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Goetz v. City of Springfield

October 30, 2007

LINDA GOETZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, GREG SEIPEL, JAY C. BARTLETT, TODD RENFROW, AND TIMOTHY J. DAVLIN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff Linda Goetz brought this suit under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants City of Springfield, Greg Seipel ("Seipel"), Jay Bartlett ("Bartlett"), Todd Renfrow ("Renfrow"), and Timothy Davlin ("Davlin"). The Court now considers the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint.

FACTS

The City of Springfield, a municipal corporation, provides public utilities services to various customers through the Department of Public Utilities ("Department").*fn1 Working at the Department and possessing varying degrees of control over employment matters were Defendants Seipel, the superintendent of electrical distribution; Bartlett, the chief utilities engineer; and Renfrow, the director of the Department. The power to make ultimate employment decisions was vested in Defendant Davlin, Mayor of Springfield.

Early in 1999, Plaintiff Goetz began working for the Department as its key accounts manager.*fn2 This position required Goetz to call upon large customers of the Department. Goetz had 26 years of experience in this type of marketing, including seven years of work with the Department's key account customers. Goetz alleges that she adequately performed her duties at all times.

In March of 2005, the Department transferred Goetz from the central office to a different facility. Of the three project managers working at this facility, Goetz was the only female. While at her new location, Goetz began sharing responsibilities with a male project manager with less training and experience. Around this same time, Defendant Seipel supported efforts to increase this male project manager's training in key accounts. Goetz already had such training.

Soon after her transfer, serious problems began to arise. Between April 25, 2005, and April 21, 2006, emails sent or received on Goetz' personal account were forwarded to her City computer, allegedly by City officials, where they were then accessible to City employees. On January 20, 2006, Goetz was removed from active employment and placed on administrative leave. No explanation was given. Goetz was instructed to wait at her home for new assignments. In February of 2006, the Department held a meeting with many of its large customers and introduced the male project manager as the new key accounts contact, effectively replacing Goetz. Having received no assignments at home, Goetz was laid off by the Department in March of 2006. Goetz alleges that no funding changes caused this layoff and that no other persons were laid off at that time.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) allows for the dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (2007). A complaint states a claim where it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Concentra Health, 496 F.3d at 776 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). The court must take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and must draw all possible inferences from those allegations in favor of the complainant. McCready v. eBay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882, 888 (7th Cir. 2006). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is only appropriate when "there is no possible interpretation of the complaint under which it can state a claim." Treadway v. Gateway Chevrolet Oldsmobile Inc., 362 F.3d 971 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 637 (7th Cir. 2004)).

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff Goetz' Complaint seeks relief against the City under Title VII for its employment actions and against all defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Defendants move to dismiss.

A. Claims Against Individual Defendants

1. Official Capacity Claims

First, Defendants argue for the dismissal of Plaintiff's official capacity claims against the individual defendants, because such suits are duplicative of the action against the City of Springfield itself. Generally, official-capacity suits "represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'" Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985). Therefore, where a claim has been asserted against a municipality, "claims against . . . individuals in their official capacities are redundant because suits against municipal agents in their official capacities are actually suits against the municipality." Tabor v. City of Chicago, 10 F. Supp. 2d 988, 991 (7th Cir. 1998). Where, as here, official capacity suits have been alleged in addition to suits against a municipality, "courts have routinely dismissed claims against [the] municipal agents. . . ." Id. (citing David v. Village of Oak Lawn, 1996 WL 210072, at *5 (N.D. ...


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