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Atkins v. Coca Cola Enterprises

November 28, 2007

TERRY ATKINS AND VALERIE MITCHELL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COCA COLA ENTERPRISES, INC., A FOREIGN CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Terry Atkins ("Atkins") and Valerie Mitchell ("Mitchell") bring this action under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 ("the EPA"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), and Illinois law. First, Atkins and Mitchell allege that Coca Cola Enterprises, Inc. ("Coca Cola") violated the EPA by refusing to pay them equal pay as similarly situated male employees. Second, Atkins and Mitchell both allege that Coca Cola sexually discriminated against them: (1) by refusing to pay them equal pay as similarly situated male employees; (2) by retaliating against them for reporting the discrimination and other wrongs by employees; and (3) by perpetuating a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. Third, Atkins and Mitchell each contend that Coca Cola intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon them. Mitchell also alleges that Coca Cola sexually discriminated against her by denying transfer requests to positions for which she was qualified.

Coca Cola moves to dismiss Atkins's and Mitchell's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, requests summary judgment. Both Atkins' and Mitchell's EPA claims are barred by the relevant statute of limitations and are dismissed with prejudice. Regarding Atkins's Title VII claims, the unequal pay claim is dismissed without prejudice because it does not set forth a timely claim, but the retaliation claims (except those that are untimely) and the hostile work environment claim survive. With respect to Mitchell's Title VII claims, the unequal pay claim is dismissed without prejudice because it does not set forth a timely claim, while the claim based on Coca Cola's rejection of transfer requests, the retaliation claim, and the hostile work environment claim are dismissed with prejudice because they are beyond the scope of the EEOC complaint. Atkins and Mitchell's IIED claims are also dismissed with prejudice because they are barred by the statute of limitations.

BACKGROUND

I. The Parties

The Plaintiffs are female citizens of the United States and residents of Illinois. Both were formerly employed by Coca Cola. Coca Cola is a Delaware corporation that does business in Illinois. It is an "employer" as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b).

II. Procedural History

On September 23, 2002 and on March 11, 2003, Atkins and Mitchell filed charges of sexual discrimination with the EEOC. The EEOC issued "right to sue" letters to both Atkins and Mitchell on November 28, 2006.

On February 22, 2007, Atkins and Mitchell brought a six-count Complaint against Coca Cola. Counts I and IV are brought pursuant to the EPA and Title VII. Counts II and V seek damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Illinois law. Counts III and VI for tortuous interference have been voluntarily dismissed.

III. Atkins Allegations

The following facts are taken from the allegations in Atkins' Complaint, which are accepted as true for deciding Coca Cola's Motion to dismiss. First, from 1997 to 2002, Atkins was paid less than her similarly situated male co-workers. Compl. ¶ 11(b). From 1997 to 1999 Atkins was repeatedly told by her supervisor, Tom Bailey, that she could not wear dresses because Coca Cola did not want to draw attention to the fact that she was a woman. Compl. ¶ 11(a). During the same time frame, Atkins was not allowed to use a company car, even though her similarly situated male counterparts were permitted to use company cars. Compl. ¶ 11(h).

There have also been specific instances of conduct in which Atkins was subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination. In August of 2001 another supervisor, Tim Bailey, refused to give Atkins credit for certain vendor sales. During that time, Bailey also wrote Atkins several harassing memos in retaliation to Atkins reporting his illegal activities. Compl. ¶ 11(c). In December of that year, Tom Bailey sexually harassed Atkins by "bumping and rubbing his buttocks up and down" on her at a company function, and by yelling profanities at her through a car window. Compl. ¶ 11(d, e). In February of 2002, Tom Bailey tried to run Atkins off the road while they were driving side by side. Compl. ¶ 11(h). In March of 2002, another supervisor named Jason Worby told Atkins that she was not to complain about Tom Bailey ever again and he confiscated her computer. Compl. ¶ 11(i,j). Lastly, in May of 2002, Jason Worby rated Atkins professionalism as 'unsatisfactory' and stated that she only saved Coca Cola's largest account because "she had a larger chest size." Compl. ¶ 11(k,l). As a result of these unwanted and unwelcome acts of sexual harassment, Atkins brings this cause of action under the EPA, Title VII, and Illinois tort law. Compl. ¶ 13, 14, 22.

IV. Mitchell's Allegations

The following facts are taken from the allegations in Mitchell's Complaint, which are accepted as true for deciding Coca Cola's Motion to dismiss. First, from 1995 until now Coca Cola paid Mitchell less than her similarly situated male co-workers. Compl. ¶ 33(a). From 1999 until 2002 Mitchell was not given performance reviews in a timely fashion. When she did receive performance reviews, they were less favorable and resulted in smaller pay raises than those given to male employees, despite the fact that she outperformed them. Compl. ¶ 33(b).

Coca Cola also discriminated against Mitchell through specific instances of conduct. In February of 2001, Mitchell applied for an Education Marketing Manager position, was rejected, and the position was filled by a less qualified male employee. Compl. ¶ 33(c). Mitchell was then transferred to a less desirable position against her wishes even though other male employees were better suited for the position. Compl. ¶ 33(d). In November 2001, Mitchell applied for a Cold Drink District Manager position in Kankakee, again was rejected, and the position was filled by a less qualified male employee. Compl. ¶ 33(e). In December 2001, Mitchell applied for another Cold Drink District Manager position and also for a Youth Education Marketing Manager position, but again she was rejected and the jobs were given to less qualified male employees. Compl. ¶ 33(f, g). Finally, throughout 2002 Mitchell was assigned undesirable dual duties at two different facilities, when no other male employee had to perform such dual duties. Compl. ¶ 33(h). As a result of these unwanted and unwelcome acts of sexual harassment, Mitchell brings this cause of action under the EPA, Title VII, and Illinois tort law. Compl. ¶ 35, 45.

DISCUSSION

When considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must take as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717 (7th Cir.1995). The plaintiff need not allege all of the facts involved in the claim. See Sanjuan v. American Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir.1994). The claim though must be supported with enough facts, taken as true, that plausibly suggest that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007).

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, a court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. See Bennington v. Caterpillar, Inc., 27 ...


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