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Idahosa v. Nord Cleaning Services

March 3, 2006

ROBERT O. IDAHOSA PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORD CLEANING SERVICES, INC. ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is a Motion to Strike and Dismiss by Defendants Curt Nord, Linda Sears, and Nord Cleaning Services, Inc. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Strike and Dismiss [#10] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken primarily from Plaintiff's Complaint and his Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff Robert O. Idahosa ("Idahosa") filed a Complaint against Curt Nord ("Curt"), the president and owner of Nord Cleaning Services, Inc., Linda Sears ("Sears"), the business manager for Nord Cleaning Services, Inc., and Nord Cleaning Services, Inc. ("Nord"). Idahosa was employed by Nord from January, 2001 to until September, 2004. Idahosa has brought this lawsuit claiming that Curt, Sears, and Nord (collectively "Defendants") discriminated against him in violation of Title VII, the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Illinois Human Rights Act. Idahosa claims that Defendants denied him raises, promotions, insurance benefits, and mileage reimbursement because he is African-American. Additionally, Idahosa claims that Defendants refused to offer him reasonable accommodations for his disability and that he was constructively discharged because of his disability in violation of the ADA. Idahosa seeks back pay, costs of bringing this lawsuit, restoration of lost benefits, compensation for future monetary lossess, and compensation for mental anguish and pain and suffering. Idahosa also asks this Court to order injunctive relief, punitive damages, and restitution in the amount of $5,000,000.

The Defendants have filed a Motion to Strike and Dismiss portions of Idahosa's Complaint. Specifically, Defendants ask this Court to dismiss the claims against Curt and Sears because these two individuals were not named as respondents in the charge that Idahosa filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and they do not qualify as employers under Title VII or the ADA. Additionally, Defendants ask this Court to dismiss Idahosa's claim of discrimination on the basis that he was denied promotions because Idahosa did not include this claim in his EEOC charge. Finally, Defendants ask this Court to strike Idahosa's requests for punitive damages and compensatory damages.

Idahosa filed a timely response to Defendants' motion. As these issues are now fully briefed, this Order follows.

DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss

In resolving a motion to dismiss, this Court must consider all well-pled facts as true and must draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Bontkowski v. First Nat'l Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, Courts consider whether relief is possible under any set of facts that could be established consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45--46 (1957). This Court will dismiss a claim only if it is beyond doubt that no set of facts would entitle the Plaintiff to relief.

Chaney v. Suburban Bus. Div., 52 F.3d 623, 627 (7th Cir. 1995); Venture Associates. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 432 (7th Cir. 1993).

Defendants argue that this Court should dismiss Idahosa's claims against Curt and Sears because they were not named as respondents in Idahosa's EEOC charge. Generally, a party not named in an EEOC charge may not be sued under Title VII. Schnellbaecher v. Baskin Clothing Co., 887 F.2d 124, 126 (7th Cir. 1989). However, a party that is not named in the EEOC charge may be sued where the unnamed party received adequate notice of the charge and was provided with an opportunity to participate in the conciliation proceedings. Id. at 126--27. Here, Idahosa only named Nord in his EEOC charge. Although Curt and Sears may not have had notice of the charge or an opportunity to participate in the conciliation proceeding, they have not claimed as such in their Motion to Dismiss. Instead, Curt and Sears merely rely on the general rule that a cause of action pursuant to Title VII may only be brought against a person who was named as a respondent in the EEOC charge. Defendants simply fail to acknowledge the exception that the Seventh Circuit has recognized for individuals who were not named in the charge but had notice and an opportunity to participate in the conciliation process. The Court finds that Curt and Sears may have had notice of the EEOC charge and an opportunity to participate in the conciliation process because they both occupied managerial positions with Nord. Additionally, Curt and Sears have not stated otherwise in their motion. Drawing all inferences in Idahosa's favor, the Court finds that Curt and Sears may have had notice and an opportunity to participate in the conciliation process. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Curt and Sears on this basis.

Defendants' second argument is that the claims against Curt and Sears should be dismissed because Curt and Sears do not qualify as employers under Title VII or the ADA.

Defendants argue that Curt and Sears are not "employers" because they are individuals and did not employ Idahosa in their personal capacities. The Seventh Circuit has held that the term "employer" is interchangeable for claims based on Title VII and the ADA, Williams v. Banning, 72 F.3d 552, 553--54 (7th Cir. 1995), and only an "employer" can be held liable for violations of Title VII or the ADA. EEOC v. AIC Sec. Investigations, Ltd., 55 F.3d 1276, 1279--832. Here, Idahosa appears to argue that Curt and Sears should be held liable in their individual capacities because they were involved in the hiring, managing, and firing of employees. However, as the Seventh Circuit has held "it is by now well established in this court that 'a supervisor does not, in his individual capacity, fall within Title VII's definition of employer.'" Sattar v. Motorola, 138 F.3d 1164, 1168 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting Williams, 72 F.3d at 555). "[A] supervisor is not a proper defendant in Title VII, the suit must proceed against the employer as an entity rather than against a natural person." Carver v. Sheriff of LaSalle County, Illinois, 243 F.3d 379, 381 (7th Cir. 2001); Robinson v. Sappington, 351 F.3d 317, 332, n. 9 (7th Cir. 2003) ("It is only the employee's employer who may be held liable under Title VII."). Accordingly, the claims against Curt and Sears must be dismissed.

Finally, Defendants ask the Court to dismiss Idahosa's claim that he was discriminated against because the Defendants denied him a promotion based on his race. Defendants argue that this claim should be dismissed because this allegation was not included in Idahosa's EEOC charge and therefore Defendants did not have notice of this claim or the opportunity to settle this dispute through voluntary conciliation. Generally, a Title VII plaintiff cannot bring claims in a lawsuit that were not included in his EEOC charge. Cheek v. W. & So. Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir.1994). This rule ...


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