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Benitez v. American Standard Circuits

March 18, 2009

JOSE LUIS BENITEZ AND JUAN REYES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
AMERICAN STANDARD CIRCUITS,INC.,AND VIJAY PATEL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar United States District Judge

HONORABLE DAVID H. COAR

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Jose Luis Benitez and Juan Reyes ("Plaintiffs") bring this action against Defendants American Standard Circuits, Inc. ("ASC") and Vijay Patel, alleging Illinois common law causes of action of assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment, and sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., for events stemming from Plaintiffs' employment with ASC. Two motions are now before the Court: ASC's Partial Motion to Dismiss Counts I through VII of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint, and Plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss the Defamation Counterclaims of Defendant Patel.

I. BACKGROUND

a. Factual Background

The following facts are alleged in the Complaint and will be accepted as true for purposes of this motion. Plaintiffs are former employees of ASC, an Illinois corporation. First Amended Compl. ("Compl.") ¶ 6-7. Defendant Patel was employed by ASC as a management-level employee, with the authority to hire, fire, and discipline employees. Id. at ¶ 13-14.

Plaintiff Reyes began his employment in the plating department of ASC on or around February 9, 1998. Id. at ¶ 20-21. At that time, Patel was working as a mechanic in ASC's maintenance department. Id. at ¶ 22. On Reyes' first day of employment, Patel groped Reyes, grabbed his genitals, and otherwise touched him improperly. Id. at ¶ 23-25. Reyes' immediate supervisor, a man known as Raju, knew of and laughed off Defendant Patel's behavior. Id. at ¶ 26. Patel continued to engage in similarly inappropriate behavior against Reyes several times a week, until Reyes was terminated in early 2006. Id. at ¶ 27. Other employees witnessed Patel fondling Reyes. Reyes saw Patel fondle at least seven other male employees, as Patel engaged in such behavior openly and notoriously. Id. at ¶ 28-29. In one particular incident, Reyes asked Patel for a tool. Patel instructed Reyes to follow him to the tool room to fetch it, but when they entered the room, Patel locked the door and groped Reyes and propositioned him for sex. Id. at 30. On at least two occasions, management level employees at ASC with the power to fire, hire, and discipline employees witnessed Patel grab Reyes, but took no action to remediate or stop Patel's conduct. Id. at 32-37. On January 28, 2006, Reyes and another ASC employee ("Leo") filed a police report with the Franklin Park Police Department against Patel for battery, but ASC's owners pressured Leo and Reyes to drop the criminal charges, stating that Reyes' employment at ASC would remain "normal" as long as Reyes dismissed the criminal complaint. Id. at ¶ 38-40. Reyes refused to dismiss the criminal charges. Later that week, he was terminated. Id. at ¶ 42-43. Plaintiffs allege that Reyes was terminated because he objected to Patel's conduct. Reyes alleges that he suffered severe emotional distress as a result of Defendants' actions. Id. at ¶ 82, 115.

Plaintiff Benitez began his employment in the screening department of ASC on or around February 17, 2003. Id. at ¶ 46. Around September 2005, Patel began making unwelcome sexually explicit comments to Benitez and groping him. Benitez brought this matter to his supervisor's attention, but the supervisor merely laughed and did nothing to remediate the conduct Benitez complained of. Id. at ¶ 52-54. Patel continued to grab Benitez even after Benitez complained to the supervisor. On January 4, 2006, Patel asked Benitez to show him his penis and that if Benitez did not comply, he would regret it. Id. at ¶ 57. Benitez complied, then Patel performed oral sex on him. Id. Approximately two weeks later, Patel grabbed Benitez in an inappropriate manner. Id. at ¶ 58. Benitez complained to his supervisor the next day. Id. at ¶ 59. The day afterward, he was fired. Id. at ¶ 60. Three days later, on January 23, 2006, Benitez returned to the office and met with Jay Hirpana, one of ASC's owners. Benitez asked Hirpana if he knew that Patel was inappropriately touching Benitez, to which Hirpana replied, "I don't care . . . I have the money to fight. Id. at ¶ 62-63. Later that same day, Benitez filed a police report against Patel with the Franklin Park Police Department. Id. at ¶ 66. Benitez alleges that he suffered severe emotional distress as a result of Defendants' actions. Id. at ¶ 93, 121.

Plaintiffs allege that Patel's inappropriate behavior was notorious among ASC employees, who warned each other to stay away from Patel. Id. at ¶ 69. Plaintiffs also allege that ASC had full knowledge of Patel's conduct, and allowed, authorized, and permitted his actions and behavior to continue despite the company's written sexual harassment policy. Id. at ¶ 70-71.

b. Procedural History

This lawsuit was initially filed by Plaintiffs in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Law Division. Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint listed thirteen Illinois common law tort causes of action. This complaint was dismissed pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-615 on February 13, 2008, and Plaintiffs were granted leave to file an amended complaint, which Plaintiffs did file on March 12, 2008. The amended complaint included new causes of action arising under Title VII. On April 8, 2008, ASC filed a notice of removal in this Court.

The First Amended Complaint has seventeen causes of action which are best summarized in list form:

Count I: Assault, Reyes against ASC

Count II: Assault, Benitez against ASC Count III: Battery, Reyes against ASC Count IV: Battery, Benitez against ASC Count V: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Reyes against ASC Count VI: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Benitez against ASC Count VII: Assault, Reyes against Patel Count VIII: Assault, Benitez against Patel Count IX: Battery, Reyes against Patel Count X: Battery, Benitez against Patel Count XI: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Reyes against Patel Count XII: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Benitez against Patel Count XIII: False Imprisonment, Reyes against Patel Count XIV: Sexual Harassment (Title VII), Benitez against ASC Count XV: Retaliation (Title VII), Benitez against ASC Count XVI: Sexual Harassment (Title VII), Reyes against ASC Count XVII: Retaliation (Title VII), Reyes against ASC In Defendants' Answer, Defendant Patel filed counterclaims for defamation against both Benitez and Reyes. Plaintiffs have filed a motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss these counterclaims. Defendant ASC has filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), moving this Court to dismiss Counts I through VII of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint. In the alternative, ASC moves the Court to strike all allegations in the First Amended Complaint barred by ...


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