United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
October 5, 2005.
FRANCINE ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
STATE OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, RONNIE BARCLAY, and MARJORIE OLSON, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Pro se plaintiff Francine Anderson sues the Illinois
Department of Human Services ("IDHS"), Ronnie Barclay, and
Marjorie Olson (collectively "defendants") pursuant to Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging racial and
religious discrimination as well as retaliation. Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), defendants move to
dismiss some of Anderson's claims on four grounds: (1) IDHS, as a
state agency, and Barclay and Olson in their official capacities
are immune from Anderson's claims under the Eleventh Amendment of
the United States Constitution; (2) Barclay and Olson in their
individual capacities cannot be sued as "employers" under Title
VII; (3) 42 U.S.C. § 1981a(b)(1) bars Anderson's claim for
punitive damages under Title VII; and (4) the 300-day limitation
period bars Anderson's Title VII claims that are based on
allegations occurring more than 300 days prior to her July 8,
2004 charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("the EEOC").*fn1 Based on reasons set forth below, the
court grants defendants' motion. BACKGROUND
For purpose of this motion to dismiss, the court accepts all
well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draws all
reasonable inferences in Anderson's favor. Stachon v. United
Consumers Club, Inc., 229 F.3d 673, 675 (7th Cir. 2000). The
following statement of facts is derived from the complaint.
Anderson started working at IDHS in September 1985. Since
August 1999, she worked as a rehabilitation services advisor
under the supervision of Barclay, who reported to Olson. She
claims that starting as early as 1999, Barclay and Olson
subjected her to, among other things, biased performance reviews,
degrading remarks, harassment, and unfair disciplinary measures.
She also alleges particular incidents where defendants reduced
her pay without justification and refused to pay some of her
overtime and vacation. Furthermore, she claims that defendants
wrongly denied her opportunities for promotion and training.
Anderson took some steps to address her grievances. She filed
two complaints with IDHS, one in 2001 and another in 2004.
Sometime in 2001, she also filed a charge with the EEOC, but
after receiving the EEOC's right-to-sue letter, she failed to
pursue legal action. On July 8, 2004, she filed another charge
with the EEOC and subsequently received a right-to-sue letter
dated March 24, 2005. The present case followed. She seeks
injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages,
under both Title VII and § 1983.
A motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not
the merits of the suit. Gibson v. City of Chicago,
910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Therefore, the court accepts as true
all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See id. at 1520-21. The
court will dismiss a claim only if "it appears beyond doubt that
[the plaintiff] . . . can prove no set of facts in support of his
claim which would entitle him to relief." Colfax Corp. v. Ill.
State Toll Highway Auth., 79 F.3d 631, 632 (7th Cir. 1996)
(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). When
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court considers only the
allegations in the complaint and its exhibits. Centers v.
Centennial Mortgage, Inc., 398 F.3d 930, 933 (7th Cir. 2005).
The court has an obligation to give pro se litigants fair and
meaningful consideration. Ricketts v. Midwest Nat'l Bank,
874 F.2d 1177, 1183 (7th Cir. 1989). Pro se complaints are not held
to the stringent standards expected of pleadings drafted by
lawyers. Alvarado v. Litscher, 267 F.3d 648, 651 (7th Cir.
2001). Accordingly, the allegations in Anderson's complaint and
the exhibits are liberally construed. Id.
I. Title VII and § 1983 Claims Against IDHS and Barclay and
Olson in Their Official Capacities
Defendants argue that Anderson's Title VII and § 1983 claims
against IDHS are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The court
agrees. Eleventh Amendment issues may arise whenever a private
party files a federal lawsuit against a state, a state agency, or
a state official. IDHS, as a state agency, is treated the same as
if the state itself is sued. See Kroll v. Bd. of Trustees of the
Univ. of Ill., 934 F.2d 904, 907 (7th Cir. 1991) (the
Eleventh Amendment shields state agencies from § 1983 claims). Based on
Kroll, Anderson's Title VII and § 1983 claims against IDHS are
Defendants move to dismiss Anderson's claims against Barclay
and Olson on Eleventh Amendment grounds. "[T]he
Eleventh Amendment . . . bars federal jurisdiction over suits against state officials acting in their official capacities when the
state is the real party in interest." Brown v. Budz,
398 F.3d 904, 917 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting MCI Telecomms. Corp. v. Ill.
Bell Tel. Co., 222 F.3d 323, 336-37 (7th Cir. 2000)). But the
Eleventh Amendment immunity for Barclay and Olson is not
absolute. See id. 917-18. "[U]nder the longstanding doctrine of
Ex Parte Young, a private party can sue a state officer in his
or her official capacity to enjoin prospective action that would
violate federal law." Id. (quoting Dean Foods Co. v. Brancel,
187 F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 1999)). Accordingly, Anderson's
claims against Barclay and Olson in their official capacities are
dismissed, but only to the extent that she seeks monetary
II. Title VII Claims Against Barclay and Olson in Their
Defendants argue that Anderson may not maintain Title VII
claims against Barclay and Olson in their individual capacities
because they are not employers within the meaning of the statute.
The court agrees.
Title VII defines "employer" as "a person engaged in an
industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more employees . . .
and any agent of such person." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b). This
definition reflects a statutory expression of traditional
principles of respondeat superior liability. See Williams v.
Banning, 72 F.3d 552, 553-54 (7th Cir. 1995). Title VII does not
subject an employer's supervisors or managers to personal
liability. Id.; see also Robinson v. Sappington, 351 F.3d 317,
332 n. 9 (7th Cir. 2003). Individuals may not be personally
liable under Title VII unless they independently meet the
statutory definition of an employer. See EEOC v. AIC Sec.
Investigations Ltd., 55 F.3d 1276, 1279 (7th Cir. 1995).
Anderson does not specify whether she sues Barclay and Olson in
their individual capacities, nor does her complaint allege that
they satisfy the statutory definition of an employer. To the extent that Anderson seeks to hold Barclay and
Olson personally liable under Title VII, these claims must be
III. Punitive Damages for Title VII Claims Against IDHS
Defendants argue that IDHS is exempt from punitive damages
under Title VII. As stated above, Anderson's Title VII claims
against IDHS must be dismissed. Therefore, the court need not
address defendants' arguments on punitive damages.
IV. Title VII Claims Barred by the 300-Day Limitation Period
Defendants correctly state that a charge of discrimination must
be filed within 300 days after the alleged unlawful employment
practice occurred. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). "Failure to
timely file the charge with the EEOC bars any subsequent civil
rights suit in the courts." Snider v. Belvidere Township,
216 F.3d 616, 618 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Terry v. Bridgeport Brass
Co., 519 F.2d 806, 808 (7th Cir. 1975)).
Anderson's Title VII claims are based on her 2004 EEOC charge.
The court notes that paragraph 7.1 of her complaint alleges that
she filed her EEOC charge on June 1, 2004. The copy of her EEOC
charge attached to the complaint, however, is dated July 8, 2004.
When attached exhibits conflict with the allegations in the
complaint, the exhibits control. Centers, 398 F.3d at 933
(citing Rosenblum v. Travelbyus.com Ltd., 299 F.3d 657, 661
(7th Cir. 2002)). Accordingly, Anderson's EEOC charge date is
July 8, 2004. Therefore, under § 2000e-5(e), Anderson's Title VII
claims must be dismissed to the extent that they are based on
events taking place more than 300 days prior to July 8, 2004. CONCLUSION
Anderson's Title VII and § 1983 claims against IDHS are
dismissed with prejudice. Her Title VII and § 1983 claims for
monetary damages against Barclay and Olson in their official
capacities are dismissed with prejudice. Her Title VII claims
against Barclay and Olson in their individual capacities are
dismissed with prejudice. To the extent that she asserts Title
VII claims for injunctive relief against Barclay and Olson in
their official capacities, her claims that are based on events
occurring more than 300 days prior to July 8, 2004 are dismissed
Accordingly, Anderson retains her § 1983 claims for injunctive
relief against Barclay and Olson in their official capacities.
She retains her Title VII claims for injunctive relief against
Barclay and Olson in their official capacities to the extent the
claims are based on events occurring within 300 days prior to
July 8, 2004. And she retains her § 1983 claims against Barclay
and Olson in their individual capacities.
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