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Cothran v. Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation

March 30, 2010

JUDITH COTHRAN, M.D., PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTHWESTERN MEDICAL FACULTY FOUNDATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George M. Marovich

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Judith Cothran, M.D. ("Dr. Cothran") filed a four-count complaint against Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation ("Northwestern"). In her complaint, Dr. Cothran asserts claims for race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, breach of contract and tortious interference with economic advantage. Defendant moves to dismiss all of plaintiff's claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendant's motion.

I. Background

For purposes of this motion to dismiss, the Court takes as true the allegations in Dr. Cothran's complaint.

From on or about August 31, 2003 until about February 28, 2009, Dr. Cothran was employed by Northwestern. When her employment commenced, Dr. Cothran signed an agreement that stated the employment would renew each year for a one-year term unless either party notified the other that she or it intended not to renew the agreement. Dr. Cothran's position at Northwestern had two components: she was an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Northwestern University Medical School and she maintained a professional medical practice.

Dr. Cothran's performance reviews were favorable, despite a few obstacles. For example, Dr. Cothran repeatedly requested additional examination rooms but was denied. As a result, Dr. Cothran was able to see fewer patients, which reduced Northwestern's revenues and Dr. Cothran's compensation. In 2006, Dr. Cothran complained to human resources that policies were applied inconsistently and that she was subjected to a hostile work environment.

In January 2007, Northwestern's Director of Human Resources met with Dr. Cothran's supervisor. Dr. Cothran's supervisor stated that he wanted to terminate Dr. Cothran's employment but that Dr. Cothran's race made him afraid to discharge her. Dr. Cothran is black. Dr. Cothran's supervisor stated that he hoped she would leave voluntarily. Dr. Cothran did not leave voluntarily.

Instead, on May 29, 2008, Northwestern informed Dr. Cothran that is was not renewing her contract. The parties agreed to a short contract that kept Dr. Cothran employed at Northwestern until February 28, 2009.

In the meantime, by July 2008, Northwestern had hired another individual, who was Caucasian, into a position that was the equivalent of Dr. Cothran's. Dr. Cothran believes Northwestern hired the Caucasian individual to replace her.

On July 31, 2009, Dr. Cothran filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After receiving a notice of right to sue, Dr. Cothran filed her four-count claim here. Northwestern moves to dismiss Count I on statute of limitations grounds and Counts II, III and IV for failure to state a claim.

II. Standard on a motion to dismiss

The Court may dismiss a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if the plaintiff fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. McCullah v. Gadert, 344 F.3d 655, 657 (7th Cir. 2003). A complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombley, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint need not provide detailed factual allegations, but mere conclusions and a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" will not suffice. Twombley, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-1965. A complaint must include enough factual allegations to "raise a right to relief above a speculative level." Twombley, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

In considering a motion to dismiss, a court may not consider matters outside the pleadings without converting the motion to a motion for summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b). The pleadings include ...


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