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Hobbs v. City of Chicago

December 6, 2006

KELLY HOBBS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant City of Chicago's ("City") partial motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, we grant the City's partial motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Kelly Hobbs ("Hobbs") alleges that she is an African-American female. Hobbs alleges that in 1988 she began working for the City of Chicago Department of Transportation ("CDOT") as a Motor Truck Driver and in 1994 she was taken off truck duty and given the duties of the Lot Supervisor at the 4th district yard. Hobbs claims that although she was given the duties of a Lot Supervisor, she retained the title of Motor Truck Driver.

According to Hobbs, in 1997 she applied for and interviewed for the position of Foreman, but the position was given to a Caucasian male instead of Hobbs. Hobbs also claims to have applied for and interviewed for a Foreman position in 2000, but that the position was given to Defendant Joseph Senese ("Senese"), a Caucasian male. In October 2004, Hobbs allegedly learned that Defendant Pat Quinn ("Quinn"), a Caucasian male, had been promoted to the position of Acting Foreman in August 2004. Hobbs claims that the Foreman position opening was never posted for CDOT employees.

In January 2005, Hobbs allegedly filed a charge of discrimination against the CDOT ("EEOC Charge") with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). In the EEOC Charge, Hobbs alleged that she was denied a promotion to the Foreman position because of her race and gender. According to Hobbs, in April 2005, in retaliation for the filing of the EEOC Charge, her supervisors gave her an oral reprimand for an alleged violation of the "swipe in/out policy" and in May 2005, her supervisors gave Hobbs a three-day suspension for alleged insubordination. (Compl. Par. 28, 32).

Hobbs also alleges that in April 2005 her personal vehicle was vandalized in the CDOT parking lot and that Quinn's personal vehicle was near her vehicle. Hobbs claims that she complained to Senese about the vandalism, asserting that Quinn was a possible suspect for the crime. Senese allegedly dismissed the allegations made against Quinn and did not properly investigate Hobbs' vandalism complaint. Hobbs also contends that in April 2005, she was assigned certain work duties in order to humiliate her and that Quinn and other Caucasian male employees repeatedly "congregated outside her office door . . . in order to intimidate her as she entered or exited her office." (Compl. Par. 30(b)).

Hobbs brought the instant action and includes in the complaint a claim brought against all Defendants alleging race discrimination and retaliation claims based upon a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") (Count I), a claim brought against the City alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count II), a Title VII gender discrimination claim brought against the City (Count III), a Title VII retaliation claim brought against the City (Count IV), and a claim brought against all Defendants alleging equal protection and gender discrimination claims based upon a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983")(Count V). The City now moves to dismiss Counts I and V to the extent that they are brought against the City. The City also moves to dismiss Hobbs' Title VII claims to the extent that they are based upon alleged harassment that occurred prior to the filing of the EEOC Charge and are based upon a failure to promote Hobbs in 1997 and 2000.

LEGAL STANDARD

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must draw all reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff, construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). The allegations of a complaint should not be dismissed for a failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Baker v. Kingsley, 387 F.3d 649, 664 (7th Cir. 2004)(stating that although the "plaintiffs' allegations provide[d] little detail. . . [the court could not] say at [that] early stage in the litigation that plaintiffs [could] prove no set of facts in support of their claim that would entitle them to relief"). Nonetheless, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege the "operative facts" upon which each claim is based. Kyle v. Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998); Lucien v. Preiner, 967 F.2d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 1992). Under the current notice pleading standard in federal courts, a plaintiff need not "plead facts that, if true, establish each element of a 'cause of action . . . .'" See Sanjuan v. American Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)(stating that "[a]t this stage the plaintiff receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint" and that "[m]atching facts against legal elements comes later"). The plaintiff need not allege all of the facts involved in the claim and can plead conclusions. Higgs v. Carver, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002); Kyle, 144 F.3d at 455. However, any conclusions pled must "provide the defendant with at least minimal notice of the claim," Kyle, 144 F.3d at 455, and the plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading requirements merely "by attaching bare legal conclusions to narrated facts which fail to outline the bases of [his] claims." Perkins, 939 F.2d at 466-67. The Seventh Circuit has explained that "[o]ne pleads a 'claim for relief' by briefly describing the events." Sanjuan, 40 F.3d at 251; Nance v. Vieregge, 147 F.3d 589, 590 (7th Cir. 1998)(stating that "[p]laintiffs need not plead facts or legal theories; it is enough to set out a claim for relief").

DISCUSSION

The City argues that the court should dismiss the Section 1981 and Section 1983 claims brought against the City because Hobbs has not alleged that the misconduct was caused by a City policy, practice, or custom. The City also argues that Hobbs cannot base a Title VII claim upon an alleged failure to promote Hobbs in 1997 and 2000 because such allegations are untimely. Finally, the City argues that Hobbs cannot base a Title VII claim upon alleged harassment that Hobbs suffered at work prior to the filing of the EEOC Charge.

I. Section 1981 and Section 1983 Claims Against City (Counts I and V)

The City argues that Hobbs has failed to allege facts under which the City could be held liable under Section 1981 or Section 1983. In order to establish municipal liability for a Section 1983 or Section 1981 claim, a plaintiff must show that "execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury." Calhoun v. Ramsey, 408 F.3d 375, 379 (7th Cir. 2005)(quoting Monell v. N.Y. City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 324 (7th Cir. 2000)(applying Monell analysis to Section 1981 claims); Looper Maint. Serv. Inc. v. City of Indianapolis, 197 F.3d 908, 913 (7th Cir. 1999)(stating that the plaintiff bringing a Section 1981 claim had to "'show that the violation of his right to make contracts protected by § 1981 was caused by a custom or policy within the meaning of Monell and subsequent cases'")(quoting Jett v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 491 U.S. 701 (1989)). This policy or custom can be shown: "'(1) through an express policy that, when enforced, causes a constitutional deprivation; (2) through a wide-spread practice that although not authorized by written law and express policy, is so permanent and well-settled as to constitute a custom or usage with the ...


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