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Clark v. Moline Public Library

January 26, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge


This matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#11] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claims asserted arise pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. 2000e.


Plaintiff, Mary Clark ("Clark"), was employed by Defendant City of Moline and Moline Public Library (the "Library") for more than24 years. At the time of her termination on December 31, 2008, she held the position of Operations Manager. Defendant Leslie Kee ("Kee") is the director of the Library and had been Clark's supervisor for several years. In July 2008, Clark filed a formal complaint with the Library's Board of Trustees (the "Board") complaining of inappropriate actions by Kee creating a hostile work environment based on sexual, racial, and national origin stereotypes. Following an investigation into the complaint, Kee was reportedly reprimanded in September 2008. In October 2008, Kee recommended to the Board that Clark's position be eliminated, and her recommendation was accepted.

On July 27, 2009, Clark brought this action alleging that she was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for reporting and complaining about Kee's conduct. Defendants have now moved to dismiss the Complaint. Clark has filed her response, and this Order follows.


Courts have traditionally held that a complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears from the pleadings that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957); Gould v. Artisoft, Inc., 1 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, a complaint should be construed broadly and liberally in conformity with the mandate in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f). More recently, the Supreme Court has phrased this standard as requiring a showing sufficient "to raise a right to relief beyond a speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007).

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; its well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as true, and all reasonably-drawn inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69 (1984); Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467 (7th Cir. 1997); M.C.M. Partners, Inc. V. Andrews-Bartlett & Assoc., Inc., 62 F.3d 967, 969 (7th Cir. 1995); Early v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 959 F.2d 75 (7th Cir. 1992).

I. Section 1983 Claim

Defendants first argue that Clark cannot maintain a § 1983 claim against the City, Library, or the Board, as there is no respondeat superior liability against a local governmental unit under that statute. Clark agrees and clarifies that her § 1983 claim is brought only against Kee in her individual capacity. Thus, to the extent that the Complaint appears to assert this claim against the City, Library, or Board, such claim is dismissed.

Kee then contends that the § 1983 claim against her must fail for failure to allege that Clark was deprived of any right secured by the Constitution or federal law. Section 1983 imposes liability w here a defendant acts under color of a state law and the defendant' s conduct violated the plaintiff' s rights under the Constitution or law s of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a cause of action under § 1983, the plaintiff must allege (1) that the defendant has deprived him of a federal right, and (2) that the defendant acted under color of state law. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). In review ing the complaint on a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff is only required to set forth these elements in a short plain statement show ing that she is entitled to relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); Alvarado v. Litscher, 267 F.3d 648, 651 (7th Cir. 2001).

While Clark's Complaint is not a model of clarity, it does clearly place Kee on notice that the claim against her is based on her alleged violation of federal law, namely conduct that could also constitute a violation Title VII. In her response, Clark further clarifies that her claim against Kee is also based on a purported violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses, both of ...

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