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Hall v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois

January 11, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge


Plaintiff Barbara A. Hall alleges that her former employer, defendant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois ("BCBS"), discriminated against her on the basis of her age, color, race and sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA").*fn1 She also claims that BCBS retaliated against her following her complaints of unfair treatment. BCBS filed a motion to dismiss Hall's age and failure to hire claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, we grant BCBS's motion.


In her Complaint, Hall alleges that while employed in BCBS's Media/E-Solutions department she was subjected to age, race and sex discrimination. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 12, 16(f).) She claims that BCBS: (1) failed to hire her; (2) terminated her employment; (3) failed to promote her; (4) failed to stop the age, race and sex discrimination; and (5) retaliated against her after she complained of the discrimination. (Id. at ¶ 12.) She filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on February 8, 2005, claiming that she was treated less favorably than similarly situated non-Black male employees. (EEOC Charge, Attach. to Compl.) After complaining about the discrimination, she received a poor performance review and was constructively discharged in January 2005. (Id.) In her EEOC Charge, Hall checked boxes indicating that she suffered race and sex discrimination, as well as retaliation. (Id.) The EEOC issued Hall a right-to-sue letter on April 26, 2005 and this litigation followed. (Compl. ¶ 8(b); Dismissal and Notice of Rights, Attach. to Compl.)


The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Accordingly, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is warranted only if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of her claims that would entitle her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102 (1957). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), we accept all well-pleaded allegations as true. Treadway v. Gateway Chevrolet Oldsmobile, Inc., 362 F.3d 971, 981 (7th Cir. 2004); Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regul., 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002).


A. Failure to Hire Claim

BCBS moves to dismiss Hall's failure to hire claim because Hall admits that she worked for BCBS from approximately August 1999 through January 2005.(See Compl. ¶ 16(f).) In her response, Hallacknowledges that she was an employee of BCBS. (Resp. ¶ 2.) In addition, Hall explained that including a "failure to hire" claim was really her "way of saying that BCBS failed to transfer [her] to another department when requested." (Id.) Thus, both parties agree BCBS employed Hall, and we grant BCBS's motion.*fn2

B. Failure to Exhaust ADEA Claims

BCBS seeks dismissal of Hall's discrimination and retaliation claims under the ADEA, contending that she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with the EEOC. In response, Hall stated that she "explained to the case rep that everyone in the department was under the age of 30." (Resp. ¶ 1) (emphasis omitted). She claims that EEOC personnel omitted her allegations of age discrimination from the charge because there "clearly wasn't enough space to document the complete story." (Id.)

Before pursuing "an ADEA claim in federal court, a plaintiff must first have raised it in a timely EEOC charge." Ajayi v. Aramark Bus. Servs., Inc., 336 F.3d 520, 527 (7th Cir. 2003); 29 U.S.C. § 626(d); see also Geldon v. S. Milwaukee Sch. Dist., 414 F.3d 817, 819 (7th Cir. 2005); Cheek v. W. & S Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1994). This requirement exists to "give the employer fair notice of the conduct about which the employee is complaining" and to provide the EEOC and the employer an opportunity to investigate and resolve the dispute. Geldon, 414 F.3d at 819; see Novitsky v. Am. Consulting Eng'rs, L.L.C., 196 F.3d 699, 701-702 (7th Cir. 1999); Cheek, 31 F.3d at 500. In complying with the charge-filing requirement, plaintiffs need not allege every single fact that might support their claims in the charge. Vela v. Vill. of Sauk Vill., 218 F.3d 661, 664 (7th Cir. 2000); Novitsky, 196 F.3d at 701-702; Cheek, 31 F.3d at 500. Nonetheless, federal discrimination claims are actionable in court only if they are "'like or reasonably related to the allegations of the [EEOC] charge and growing out of such allegations.'" Cheek, 31 F.3d at 500 (quoting Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mut. Hosp. Ins., Inc., 538 F.2d 164, 167 (7th Cir. 1976)); see Novitsky, 196 F.3d at 701-702; Brongel v. Bank One Corp., No. 03 C 5433, 2004 WL 406909, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 11, 2004). In evaluating the scope of the EEOC charge, "we ask 'what EEOC investigation could reasonably be expected to grow from the original complaint?'" Ajayi, 336 F.3d at 527 (quoting Novitsky, 196 F.3d at 701).

After reviewing Hall's EEOC charge, we conclude that an investigation based on its allegations would not reasonably include any ADEA claims. See Ajayi, 336 F.3d at 527-528. The ADEA claims asserted in her Complaint plainly are not related to the allegations of race and sex discrimination and retaliation under Title VII presented to the EEOC. In her charge, Hall did not:

(1) provide her date of birth; (2) check the age discrimination box; or (3) include any facts describing discrimination or retaliation under the ADEA. (EEOC Charge, Attach. to Compl.) Under similar circumstances, the Seventh Circuit barred a plaintiff's ADEA claim, observing that "there is simply no reason to think that any EEOC investigation arising from [plaintiff's race discrimination] charge would have uncovered the alleged age bias." Ajayi, 336 F.3d at 526 n.2, 527; see also Brongel, 2004 WL 406909, at *4 (dismissing age, race, color and national origin claims because they were not related to the sexual harassment and retaliation claims asserted in EEOC charge). ...

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