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Sanford v. Walgreen Co.

September 23, 2009


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



Plaintiff Rashad Sanford ("Plaintiff" or "Sanford") brings an action against Defendant Walgreen Company ("Defendant" or "Walgreens") alleging that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq. (Count I), the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"), 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. (Count II), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count III). Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant committed wage and hours violations in contravention of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (Count IV) and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 ILCS 105/1 et seq. (Count V). Defendant moves to dismiss all time-barred claims- all Title VII claims that arose prior to May 3, 2007 (Count I), all IHRA and § 1981 claims that arose prior to November 4, 2004 (Counts II & III), and all FLSA and IMWL claims that arose prior to November 4, 2005 (Counts IV & V). Plaintiff agrees with Defendant's application of the relevant statutes of limitation to Counts III, IV, and V, and Plaintiff now requests that the Court dismiss Count II in its entirety. The only issue that remains is whether Plaintiff may assert Title VII claims for incidents that occurred prior to May 3, 2007. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.


The following facts drawn from Sanford's complaint are accepted as true for the purpose of resolving Defendant's motion to dismiss. See Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). Sanford, an African-American male, has been employed by Walgreens since March 13, 1999. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 3. Sanford began his employment as an Assistant Manager and Management Trainee and was promised that if he performed well, Walgreens would promote him to Store Manager. Id. at ¶ 4. Despite Sanford's aspiration to become Store Manager, and ten years of almost entirely positive performance reviews, Walgreens has never promoted Sanford; he remains an Executive Assistant Manager at Defendant's Store 2036 in Chicago, Illinois. Id. at ¶ 1.

Sanford claims that he has been systematically prevented from advancing because of his race and that he has endured numerous other forms of racial discrimination throughout his employment at Walgreens. Walgreens has denied Sanford promotions five times, while instead promoting less experienced, less qualified Caucasian employees. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 10, 12, 20, 30. In addition, during the course of his employment at Walgreens, spanning multiple stores over ten years, Sanford has experienced discriminatory treatment including denial of opportunities afforded white employees, assignment to perform responsibilities for which he was over-qualified, and subjection to vacation and sick day policies applied unevenly between black and white employees.

a. The Waterloo Store (August 2000 -- May 2005)

From August of 2000 until May of 2005, Sanford worked at Walgreens' Waterloo, Iowa store. After completing the company's Applied Drug Store Management training program in August of 2001, Sanford was promoted from Assistant Manager to Executive Assistant Manager, the position he still holds today. Id. at ¶¶ 4-5. In July of 2002, Defendant denied Sanford a promotion to Store Manager, and instead, Defendant hired Jill Janni, a Caucasian, who relocated from another store and therefore had less experience with the Waterloo demographic than Sanford. Id. at ¶ 6. While at the Waterloo Store, from July of 2002 through September of 2004, Sanford was scheduled to work six days per week, including nights and weekends, was improperly suspended, and was subjected to a sick day policy that was not also applied to white employees. Id. at ¶¶ 7-12.

b. Store 5124 (May 2005 -- July 2005)

In May of 2005, Sanford was transferred to Store 5124, where he served as an Executive Assistant Manager until July of 2005. Sanford's transfer to Store 5124 constituted a promotion; the store attracted a higher volume of customers and offered managers larger bonuses and more face time with district and regional management. Id. at ¶ 13. At Store 5124, Sanford assumed many of the responsibilities normally afforded to store managers. Id. at ¶ 14.

c. Store 9141 (July 2005 -- February 26, 2006)

As a result of his performance and accomplishments at Store 5124, Sanford was transferred to Store 9141 in July of 2005, where he remained employed until February 26, 2006. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 21. While at Store 9141, Sanford was managed by Erica Bates, a Caucasian, who he claims discriminated against him because of his race. Bates scheduled him to work all nights and weekends, assigned him back-to-back shifts, assigned him duties for which he was over-qualified, improperly refused to allow Sanford to use his accumulated sick days, and denied him compensation for sick days in violation of company policy. Id. at ¶ 18. In addition, Sanford observed several instances in which Bates treated employees and customers adversely because of their race. Id. at ¶ 19. When Sanford complained to district manager, Colleen Hayes, who is Caucasian, she was unresponsive. Id. at ¶¶ 18, 20.

d. Store 2036 (February 26, 2006 -- Present)

On February 26, 2006, Sanford was demoted to Executive Assistant Manager of Store 2036, despite his strong performance at Store 9141; both Bates and Hayes had led Sanford to believe he performed his duties to their satisfaction, and Store 9141 fared well throughout Sanford's tenure there. Id. at ¶ 20. Nonetheless, Sanford was transferred to a smaller store with smaller bonuses, low morale, and less opportunity for advancement. Id. at ¶ 23. Until May of 2008, Store 2036 ...

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