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Clifton v. Casino Queen

March 9, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


A. Factual and Procedural History

On February 24, 2005, Plaintiffs Todd Porter, Krista Porter, Sharmin Clifton, and Aaron Oliver filed with this Court a fourteen-count complaint against Defendant Casino Queen, Inc. (Doc. 4). Subsequently, on February 29, 2006, this Court dismissed with prejudice all of Todd and Krista Porter's claims against Casino Queen (Doc. 29). Accordingly, only the claims of Aaron Oliver and Sharmin Clifton remain pending in this matter: Counts III, IV, VII, VIII, XI, and XII. Oliver and Clifton assert that their claims are based upon "unlawful employment practices on the basis of race and retaliation" and are brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101, et seq., as well as "other applicable civil rights and anti-discrimination laws and violations..." (Doc. 1). Counts III and IV assert that Casino Queen subjected Clifton and Oliver to unlawful racial discrimination in violation of Title VII (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 82-91). Counts VII and VIII assert that Casino Queen unlawfully terminated the employment of Clifton and Oliver in retaliation for their participating in statutorily protected activity (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 108-25). Finally, Counts XI and XII assert that Casino Queen intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Clifton and Oliver (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 137-46).

Now before this Court is Casino Queen's motion to dismiss (Doc. 3). Although this motion concerns the claims of all four original plaintiffs, in light of Todd Porter and Krista Porter's dismissal from this action, the Court construes this motion, and alldocuments relevant to the analysis of this motion, only as they relate to those claims asserted by Clifton and Oliver.

B. Standard of Review

Casino Queen's various arguments for dismissal are premised upon FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) governs motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court accepts the plaintiff's allegations as true, and construes all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof. Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). Dismissal for failure to state a claim is warranted only when "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Mattice v. Memorial Hosp. Of South Bend, Inc., 249 F.3d 682, 684 (7th Cir. 2001), citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Accord Hishon, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is appropriate only if "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations").

"Federal complaints plead claims rather than facts." Kolupa v. Roselle Park District, - - F.3d - -, 2006 WL 306955 *1 (7th Cir. Feb. 10, 2006). Under the liberal notice pleading requirements of the federal rules, all that is required to state a claim "is a short statement, in plain ... English, of the legal claim." Kirksey v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 168 F.3d 1039, 1041 (7th Cir. 1999); FED.R.CIV.P.8(a)(2). "It is enough to name the plaintiff and the defendant, state the nature of the grievance, and give a few tidbits (such as the date) that will let the defendant investigate." Kolupa, at * 1. "A full narrative is unnecessary." Id.; see also, e.g., Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002); McDonald v. Household International, Inc., 425 F.3d 424, 427-28 (7th Cir. 2005); Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G. (Zurich), 953 F.2d 1073, 1077-78 (7th Cir. 1992). Thus, Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal should be denied "if any facts that might be established within [a plaintiff's] allegations would permit a judgment for the plaintiff." Duda v. Board of Education of Franklin Park Public School District No. 84, 133 F.3d 1054, 1057 (7th Cir. 1998).

C. Analysis

In its motion to dismiss, Casino Queen asserts multiple arguments for dismissal. The Court considers each in turn.

Clifton and Oliver's Racial Discrimination Claims

Casino Queen argues that Clifton and Oliver are not members of a protected class, do not assert that they met their employer's legitimate employment expectations, and do not assert that other similarly situated employees who did not engage in statutorily protected expression were treated more favorably. Accordingly, Casino Queen argues, this Court should dismiss Clifton and Oliver's claims of racial discrimination for failure to state a claim.

Notably, Casino Queen bases its argument on the fact that Clifton and Oliver "have failed to establish [several elements] necessary to establish a prima facie case of intentional discrimination in violation of Title VII" (Doc. 4, p.8). However, "[a] prima facie case... is an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement." Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 510. "[C]complaints need not narrate events that correspond to each aspect of the applicable rule ...." Kolupa, at *1.

Using the primae facie case strictly as guidance, then, this Court notes that, in order to show intentional racial discrimination, an employee normally must show that: (1) he or she was a member of a protected class; (2) he or she was meeting the employer's legitimate expectations; (3) the employer took an adverse employment action against him or her; and (4) the employer treated at least one similarly-situated individual outside of his or her protected class more favorably. Herron v. Daimler Chrysler Corp., 388 F.3d 293, 299 (7th Cir. 2004).

This case, admittedly, presents a relatively unique circumstance. According to their complaint, Sharmin Clifton is a white female, and Aaron Oliver is a white male (Doc. 1, ΒΆΒΆ 7,8). Casino Queen points out these facts to support its argument that Clifton and Oliver cannot be considered members of a ...

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