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Easley v. Iberia Airlines

February 23, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall


Plaintiff LaTonya Easley ("Plaintiff") has sued American Airlines, Inc. ("American") and Iberia Airlines of Spain ("Iberia") and three individuals for race discrimination, wrongful termination, and hostile work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. American moves to dismiss all claims against it on the basis of a settlement agreement between American and Plaintiff, as well as for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6). Iberia moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), and moves to dismiss Count VI of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. American's Motion to Dismiss and Iberia's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings are granted in part and denied in part; Iberia's Motion to Dismiss Count VI is granted.

Plaintiff's Allegations

In November 2000, American hired Plaintiff as a customer service representative. In March 2003, American placed Plaintiff temporarily with Iberia, also as a customer service representative.

While working at Iberia, American and Iberia supervisors denied Plaintiff the use of equipment and facilities, denied her training, intentionally transferred her to less favorable positions than her "Spanish"*fn1 and White counterparts, and offered her the last choice on days off. Additionally, Plaintiff was written up for errors made by her counterparts, denied use of her flexible time, and received improper attendance deductions. Plaintiff's White and Spanish counterparts did not encounter these problems with the supervisors.

During this period, American and Iberia employee supervisors also subjected Plaintiff to racial slurs and/or permitted Plaintiff's subordinates to make such slurs. These supervisors instructed Plaintiff's counterparts not to speak with her, not to assist her, and to keep "constant tabs" on Plaintiff's activities and duties because they believed Plaintiff was stealing from the company.

Plaintiff complained to the Human Resources departments of both American and Iberia, but her complaints went unheeded. On October 16, 2004, Plaintiff was "displaced," or transferred, from her position with Iberia back to a position with American. In April 2005, Plaintiff was terminated from American for reasons that were unrelated to her displacement from Iberia.

Procedural History

On May 31, 2005, Plaintiff submitted a charge of racial discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC (the "Original Charge"). The Original Charge listed only Iberia as an offending party, and the only alleged discriminatory act was the October 2004 displacement from Iberia back to American. The Original Charge did not refer to either American or the April 2005 termination. On June 20, 2005, the EEOC issued a "right to sue" letter for the Original Charge regarding Iberia. On June 25, 2005, Plaintiff filed this action against Iberia alone.

On August 5, 2005, Plaintiff moved for leave to file an amended complaint, alleging that the EEOC had inadvertently left American, a necessary party, out of the Original Charge. ("The August 5, 2005 Motion", Docket No. 14). The August 5, 2005 Motion also indicated that the Plaintiff and American were attempting to negotiate a settlement that would obviate the need to amend the complaint. The Court granted the August 5, 2005 Motion. On August 31, 2005, Plaintiff signed a settlement agreement with American (the "Settlement Agreement"), in which Plaintiff was reinstated at American without back pay, in return for which she agreed to release all present and future claims against American.

On September 25, 2005, Plaintiff filed a second racial discrimination charge with the EEOC (the "New Charge") regarding the October 16, 2004 displacement, this time against American. As a narrative description of the allegations of the New Charge, Plaintiff attached the Original Charge and added nothing further. On October 3, 2005, the EEOC issued a "right to sue" letter for the New Charge. On October 19, 2005, Plaintiff amended her complaint to include American as a party to this suit.

Standard of Review

The relevant standard on Rule 12 is "whether any set of facts consistent with the complaint would give him a right to recover, no matter what the legal theory." Small v. Chao, 398 F.3d 894, 898 (7th Cir. 2005). When reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court takes accepts all facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. See Cleveland v. Rotman, 297 F.3d 569, 571 (7th Cir. 2002). Dismissal pursuant to Rule 12 is appropriate only "if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts" that would entitle her to relief. Id. But "if the plaintiff chooses to provide additional facts, beyond the short and plain statement requirement, the plaintiff cannot prevent the defense from suggesting that those same facts demonstrate the plaintiff is not entitled to relief." McCready v. EBay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882, 888 (7th Cir. 2006), quoting Thompson v. Ill. Dept. of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). ...

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