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Muhammad v. Chicago Park Dist.

March 30, 2007

KALEMATE MUHAMMAD, AND LOVE TEACHING TENNIS, NFP, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Kalemate Muhammad ("Muhammad ") and Love Teaching Tennis, NFP (collective, "Plaintiffs") are suing Muhammad's former employer, the Chicago Park District ("Defendant") for racial and religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"); racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §1981 ("Section 1981"); slander; and tortious interference with business relationships and contractual relations in six separate counts. Before this Court is Defendant's awkwardly titled "Motion to Decline Supplemental Jurisdiction Over or To Dismiss All of Counts IV, V, and VI and to Dismiss Parts of Counts I, II and III." Defendant makes its motion pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated in the opinion below, Defendant's motion is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Muhammad is an African-American Muslim man who resides in the Jackson Park neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Illinois. Muhammad has been a certified member of the United States Professional Tennis Association for many years. He has taught numerous tennis programs to young people in his community. In 2003, Muhammad created the entity "Love Teaching Tennis" as a vehicle to teach tennis to disadvantaged youth. On April 7, 2004, Muhammad incorporated Love Teaching Tennis as a not-for-profit corporation named "Love Teaching Tennis, NFP."

Over the years, Muhammad has complained to the Chicago Park District officials that he has noticed disparate treatment of tennis courts in disadvantaged neighborhoods and tennis courts in more affluent neighborhoods. In his view, many of the parks in disadvantaged neighborhoods have inadequate tennis courts in states of disrepair, while the tennis courts in more affluent neighborhoods are in much better condition.

Defendant denied Muhammad permits to teach tennis lessons through Love Teaching Tennis on numerous occasions throughout 2004 and 2005. Defendant also has denied Muhammad access to Defendant's tennis courts without providing any valid reasons. On some occasions Defendant, through its agents, has interfered with the contractual relationship between Plaintiffs and their customers. On one such occasion in June or July 2004, Plaintiffs were providing services to customers by teaching a tennis lesson to two youths while their mother observed. Defendant's agent, William Tillis, saw that Muhammad was engaged in a tennis lesson when he approached Muhammad and his customers. Tillis told the customers that Muhammad had improperly appropriated and used Defendant's property. The customer immediately terminated the lesson, and never again used Plaintiffs' services. Defendant's interference with the contractual relationship between Plaintiffs and their customers has caused the Plaintiffs damage.

Nevertheless, in June 2005, Muhammad was hired by Defendant as a summer tennis coach, providing tennis lessons to children. Muhammad was told at the time of hiring that he would be assigned to work in a park in his own community, namely Jackson Park. However, Defendant assigned Muhammad to a park far from his community and in a high-crime, high-risk neighborhood.

Muhammad complains of his working conditions in addition to the location to which he was assigned. At some point Defendant reprimanded Muhammad for not wearing a Chicago Park Department t-shirt while working. Muhammad has forced to spend his own money on equipment. Muhammad determined that Defendant has not provided enough equipment to adequately teach tennis lessons to the children so he purchased thousands of dollars of his own equipment, including tennis racquets, tennis balls, and a battery-operated ball machine, to provide lessons to the children.

On July 8, 2005, Defendant fired Muhammad without warning. Immediately thereafter, Defendant's agents confiscated some of Muhammad's tennis equipment. Muhammad was forced to call the police to regain his tennis equipment.

Muhammad asserts that Defendant mistreated him because of his race and religion in comparison to similarly situated employees who are not African-American or Muslim. He asserts that he was terminated because of his race and religion. He asserts that he was qualified to be retained as a summer tennis coach. He asserts that he has complied with all administrative prerequisites by filing timely charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC issued Muhammad a Notice of Right to Sue.

Defendant has denied Muhammad access to its public tennis courts. On or about July 8, 2005, Defendant's agents, including David Kennedy, told a third party, including Ms. Nicole Masani, that Muhammad improperly appropriated and used Defendant's equipment and property for financial gain. Muhammad did not improperly appropriate or use Defendant's equipment or property for financial gain. Muhammad alleges that he has suffered damage to his reputation and livelihood based on Defendant's agents' false statements. Additionally, Love Teaching Tennis suffered damages as a result of the damage to Muhammad's reputation.

Defendant has interfered with Plaintiffs' business by intentionally removing flyers of programs, and removing and discarding banners. Defendant continues to prevent Plaintiffs from doing business at Defendant's public tennis courts. Defendant's conduct has caused damage to Plaintiffs' business.

Plaintiffs' original complaint was filed on January 19, 2006. This Court appointed counsel for Plaintiffs and allowed them to submit an amended complaint. Plaintiffs filed ...


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