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Tamara D. Brass v. Cook County

January 14, 2011

TAMARA D. BRASS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY, COOK COUNTY JUVENILE TEMPORARY DETENTION CENTER, EARL DUNLAP, TRANSITIONAL ADMINISTRATOR OF COOK COUNTY JUVENILE TEMPORARY DETENTION CENTER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, BRENDA WELCH, DEPUTY TRANSITIONAL ADMINISTRATOR OF COOK COUNTY JUVENILE TEMPORARY DETENTION CENTER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In her seven-count Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 12), plaintiff Tamara Brass ("Brass") alleges that defendants Cook County, Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center ("JTDC"), Earl Dunlap, Transitional Administrator of the JTDC ("Dunlap"), and Brenda Welch, Deputy Transitional Administrator of the JTDC ("Welch"), are liable for harassing Brass and retaliating against her for certain protected activities in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and that these defendants are further liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for terminating Brass without just cause.

Pending before the court are Cook County's motion to dismiss Brass's claims against Cook County and the JTDC (Counts I, II, and VII) (Dkt. No. 25) and Dunlap and Welch's motion to dismiss Brass's claims against each of them (Counts III-VI) (Dkt. No. 42). For the reasons set forth below, Cook County's motion is granted and Counts I, II and VII are dismissed in their entirety. Dunlap and Welch's motion is granted in part and denied in part. Counts IV and VI are dismissed in their entirety, and Counts III and V are dismissed insofar as they allege violations of § 1983. Counts III and V remain pending against Dunlap and Welch to the extent they allege violations of Title VII.

BACKGROUND

At this stage in the litigation, the court under the law must accept the factual allegations set forth in Brass's Amended Complaint as true for purposes of ruling on the pending motion. Fednav Int'l Ltd. v. Continental Ins. Co., 624 F.3d 834, 837 (7th Cir. 2010). Therefore, the facts set forth below are stated from that perspective.

Brass is a former employee of the JTDC, where she served as a Clerk IV and Administrative Assistant II from September 1996 through her termination in November 2009. (Dkt. No. 12 ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 7.) Brass generally alleges that "[s]ince Dunlap's appointment Plaintiff has been subjected to intentional, systematic and continuous harassment by [Welch]*fn1 and the then Acting Deputy Superintendent, Mullins." (Id. ¶ 9.)

As a matter of procedure, district courts are permitted "to take judicial notice of matters of public record without converting a motion for failure to state a claim into a motion for summary judgment." Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). This court takes judicial notice of the fact that defendant Dunlap was appointed by District Judge John A. Nordberg to serve as the Transitional Administrator of the JTDC ("TA") on August 14, 2007, in the case of Doe v. Cook County. (See 99 C 3945, Dkt. No. 330 ("Appointment Order") ¶ 4.) The court also takes judicial notice that defendant Welch was initially appointed by the court in June 2006 to serve as the Compliance Administrator of the JTDC, and has served as Deputy Transitional Administrator under Dunlap. (See 99 C 3945, Dkt. No. 139.)

In December 2008, Brass complained to Mullins, to Brass's AFSCME union representative, and to the EEOC about comments made by Welch about "Plaintiff's nipples showing through her clothes." (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 14.) In retaliation for Brass's sexual harassment complaint, Welch and Mullins thereafter prevented Brass from properly signing in and out of work, subjected her to "frivolous" disciplinary allegations based on falsified or erroneous timesheets, stripped her of her job duties, assigned her duties that were outside the scope of her employment, and ultimately terminated her employment. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11, 13, 15-16.) During this same time period, Welch ordered Brass "to destroy files containing medical and legal documents, log books and other information that were often needed for FBI, DCFS, Inspector General investigations as well as other litigation." (Id. ¶ 17.) Brass refused to destroy these documents and complained to the Inspector General about Welch's order to destroy them. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) In retaliation for Brass's refusal to destroy the documents, Brass was accused of falsifying her timesheets and was suspended for three days. (Id. ¶ 17.) Brass was also further retaliated against for both her sexual harassment complaint and her refusal to destroy documents, in that she was denied her requests for time off, forced to work in unsafe conditions, and verbally threatened by Welch, who at one point "symbolically point[ed] her fingers as an imaginary gun and shot[ ] Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 19.)

Brass filed a claim for retaliation with the EEOC on July 30, 2009, received her right-tosue letter on August 5, 2009, and filed this lawsuit on November 2, 2009. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21, 23.) Brass was terminated from her employment on November 9, 2009, with an effective date of November 4, 2009. (Id. ¶ 23.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint generally must include only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). To survive a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual material, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1940 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

If the allegations of a complaint "fail[ ] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," the complaint will be dismissed. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In making its determination in this case, the court construes Brass's Amended Complaint in the light most favorable to Brass, accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations set forth therein, and draws all reasonable inferences in Brass's favor. Fednav Int'l Ltd., 624 F.3d at 837.

ANALYSIS

The claims in Brass's Amended Complaint can be grouped into two main categories. The first category includes Brass's claims for "retaliation," brought against Cook County (Count I), the JTDC (Count II), Dunlap (Count III), and Welch (Count V). These claims are asserted under both § 1983 and Title VII. The second category of claims includes Brass's claims for "42 U.S.C. § 1983 Action," alleged against Dunlap (Count IV), Welch (Count VI), and Cook County and the JTDC (Count VII). Because the court's analysis is ...


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