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Everett v. Cook County Board of Commissioners

January 8, 2008

CAROL A. EVERETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS AND TIMOTHY EGAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS HEARING OFFICER, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Carol A. Everett ("Everett") filed a two-count Complaint against Defendants Cook County Board of Commissioners ("County Board") and Timothy Egan ("Egan") alleging violations of the Skakman Decree and petitioning for a writ of certiorari under Illinois State Law. Cook County and Egan move to dismiss Everett's Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Everett is a highly skilled and experienced dentist who worked for County Board as a Dentist for the Cermak Health Services ("CHS") from June 14, 1982 to March 30, 2007. Cplt. ¶ 10. CHS provides medical and dental services to Cook County Jail inmates. Id. On March 29, 2007, County Board notified Everett by letter that she was to be laid off from her "Dentist II" position effective on March 30, 2007. Cplt. ¶ 11. There were five other dentists with the title of "Dentist II" at CHS. Cplt. ¶ 12. When Everett received County Board's notification letter, she did not know the identities of other Dentist II's subject to the same reduction-in-force. Cplt. ¶ 11. She assumed, however, that all Dentist II's were being laid off because she was the most senior Dentist II at CHS. Id. Unbeknownst to Everett, three other dentists who were junior to Everett were also laid off pursuant to the reduction-in-force. Cplt. ¶ 12. On April 2, 2007, Everett learned that County Board retained one Dentist II, Dr. Ronald Townsend ("Townsend"). Id. Townsend was the second most senior Dentist II, but had 10 1/2 years less seniority than Everett. Id.

Because Everett was the most senior Dentist II at CHS by 10 1/2 years, she initially assumed that County Board made a mistake when it calculated her seniority. Cplt. ¶ 14. Everett worked on a part-time basis for a period of time for health reasons and believed that County Board discounted her level of seniority as a result. Id. Seeking a clarification, Everett asked the Cook County Employee Appeals Board to review the decision to terminate her employment. Cplt. ¶ 15. She was not represented by counsel at the time of her request. Id. Everett later learned that County dentists and physicians must file their appeals with the County Board's Bureau of Human Resources and not the Employee Appeals Board. Cplt. ¶ 16. On May 7, 2007, Everett agreed to transfer her appeal to the County Board's Human Resources Department. The Department would then appoint a hearing officer to review her termination. Cplt. ¶ 17. Two days later, Everett's request for a hearing officer was denied and she re-filed in on May 29, 2007. Cplt. ¶ 18.

On May 7, 2007, Everett asked County Board to provide her with its calculation of CHS Dentists' seniority status and to identify any other criteria other than seniority used to determine which Dentist II's would remain at CHS after the reduction-in-force. Cplt. ¶ 21. On June 26, 2007, County Board provided the information to Everett and she learned for the first time that the County Board had not miscalculated her seniority status. Cplt. ¶ 20.Rather, the County Board bypassed seniority and relied upon other criteria in choosing less-senior Townsend. Id. During the same time period, Everett discovered that Townsend's private dental practice was located in or immediately adjacent to Chicago's 8th Ward, the seat of power for County Board President Todd Stroger's County Democratic Organization. Cplt. ¶ 23. Townsend supported the Stroger political organization. Cplt. ¶ 24.

Everett agreed to schedule her appeal hearing for June 29, 2007. Cplt. ¶ 19. Egan, a full-time Cook County employee, was the appointed Hearing Officer. Id. Although Everett requested to have a court reporter present to transcribe the proceedings and offered to pay for the reporter, her request was denied. Cplt. ¶ 22. On June 29, 2007, the County Board conducted Everett's appeal hearing. Cplt. ¶ 24. According to Everett, she proved that she was more experienced and better qualified than Townsend and established that the County Board gave false and pretextual reasons for its decision to terminate Everett and retain Townsend. Cplt. ¶ 25. Nonetheless, on August 2, 2007, Egan upheld the County Board's decision. Cplt. ¶ 26.

The County Board follows a different process prior to making reduction-in-force decisions when its decisions concerned doctors and other professionals. Cplt. ¶ 27. Namely, prior to making reduction-in-force decisions, the County Board conducts pre-termination interviews with potentially affected employees and rates them based upon a variety of objective and subjective criteria. Id. This process was chosen primarily to ensure the County Board's compliance with the Shakman Decree. Cplt. ¶ 28. The County Board did not follow this process when it terminated Everett. Cplt. ¶ 29.

Everett claims that the County Board's choice to terminate her and retain Townsend was motivated by political factors. In Count I, Everett alleges that County Board violated the Shakman Decree and seeks backpay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs. Count II, brought against Egan only, petitions for a writ of certiorari under Illinois State Law.

STANDARD

Motions to Dismiss are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. McCready v. eBay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882, 888 (7th Cir. 2006). The court must take as true "all well-pleaded factual allegations and making all possible inferences from those allegations in" the plaintiff's favor. Id. (citation omitted). In order to state a claim, a plaintiff must allege facts that plausibly suggest he is entitled to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 2007 WL 1461066, *8 (May 21, 2007). To allege plausible grounds for relief, the complaint must allow a "reasonable expectation" that discovery will reveal evidence of illegality. Id. at 1965.

DISCUSSION

Count I: Everett's Claim under the Shakman Decree

I. Everett's Claim is not barred by the Statute of ...


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