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Ceja v. Cook County Forest Preserve District

February 23, 2010

ANNA CEJA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-Yeghiayan United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

This matter is before the court on Defendant Cook County Forest Preserve District's (District) motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Anna Ceja (Ceja) states that she began working as an accountant and bookkeeper for the District in October of 2003. Ceja alleges that, beginning in the first quarter of 2005, she was sexually harassed at work and subjected to a hostile work environment on an ongoing basis by two of her superiors. Ceja claims that she reported the sexual harassment and hostile working conditions to the District as they occurred. Ceja contends that in November 2006, due to ongoing federal investigations, the District created a Department of Human Relations (Department) for the publically stated purpose of investigating and eliminating political hiring and ensuring merit hiring. Ceja states that she and five others were selected to work for the Department. Ceja contends that during January 2007, she complained to the Department regarding the District's continuing practice of hiring people on the basis of political associations. Ceja alleges that on February 15, 2007, the District fired Ceja because of her complaints regarding the sexual harassment and hostile work environment, and/or because she reported Defendant's illegal hiring practices to the Department. Ceja states that others in the Department were also allegedly fired on that date. Ceja claims that other employees who were allegedly fired the same day were subsequently either rehired or offered consulting contracts. According to Ceja, some were also offered full back pay. Ceja states that she was not rehired or offered a consulting contract or back pay. Ceja contends that she applied for reinstatement of her employment in February of 2008, and that the District denied her reinstatement in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment and hostile work environment. Ceja alleges that on March 17, 2008, she filed a charge of discrimination against the District with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). On August 10, 2009, Ceja filed the instant action against the District. Ceja's complaint includes a claim alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, et seq. (Title VII)(Count I), and in the alternative, a state law claim for retaliation under the Illinois Whistleblower Statute, 740 ILCS 174/1, et seq. (Count II). The District has moved to dismiss Ceja's claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Rule 12(b)(6)), a court must "accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint" and make reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (U.S. 2009)(stating that the tenet is "inapplicable to legal conclusions"); Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). To defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations omitted)(quoting in part Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Supreme Court has stated that the "plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint that contains factual allegations that are "merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations omitted).

DISCUSSION

I. Claim for Retaliation Under the Illinois Whistleblower Statute (Count II) The District argues that Count II must be dismissed because it is barred by a one-year statute of limitations period pursuant to the Illinois Local Government and Government Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/1-101, et seq.. Ceja does not oppose the District's motion to dismiss Count II (Resp. at 1). We therefore dismiss Count II of Ceja's complaint.

II. Claim for Retaliation in Violation of Title VII (Count I) The District moves to dismiss Count I.

A. Statute of Limitations Issue

The District argues that Count I should be dismissed because Ceja failed to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of her termination. Ceja argues that this court should deny the District's motion to dismiss because Count I relates to the District's failure to rehire Ceja, not to Ceja's termination. In the state of Illinois, to bring a claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the occurrence of an alleged discriminatory act. Hentosh v. Herman M. Finch University Health Sciences/The Chicago Medical School, 167 F.3d 1170, 1173 (7th Cir. 1999); 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5(e). Ceja contends that her claim is timely because she filed her EEOC charge approximately 45 days after the District's retaliatory act, which was the District's failure to rehire her.

Failure to rehire can constitute a retaliatory act under Title VII. See Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 67 (2006)(holding that the scope of Title VII's anti-retaliation provision extends to post-employment retaliatory acts). ...


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