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Sorrell v. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

November 13, 2007

CAMMILLE SORRELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This cause is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (d/e 8). For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Dismiss is allowed in part and denied in part.

FACTS

Plaintiff Cammille Sorrell is an African-American female legal investigator with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the Defendant here. In September of 2003, Sorrell filed a Title VII discrimination complaint with against the IEPA. The parties signed a settlement agreement in that case on October 31, 2005 (October 2005 settlement agreement). See Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Exhibit A, October 2005 Settlement Agreement. On April 16, 2007, Sorrell filed the instant 16-count Amended Complaint against the IEPA alleging Title VII racial and gender discrimination and retaliation claims. Amended Complaint (d/e 4). Sorrell's instant claims center on three sets of facts.

First, Sorrell alleges that in May of 2004 and/or May of 2005, she submitted a training request for funding and paid time off to attend the annual Illinois Association of Minorities in Government (IAMG) conference. Sorrell's prior employment evaluations suggested that she improve her communication and interpersonal skills, and Sorrell wished to attend seminars on these skills. Her supervisors in the IEPA Division of Legal Counsel denied all requests to attend the IAMG conferences, however.

In 2006, Sorrell did not believe a training request would be approved and so did not submit one for that year's conference, but she decided to attend without funding or paid time off. She spent $25 and used four hours of vacation leave to attend the 2006 conference. Sorrell later learned that the IEPA provided $350 and/or paid time off to two African-American male employees who attended the 2006 IAMG conference. These two men worked in a different division and did not report to Sorrell's supervisor. See Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Response to Motion to Dismiss (d/e 11), at 5. On May 31, 2006, Sorrell submitted a reimbursement request on a training request form. Her supervisor, William Ingersoll, told her that her request had been approved, but Sorrell alleges that her other supervisors have refused to sign her reimbursement request or actually reimburse her.

On these facts, Sorrell alleges three counts of race discrimination (Counts I, II, and III), three counts of sex discrimination (Counts VI, VII, and VIII), and one count of retaliation (Count IV), based on the 2003 suit.

Second, Sorrell alleges that her employment evaluation for the period ending October 1, 2005 was discriminatory and retaliatory. She received this evaluation on or around November 17, 2005. See Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Response to Motion to Dismiss, at 6, 13. In the evaluation, Sorrell's supervisor stated that one of Sorrell's employment objectives was unmet. He stated that Sorrell had difficulty planning and coordinating how collection efforts should fit with other enforcement actions because Sorrell was unwilling or unable to communicate with her co-workers. He advised Sorrell that her communications should be chattier and more submissive and asked her to communicate with attorneys only by phone or in person.

Sorrell disagreed with the evaluation and asked her supervisor to describe or provide documentation of instances supporting his assessment of her difficulties. She provided him numerous memos noting instances in which she had communicated with others regarding how collection matters fit with other enforcement actions; during the evaluation period, her communications with co-workers resulted in the collection and processing of more than $5.5 million in penalties owed the IEPA. Based on this second set of facts, Sorrell alleges three counts of both race and sex discrimination (Counts IX, X, and XI) and one count of retaliation (Count XII).

Third, Sorrell alleges that on November 30, 2005, the IEPA suspended her without pay because she described her October 2005 evaluation as fabricated and discriminatory. Sorrell received a pre-disciplinary meeting notice informing her that the IEPA was contemplating disciplining her for insubordination. The notice directed her to attend a pre-disciplinary meeting on November 29, 2005, and it allowed her only 5 hours to prepare a rebuttal. After this meeting, the IEPA suspended her for insubordination and conduct unbecoming an IEPA employee.

According to Sorrell, the IEPA deviated from its own policies and practices in suspending her as it did. The IEPA failed to provide her: (1) the names of witnesses and copies of relevant documents before the pre-disciplinary meeting; (2) a clear statement of the actions it considered insubordinate before the pre-disciplinary meeting; (3) reasonable notice of the pre-disciplinary meeting; and (4) a mutually agreeable time for the pre-disciplinary meeting. Sorrell claims that the IEPA does not deviate from its policies and practices when dealing with employees who have never filed Title VII actions, are white, or are male. Based on these facts, Sorrell alleges one count of retaliation (Count XIII) and three counts of both race discrimination and sex discrimination (Counts XIV, XV, and XVI).

The IEPA filed a Motion to Dismiss (d/e 8) and Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (d/e 9) arguing that Sorrell's Amended Complaint fails to comply with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(b), contains redundant allegations, fails to state a cause of action on which relief can be granted, and is barred by the October 2005 settlement agreement. Sorrell opposes the Motion to Dismiss and has asked the Court to sanction the IEPA under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. See Plaintiff's Response to Motion to Dismiss (d/e 10); Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Response to Motion to Dismiss (d/e 11).

ANALYSIS

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), dismissal is proper where a complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted. When a complaint's allegations do not "plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level,'" the Court must dismiss. EEOC v. Concentra Health Svs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 777 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007)). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in a complaint and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Hager v. City of West Peoria, 84 F.3d 865, 868-69 ...


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