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United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Roadway Express

July 31, 2007

UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROADWAY EXPRESS, INC. DEFENDANT.
WILLIAM BANDY, TOBY LEE, LUSHAWN SMITH, MARK WILLIAMS, CLARENCE STOKES, FRED THOMPSON, CLARENCE ROYSTER, ANTAWON L. MARSHAL, NERVILLE COX AND CLEOPHUS MARSHAL, INTERVENING-PLAINTIFFS
v.
ROADWAY EXPRESS, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Nan R. Nolan

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In this employment discrimination action, Defendant Roadway Express ("Roadway") moves to dismiss in part the class complaint of Intervening Plaintiffs William Brandy, Toby Lee, LuShwan Smith, Mark Williams, Clarence Stokes, Fred Thompson, Clarence Royster, Antawon Marshal, Nerville Cox, and Cleophus Marshall pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated, Roadway's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Procedural Background

On April 16, 2003, Kenneth Comer, a dockworker employed by Roadway, filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that "[o]n or about April 15, 2001 and continuing I, and Blacks as a class, have been subjected to on going racial harassment at Respondent's Chicago Heights Terminal in the form of racial comments and actions." The April 16, 2003 charge also stated: "I believe that I, and Blacks as a class, have been discriminated against, because of our race, Black, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended." On August 4, 2005, Comer filed a second charge of discrimination alleging that he was discharged on the basis of his race and in retaliation for his filing a previous charge of discrimination.

On September 22, 2005, the EEOC issued a determination letter related to Mr. Comer's two EEOC charges. The determination letter stated the EEOC determined that:

[T]he evidence obtained in the investigation established reasonable cause to believe that [Roadway] discriminated against a class of employees, including Charging Party, because of their race, Black, in that they were subjected to racial harassment, in violation of Title VII. [The EEOC] also determined that [Roadway] discriminated against a class of employees, including Charging Party, because of their race, Black, in that they were subjected to different terms and conditions of employment, in violation of Title VII.

On September 6, 2006, Plaintiff EEOC filed this action against Roadway alleging that since at least 2000, Roadway had engaged in unlawful employment practices including subjecting Kenneth Comer and a class of Black employees to harassment and different terms and conditions because of their race. The EEOC further alleged that the "[t]he unlawful employment practices complained of above were intentional." Doc. # 1 at ¶ 13.

On December 1, 2006, Comer was granted leave to intervene as an individual plaintiff in the EEOC's action. Comer's complaint in intervention alleged that Roadway subjected him and other African-American employees to racial harassment at its Chicago Heights facility and unlawfully discharged him because of his race and in retaliation for complaining of racial harassment. On March 29, 2007, the Court granted the parties' stipulation to voluntarily dismiss Comer's complaint in intervention with prejudice.

On April 10, 2007, William Bandy, Toby Lee, LuShawn Smith, Mark Williams, Clarence Stokes, Fred Thompson, Clarence Royster, Antawon Marshal, Nerville Cox, and Cleophus Marshall ("Intervening-Plaintiffs") were granted leave to intervene in this action. Intervening-Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated African-American dockworkers at Roadway's Chicago Heights and/or Elk Grove facilities. The Intervening-Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of African-American employees for alleged violations of Title VII and Section 1981. The Intervening-Plaintiffs allege that "[e]ach of the representative plaintiffs and class members assert claims arising out of the same unlawful conduct as that alleged in Mr. Comer's timely EEOC charge[.]" Intervening-Plaintiffs allege that they have exhausted their administrative remedies under Title VII based on Mr. Comer's April 16, 2003 charge alleging that "he and Blacks as a class have been subjected to ongoing racial harassment and discrimination by defendant." Doc. 48 at ¶ 24. Intervening-Plaintiffs also allege that the EEOC's investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Roadway discriminated against a class of black employees in that they were subjected to racial harassment and to different terms and conditions of employment. Doc. 48 at ¶ 25.

The Intervening-Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges six claims: racially hostile work environment in violation of Title VII and Section 1981 (Counts 1 & 2); intentional discrimination with respect to job assignments in violation of Title VII and Section 1981 (Count 3); disparate impact discrimination with respect to job assignments in violation of Title VII (Count 4); intentional discrimination with respect to discipline in violation of Title VII and Section 1981 (Count 5); and disparate impact discrimination with respect to discipline in violation of Title VII (Count 6).

Roadway's current motion argues that the Intervening-Plaintiffs' claims for disparate impact discrimination with respect to job assignments and discipline under Title VII (Counts 4 and 6) should be dismissed because the Intervening-Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. Roadway also argues that to the extent that any of Intervening-Plaintiffs' Title VII claims in Counts I and 3-6 relate to conduct at Roadway's Elk Grove Village facility, those claims are beyond the scope of the underlying EEOC charge and should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

II. Discussion

The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide its merits. Gibson v. Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires only an identification of the basis of jurisdiction and a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Generally, a "short and plain statement" exists "when the complaint pleads a 'bare minimum [of] facts necessary to put the defendant on notice of the claim so that he can file an answer.'" Christensen v. County of Boone, Illinois 483 F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007). A complaint need not plead "detailed factual allegations," but the allegations it does include "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell ...


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