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Jones v. Bremen High School District 228

March 4, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning


Plaintiff Victoria Jones contends that she has endured so much harassment as a secretary for her employer, defendant Bremen High School District 228, that she now suffers from high blood pressure, depression, and has been hospitalized for stress. She alleges that the harassment is due to her race, sex, national origin, and age, and has sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as well as 42 U.S.C §§ 1981 and 1983. The defendant has filed a motion to dismiss all but her Title VII claim based on her race. For the following reasons the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The following facts are drawn from Jones' amended complaint and are accepted as true for the purpose of resolving the motion to dismiss. See Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006). Jones is a 49-year-old African-American woman who has worked for Bremen since June 5, 1984. During those more than 20 years, she has received numerous positive evaluations from her supervisors. But according to her, despite her stellar job performance Bremen has subjected her to a hostile work environment and treated her differently than other employees who were not black, not women, not of African descent, and/or not 40 years old or older.

Jones further alleges that during the course of her employment, she has been criticized for mistakes that are not her fault and she has been assigned more work than her peers. In addition, she has been subjected to aggressive conduct, insults, and inappropriate reprimands by supervisors in the presence of her colleagues and students. At one point, she was physically intimidated when a supervisor slammed a stack of papers on her desk. When she complained about her mistreatment, she was reprimanded and Bremen knowingly allowed the hostile work environment to continue.

The hostilities took their toll on her and, on October 15, 2007, she was hospitalized for stress. As a result of her condition, she remained off work for seven months. She has also been treated for depression and high blood pressure.

On October 5, 2007, Jones filed a charge of race discrimination with the EEOC and the Illinois Department of Human Rights (charge #440-2008-00161).*fn1 On the standard charge of discrimination form she completed, she checked the box next to "RACE" when describing the type of discrimination she suffered. She left unchecked the other eight boxes such as "SEX," "NATIONAL ORIGIN," "AGE," "RETALIATION" and "DISABILITY." On December 21, 2007, she filed an amended charge #440-2008-00161. The amended charge is essentially identical to the original charge except that Jones also checked the box for "DISABILITY." On November 29, 2007, Jones filed a second charge with the EEOC and the Illinois Department of Human Rights-this one for retaliation in addition to race and disability discrimination (charge #2008 CF 1357). On April 10, 2008, she received a right-to-sue letter on charge #440-2008-00161. She has not attached any right-to-sue letter for charge #2008 CF 1357.*fn2

After receiving the April 10, 2008, right-to-sue letter, Jones filed a pro se complaint and, after being appointed counsel, an amended complaint. The amended complaint consists of four counts: (1) discrimination and retaliation based on color, national origin, race, and/or sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, see 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e - 2000e-17 (Count I); (2) violation of her right to make and enforce contracts based upon her color, national origin, and/or race, see 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count II); (3) age discrimination and retaliation under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, see 29 U.S.C. § 621 - 634 (Count III); and (4) violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, see 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count IV).

Bremen has moved to dismiss the Title VII (Count I) and ADEA (Count III) claims based upon her sex, national origin, and age contending that such claims are outside the scope of the charges of discrimination that Jones filed with the EEOC and the Illinois Department of Human Services. As for Jones' claims under § 1981 (Count II) and § 1983 (Count IV), Bremen moves to dismiss them on the basis that Jones has failed to allege that her injuries are the result of a municipal policy or custom.


Bremen brings its motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts, as well as any inferences reasonably drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000). While a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff must provide the grounds of her entitlement to relief, which requires "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

The Supreme Court has identified two easy-to-clear hurdles. First, the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant "'fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Id. (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)) (alteration in Bell Atlantic). Second, the allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a "speculative level." Id. at 569 n.14.

I. Retaliation Claims under Title VII and ADEA

As a preliminary matter, although Jones filed a charge of retaliation with the EEOC and Illinois Department of Human Rights on November 29, 2007, she has not attached a right-to-sue letter for that charge or even alleged that she received one. As the name implies, a right-to-sue letter is a prerequisite to filing a claim in district court under either Title VII or the ADEA. See 29 U.S.C. § 633a(d) (ADEA); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c) (Title VII). However, the lack of a rightto-sue letter is not an issue of jurisdiction, but rather may serve as a defense to a Title VII or ADEA claim. See ...

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