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Fletcher v. State

June 13, 2006

ANGELA FLETCHER, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STATE OF ILLINOIS, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment on the claims of plaintiff Angela Fletcher (Doc. 55).*fn1 Plaintiff is one of twelve plaintiffs who have filed suit against the State of Illinois Department of Corrections for alleged discrimination on the basis of sex in the terms, conditions and privileges of employment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e.*fn2

The defendant seeks summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff brings this claim because she did not file a charge of discrimination within 300 days of the alleged improper conduct, and that her charge of discrimination did not set forth, with some specificity, the conduct giving rise to her claims, and that she did not file her complaint within 90 days of receiving a right to sue letter.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a female correctional officer for the Illinois Department of Corrections at the Menard prison facility. In Count I of the complaint (filed in Cause No. 04-153), Fletcher claims that she was subjected to various forms of sexual harassment by correctional officer Lou Stout, including unwanted touching, kissing, and groping. Fletcher alleges that she reported this behavior to her supervisor, Sgt. Steve Mifflin, who did nothing. She also reported the behavior to Captain Doug Lyeria who agreed to talk to Stout. The unwanted behavior allegedly continued, occurring at an employee Christmas party and again two weeks later. Stout was placed on administrative leave.

Fletcher alleges that after Stout was placed on leave, she returned to an environment that was hostile, and that she suffered retaliation from other employees. She alleges that she discussed the retaliation actions with Tom Caroway, from Internal Affairs, and although he agreed to look into it, nothing was done.

Fletcher transferred to another shift, but alleges that the retaliation continued. She was thereafter assigned to work in "North 2 Seg" and alleges that the hostile environment worsened in that she was given assignments to move inmates in a manner that was contrary to official policy and practice; that she was assigned without being given instruction on her assignment, and that male employees were given instruction for assignments; that she was told that women should not be able to work in the "electric eye" (the prison entrance ) where she had been transferred, and that she was only assigned there because she had filed her harassment suit; that she was threatened to "watch her mouth" and to "be careful" while on the gallery; that she received threatening letters from inmates but was left to feed that inmate herself; that tickets she wrote for inmate behavior would "disappear"; that she was assigned in October of 2000 to work in "North 2 Annex" which was where other female employees who complained were sent to work; and, that when she was interviewed by Internal Affairs, she was told that she was "whining."

REVIEW STANDARDS

1. Filing of the EEOC Complaint

The defendant asserts that plaintiff did not file her EEOC complaint in a timely manner and therefore cannot maintain this action. Initially, the defendant asserts that plaintiff did not file her complaint within 300 days of the complained-of action. Specifically, the defendant asserts that the claims of sexual harassment were not included in her EEOC complaint, only her claims of retaliation were included and that some of the allegations in her complaint, specifically the May through October 2000 claims, were not part of the EEOC complaint and cannot now be raised in this action. Plaintiff asserts that she filed her verified questionnaire with the EEOC within 300 days of the January 27, 2000, incident and that the Court should treat the verified questionnaire as a complaint. The EEOC charge of discrimination (Pl. Ex. 58) was filed by plaintiff on January 4, 2001. It alleges retaliation, and indicates a date of February 21, 2000, as the beginning and ending dates. (Id. pp. 12-14). The EEOC questionnaire is dated 10/25/2000 (Ex. 58 pp. 50-56). In it Fletcher provides that she reported that she had been sexually harassed on or about February 21, 2000, and that the harassment was by a fellow officer.

As a general rule, a Title VII plaintiff cannot bring claims in a lawsuit that were not included in her EEOC charge. Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 47 (1974). This rule serves the dual purpose of affording the EEOC and the employer an opportunity to settle the dispute through conference, conciliation, and persuasion. Id. at 44. In addition, it gives the defendant some warning of the conduct about which the employee complains. Rush v. McDonald's Corp., 966 F.2d 1104, 1110 (7th Cir. 1992). This rule is not jurisdictional, Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 392(1982), but it is a condition precedent with which the plaintiffs must comply. Babrocky v. Jewel Food Co., 773 F.2d 857, 864 (7th Cir. 1985). The Seventh Circuit has noted that:

Were the private party permitted to add claims that had not been presented in the administrative charge filed with the EEOC, the Commission's informal procedures for resolving discrimination charges, see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b); 29 C.F.R. § 1601.24, would be by-passed, in derogation of the statutory scheme. Great American Federal Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Novotny, 442 U.S. 366, 375-76; Cable v. Ivy Tech State College, 200 F.3d 467, 476- 77 (7th Cir. 1999); Anjelino v. New York Times Co., 200 F.3d 73, 93 (3d Cir. 1999).

EEOC v. Caterpillar, Inc., 409 F.3d 831, 833 (7th Cir. 2005). Therefore, allowing a complaint to include allegations outside the ambit of the EEOC charge would frustrate the EEOC's investigatory and conciliatory role, as well as deprive the charged party of notice of the charge.

The Court is aware, however, that because most EEOC charges are completed by laypersons and not by lawyers, a Title VII plaintiff need not allege in an EEOC charge each and every fact that combines to form the basis of each claim in her complaint. Taylor v. W. & S. Life Ins. Co., 966 F.2d 1188, 1195 (7th Cir. 1992). Therefore, Title VII claims set forth in a complaint are cognizable if they are "like or reasonably related to the allegations of the charge and growing out of such allegations." Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mut. Hosp. Ins., Inc., 538 F.2d 164, 167 (7th Cir. 1976) (quoting Danner v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 447 F.2d 159, 162 (5th Cir. 1971)). Thus, if there is a reasonable relationship between the allegations in the charge and the claims in the complaint, then the claims will be allowed to go forward. Here, the Court FINDS that there is a reasonable relationship between the actions alleged to have been taken against plaintiff and her claims of sexual harassment by Stout. Whether plaintiff can prove that these acts were related is a matter to be determined at trial. For purposes of this summary ...


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