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Sawyer v. Nicholson

October 19, 2007

LATASHA SAWYER, DARREN STEELE, RENEE GUSTAFSON, AND LAWRENCE GREEN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JIM NICHOLSON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, JERRY BROWN, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, JAMES LAMPADA, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, MICHELLE BLAKELY, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, JOHN SMITH, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, NATALIE DUNN, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, GERALDINE WEBB, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND UNKNOWN AND UNNAMED CO-CONSPIRATORS IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the court on defendant Jim Nicholson's motion to dismiss five of the eleven counts of the complaint, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedures 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the defendant's motion to dismiss Counts I, VIII, IX, X, and XI is granted in part, and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following allegations are taken from plaintiff's first amended complaint. The plaintiffs and defendants in this case were, at all times relevant to, employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs ("the Department") and worked at a police services unit that provided security services to the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center ("Medical Center") and to the Office of Veterans Affairs, located in Chicago, Illinois.

Plaintiff Sawyer worked for the Department as a secretary to defendant Jerry Brown, police chief at the Medical Center. Brown had supervisory authority over each plaintiff. Sawyer alleges that she was falsely accused of misusing government property after she complained of Brown's explicit comments and behavior while on the job. Because of her complaints, Sawyer claims that she was relieved of many job duties, and had her purchase records audited. After filing an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint, she was reassigned again to Facilities Management Service where she claims she was physically threatened and repeatedly charged with various violations. She was then reassigned to the Logistics Department where she was also allegedly harassed, threatened, and forced to work with extremely ill patients even though she was pregnant.

Plaintiff Steele, a police officer, alleges that after he cooperated with investigators regarding other employee's EEO complaints, he experienced false accusations of patient abuse, suspensions, job reassignments, and had his weapon taken away.

Plaintiff Gustafson was originally a police officer in the police services unit at the Medical Center, but was later promoted to a police supervisory position at the Office of Veterans Affairs. Gustafson alleges that she was improperly suspended, pressured to change her testimony, and denied mandatory supervisory training after she was a witness on behalf of another employee who was being unlawfully investigated.

Plaintiff Green, a police officer, alleges that he was delayed in receiving a promotion to VA Supervisory Police Officer, as was guaranteed to him as part of an EEO settlement with his employer. Additionally, he claims to have been wrongly cited for unprofessional conduct, forced to write altered reports, forced to write false reports, repeatedly disciplined for false reasons, threatened, and ultimately demoted after filing another EEO complaint.

In Count I, the plaintiffs state that the defendants unlawfully conspired against them, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 ("Section 1985"), in an effort to deprive plaintiffs of due process and equal protection under the law. Plaintiffs allege that defendants Brown, Blakely, Lampada, Smith, Dunn, and Webb had a common plan and conspired against them by taking arbitrary and wrongful actions against employees who filed or participated in protected activities, which generally consisted of EEO complaints against Chief of Policy Brown. Such actions consisted of interfering with plaintiffs' terms and conditions of employment, and ultimately depriving the plaintiffs of their due process rights as federal employees and equal protection.

In Count VIII, a state supplemental claim, plaintiff Green alleges that defendant Nicholson breached a contract that they expressly entered into as part of an EEO settlement agreement. As part of this contract, Green was to be promoted to a supervisory position, which included a pay increase, and, in return, Green would withdraw any claims against Nicholson. Nicholson allegedly breached this contract when he first delayed giving Green the promotion, and subsequently demoted Green in violation of the agreement.

Counts IX, X, and XI involve former Plaintiff Donna Watkins, who voluntarily dismissed claims alleging false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution on May 14, 2007 [16].

The plaintiffs also allege numerous Title VII violations, none of which are challenged by way of this motion to dismiss (Counts II-VII).

DISCUSSION

In review of this motion to dismiss, the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs. Boim v. Quranic Literacy Inst. and Holy Land ...


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