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Cochran v. BMA Management

May 15, 2009

EMILY B. COCHRAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BMA MANAGEMENT, LTD., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is defendant BMA Management, Ltd.'s ("BMA" or "Defendant") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 26). Plaintiff has timely responded (Doc. 32). For the reasons as discussed herein, the Court finds it has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims and must therefore deny Defendant's motion.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Emily Cochran, an African-American, was employed by Defendant as a certified nurses assistant (CNA) at its assisted care facility, located in Maryville, Illinois, during the years 2006 and 2007 (Doc. 25 - Amended Comp., p. 1, ¶¶ 1-3, p. 8, ¶ 8). Her Amended Complaint brings four counts against Defendant. Count 1 is a claim of race discrimination brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended in 1991 (Id., pp. 1-3, ¶¶ 1-13). 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. Count 2 is a claim for retaliatory discharge, also pursuant to Title VII (Id., pp. 3-5, ¶¶ 1-14). Count 3 is a claim for violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act, 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 174/20 (Id., pp. 5-7, ¶¶ 1-14). Finally, Count 4 is an Illinois common law claim for retaliatory discharge (Id., pp. 7-9, ¶¶ 1-11). Plaintiff asserts that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Counts 1 and 2, as they are both federal statutory causes of action, and thus requests the Court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her state causes of actions, as plead in Counts 3 and 4.

Regarding her Title VII claims, Plaintiff believes she was a victim of race discrimination based upon her allegations that at one time, she heard Defendant's Administrator refer to African American employees as "primates," and that African Americans employed by Defendant at their Maryville, Illinois location (such as Plaintiff) were often given less favorable work assignments than similarly-situated non-African American employees (Doc. 25, p. 2, ¶¶ 7-8). Plaintiff further believes Defendant terminated her employment largely due to her race (Id. at ¶ 9). However, Plaintiff also believes Defendant terminated her employment in retaliation for the grievances she made to Defendant regarding what she believed were discriminatory work assignments, as well as her general "good faith efforts to resist what she believed to be illegal racial discrimination" (Id., p. 4, ¶¶ 9-10).

Plaintiff alleges under her Illinois Whistleblower Act claim in Count 3 that Defendant's Administrator approached her and demanded she provide a false and inaccurate statement regarding the conduct of a family member of one of its residents, in light of a pending investigation by the state as to a complaint of patient neglect (Id., p. 5, ¶ 5). When she refused, Plaintiff alleges that although she was meeting her reasonable job expectations, Defendant terminated her employment less than one week afterwards (Id., pp. 5-6, ¶¶ 6-7). Plaintiff's allegations are the same regarding her Illinois common law claim of retaliatory discharge in Count 4, except that instead of a statutory violation, she alleges that she was discharged in contravention to state public policy which prohibits the termination of one's employment as a result of the employee's refusal to provide false testimony or false information on the employer's behalf (Id., p. 8, ¶ 8).

Plaintiff also indicates that she has filed a timely Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") regarding her Title VII claims in Counts 1 and 2 (Id., p. 2, ¶ 5; p. 3, ¶ 5).*fn1 The EEOC issued Plaintiff a Notice of Right to Sue, whereby Plaintiff asserts that she timely filed this suit within ninety days of her receipt of the Notice (Id.).

III. DISCUSSION

In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant argues that because Plaintiff's Charge of Discrimination is still pending before the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR" or the "Department") (see footnote 1, herein), and because the Illinois Human Rights Act (the "Act") vests exclusive jurisdiction of all civil rights claims with IDHR, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims (Counts 3 and 4) (Doc. 26, ¶¶ 2 & 5). Further, Defendant argues that IDHR also possesses exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving federal claims when they are factually intertwined with state law civil rights claims and therefore, the IDHR has exclusive jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Title VII claims in Counts 1 and 2. As such, Defendant moves for a dismissal of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint due to this Court's lack of jurisdiction, given the assertion that the IDHR possesses exclusive jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims.

Plaintiff opposes a dismissal, arguing that Defendant misunderstands the law regarding the IDHR's jurisdiction over civil rights claims pursuant to the Illinois Human Rights Act (Doc. 32). In addition, Plaintiff believes Defendant has misconstrued the holdings in the cases it cites supporting its Motion. Ultimately, Plaintiff advocates the position that the IDHR does not possess exclusive jurisdiction over her Title VII claims and that her state claims do not fall within the ambit of the Act, therefore, the IDHR does not have exclusive jurisdiction.

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Defendant makes its Motion pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(1), which allows a party to raise as a defense, a federal court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims. FED.R.CIV.P.12(b)(1). When a defendant makes this challenge, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. The Court must "accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Yet, if necessary, the Court may also look beyond ...


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