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Joseph v. Cook County

August 27, 2007

ALVIN JOSEPH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant County of Cook ("County") to dismiss the complaint of Plaintiff Alvin Joseph. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

According to Joseph's complaint and documents attached to it, he applied for a job with the County as a motor vehicle driver in 2003. On August 1 of that year, the County contacted Joseph regarding his application and scheduled him for a performance test. In November 2003, the County informed him that he had successfully qualified on all portions of the assessment process for a motor vehicle driver that he had undertaken to that point but did not yet offer him a job.

On April 5, 2004, Joseph filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. He declared that he had assets totaling $7,731. In the schedule listing his personal property, Joseph asserted, inter alia, that he had no contingent or unliquidated claims. The bankruptcy court accepted his representations and entered an order of discharge of his approximately $35,000 in debts on July 26, 2004. The case was closed August 5, 2004.

More than a year later, on September 16, 2005, the County again contacted Joseph to let him know that he would be hired conditionally but that a physical was required. He was to wait to receive a letter regarding the physical. According to Joseph, the letter never came and the County refused to provide him with any further information about it.

Approximately three months later, Joseph filed a charge with the EEOC. In it, he claimed that the County discriminated against him on the basis of his national origin, which he gave as "Iraqi Arab/Middle Eastern." He listed December 20, 2005, the date of the charge, as the latest date on which discrimination took place.

Joseph received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on October 25, 2006, and filed the instant suit on January 24, 2007. His complaint alleges that the County's failure to hire him violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. It seeks injunctive relief, lost wages, double damages, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, pre- and postjudgment interest, attorneys' fees, expert fees, and costs. The County moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).*fn1

LEGAL STANDARDS

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is used to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, construe allegations of a complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Bontkowski v. First Nat'l Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). To be cognizable, the factual allegations contained within a complaint must raise a claim for relief "above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, - U.S. -, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). However, a pleading need only convey enough information to allow the defendant to understand the gravamen of the complaint. Payton v. Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Med. Ctr., 184 F.3d 623, 627 (7th Cir. 1999).

A complaint's legal sufficiency is not compromised simply because it does not anticipate or otherwise preemptively address potential defenses. Xechem, Inc. v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 372 F.3d 899, 901 (7th Cir. 2004). If the complaint so unmistakably establishes the presence of a defense that the suit is rendered frivolous, the affected allegations can be dismissed before a responsive pleading is filed. Walker v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005, 1009-10 (7th Cir. 2002). Otherwise, it is improper to grant a motion to dismiss on the basis that an affirmative defense exists. See Deckard v. General Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 556, 560 (7th Cir. 2002). With these principles in mind, we consider the instant motion.

DISCUSSION

In support of its motion, the County advances three arguments. First, the County asserts that Joseph should have disclosed this case as a potential asset of the bankruptcy estate in connection with the proceedings before the bankruptcy court. Because he did not, the County urges that his claims should be barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel. Second, the County contends that Joseph's Title VII claims were not brought within the 300-day statute of limitations set forth in 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-5(e)(1) and therefore should be dismissed as untimely. Finally, the ...


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