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Sawyer v. Columbia College

August 5, 2010

STERLING SAWYER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COLUMBIA COLLEGE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On November 20, 2009, pro se Plaintiff Sterling Sawyer filed a five-count Amended Complaint [6] against Defendants Columbia College ("the College"), Youth Communication, and Ginger Bush. Plaintiff asserts claims against the College and Youth Communications for race discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; retaliation for his assertion of his Title VI rights; sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and retaliation for his assertion of his Title VII rights. Plaintiff also asserts a claim for assault and battery against Defendant Ginger Bush. Currently before the Court is Defendant Columbia College' s motion to dismiss and motion to impose Rule 11 sanctions [16] on Plaintiff.*fn1

For the reasons stated below, the College' s motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and the College's motion for Rule 11 sanctions is denied.

I. Background*fn2

Beginning in January 2008, Sawyer was enrolled as a student at the College and was employed as a writing coach and editor by Youth Communications as part of a Federal Work-Study program for Columbia College students. On May 20, 2008, one of Sawyer' s instructors gave him an unsatisfactory grade in his introduction to marketing class. In an e-mail to a College official dated June 20, 2008, Sawyer complained that his low grade was the product of racial discrimination by his professor. Sawyer alleges that on June 23, 2008 he was verbally and physically assaulted by a co-worker, Ginger Bush, while working for Youth Communications. On July 8, 2008, Columbia College and Youth Communications terminated Sawyer's employment and suspended him from the College.

Sawyer filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on July 31, 2008 alleging the following:

I had been employed by Respondent as a Writing Coach/Editor, and enrolled in Columbia College's academic program since January 10, 2008. On June 23, 2008, I was verbally and physically assaulted. On July 8, 2008, I was discharged and suspended from the academic program.

I believe I have been discriminated against because of my sex, Male, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

Sawyer received a notice of rights from the EEOC on August 28, 2009, in which the EEOC determined that it was unable to conclude that Sawyer' s termination and suspension represented unlawful sex discrimination and informed him that he had the right to file a lawsuit within 90 days of receiving the notice.

On November 5, 2009, Sawyer filed a complaint [1] against the College asserting a Title VII claim for employment discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as a Title VII claim for retaliation. Shortly thereafter, on November 20, 2009, Sawyer filed an amended complaint in which he added Youth Communications and Ginger Bush as Defendants and included additional claims, including (1) Title VI race discrimination and retaliation claims*fn3 and (2) an assault and battery claim against Ginger Bush. The College moved to dismiss [16] Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and moved the Court to impose Rule 11 sanctions on Plaintiff [16], or, in the alternative, to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Rule 11 sanctions are appropriate.

II. Legal Standard on Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). However, a Plaintiff need not include all essential facts in his complaint; rather, he may add them in an affidavit or brief in order to overcome a motion to dismiss as long as they are consistent with the initial allegations. Help at Home, Inc. v. Med. Capital, L.L.C., 260 F.3d 748, 752-53 (7th Cir. 2001); Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1367 n.2 (7th Cir. 1997) ("[F]acts alleged in a brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss * * * as well as factual allegations contained in other court filings of a pro se plaintiff may be considered when evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint so long as they are consistent with the allegations of the complaint.").

"Detailed factual allegations" are not required, but the plaintiff must allege facts that, when "accepted as true, * * * 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. ...


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