United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
November 3, 2005.
EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
CONCENTRA HEALTH SERVICES, INC., 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, Concentra
Health Services, Inc.'s ("Concentra"), motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"),
filed a complaint against Concentra alleging that it
discriminated against Charles Horn ("Horn") by retaliating
against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), and Title I of the
Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). For the reasons
set forth below, the Defendant's motion is granted.
The EEOC filed this lawsuit against Concentra on February 24,
2005 alleging that Concentra retaliated against Horn for making a
complaint with Concentra's Director of Human Resources. Horn's
complaint stated that his female supervisor gave a male
subordinate, with whom she was having an inappropriate sexual
relationship, preferential treatment over similarly situated
employees with respect to his employment. Concentra conducted an
investigation and determined that the alleged relationship
violated the company policy and took various measures to correct
the situation. Following Horn's report to the Director of Human
Resources, Horn claims that he was issued approximately eight
unwarranted written disciplinary warnings, all of which were completed by his female supervisor whom he had
previously reported. Approximately seven months after filing his
complaint with the company's Director of Human Resources,
Concentra terminated Horn's employment.
Courts review a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) by taking
a plaintiff's allegations as true and "drawing all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Veazey v. Communications &
Cable of Chicago, Inc., 194 F.3d 850, 854 (7th Cir. 1999).
Further, "[a] Court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear
that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could
be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King &
Spalding, 476 U.S. 69, 104 S.Ct. 2229 (1984).
Defendant argues that the EEOC's claim should be dismissed
because the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. Specifically, the Defendant argues that the
Plaintiff's claim that Concentra retaliated against Horn cannot
serve as a foundation for a valid Title VII claim because alleged
favoritism bestowed by a supervisor upon a paramour at work is
not a violation of Title VII and therefore, he fails to satisfy
the first prong required for a Title VII complaint.
To prove a case of retaliation under Title VII, plaintiff must
show: (1) he engaged in statutorily protected expression; (2) she
suffered an adverse action at the hands of her employer; and (3)
there was a causal link between the two. Fine v. Ryan
International Airlines, 305 F.3d 746, 751-52 (7th Cir. 2002).
For a plaintiff to prevail on a retaliation claim, the complaint
must involve discrimination that is prohibited by Title VII. In
this case, the EEOC must establish that Horn "not only had a
subjective (sincere, good faith) belief that he opposed an
unlawful employment practice; his belief must also be objectively
reasonable, which means that the complaint must involve discrimination that is prohibited by Title
VII. . . . If a plaintiff opposed conduct that was not proscribed
by Title VII, no matter how frequent or severe, then his sincere
belief that he opposed an unlawful practice cannot be
reasonable." Hamner v. St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr.,
Inc., 224 F.3d 701, 707 (7th Cir. 2000).
The Seventh Circuit has held that "Title VII does not prevent
employers from favoring employees because of personal
relationships." Schobert v. Illinois Dep't of Transp.,
304 F.3d 725, 733 (7th Cir. 2002); See also, Preston v. Wisconsin
Health Fund, 397 F.3d 539, 541 (7th Cir. 2005) ("Neither in
purpose nor in consequence can favoritism resulting form a
personal relationship be equated to sex discrimination.") Whether
an employee favors one employee over another because of a
familial relationship, friendship, or love interest, that special
treatment is permissible under Title VII as long as it is not
based on an impermissible classification." Schoebert,
304 F.3d at 733 citing DeCintio v. Westchester County Medeical Center,
807 F.2d 304, 306 (2nd Cir. 1986) (rejecting the argument that
male plaintiff's are discriminated against if a supervisor
prefers his female love interest).
In the instant case, the activity that the EEOC alleged in its
complaint is not proscribed by Title VII. Therefore, the EEOC
cannot satisfy all three prongs necessary to bring a Title VII
complaint. Although a plaintiff need not establish a successful
underlying Title VII claim to satisfy the first element of the
prima facie case for a retaliation claim, he does have to show
that he "reasonably believed in good faith that the practice he
opposed violated Title VII." Firestine v. Parkview Health
System, 388 F.3d 229, 234 (7th Cir. 2003) citing Durkin v.
City of Chicago, 341 F.3d 606, 615 (7th Cir. 2003). The EEOC in
this case has not presented any facts to suggest that Horn
objectively and reasonably believed in good faith that his female
supervisor's favoritism to a paramour was a violation of Title
Based on the facts set forth, Plaintiff has failed to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. For these reasons, we
grant the Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint.
Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint within 28
It is so ordered.
© 1992-2005 VersusLaw Inc.