arising from the denial of unemployment
benefits. However, Plaintiff's Title VII claim against Airborne
Express, as well as his breach of collective bargaining agreement
claim, will proceed.