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Isie Brindley v. Target Corporation

January 21, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge


Isie Brindley ("Brindley") has sued Target Corporation ("Target"), asserting federal claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA," 29 U.S.C. §§621-624) and annexing claims under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA," 775 ILCS 5/2-101 to 2-104) pursuant to the supplemental jurisdiction provisions of 29 U.S.C. §1367(a). This opinion addresses Target's partial motion to dismiss Brindley's Complaint under the auspices of Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 12(b)(6).*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Target's motion to dismiss is denied as to Brindley's federal claims but granted as to her state law claims.

Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

Under Rule 12(b)(6) a party may seek dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562-63 (2007) did away with the formulation first announced in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) "that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." As Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562-63 put it:

Conley's "no set of facts" language has been questioned, criticized, and explained away long enough. To be fair to the Conley Court, the passage should be understood in light of the opinion's preceding summary of the complaint's concrete allegations, which the Court quite reasonably understood as amply stating a claim for relief. But the passage so often quoted fails to mention this understanding on the part of the Court, and after puzzling the profession for 50 years, this famous observation has earned its retirement. Twombly, id. at 570 held instead that a complaint must provide "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Or put otherwise, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level" (id. at 555).

But almost immediately thereafter the Supreme Court issued another opinion that seemed to cabin Twombly somewhat. Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007) has explained that further development:

Two weeks later the Court clarified that Twombly did not signal a switch to fact-pleading in the federal courts. See Erickson v. Pardus, [551 U.S. 89]. To the contrary, Erickson reaffirmed that under Rule 8 "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests'" (id. at xxxx), quoting Twombly, [551 U.S. at 93]. Taking Erickson and Twombly together, we understand the Court to be saying only that at some point the factual detail in a complaint may be so sketchy that the complaint does not provide the type of notice of the claim to which the defendant is entitled under Rule 8.

It is on those terms that the familiar Rule 12(b)(6) principles still require the district court to accept as true all of plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations, drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor (Christensen v. County of Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 457 (7th Cir. 2007)(per curiam)).*fn2

Factual Background*fn3

Brindley was hired to work as a Softlines Team Lead at Target's West Dundee, Illinois store on February 13, 2007 (¶¶10-11). Brindley decided to accept the job because she was told that she would be trained and promoted to Executive Team Lead ("ETL") within a year (id. ¶¶12-13).

Brindley's problems began as soon as she started her job. Both her co-workers and her immediate supervisors treated her hostilely, refused to train her, fostered insubordination among her subordinates and made it difficult for her to perform her job functions (¶¶14-21). Brindley complained to the store manager and human resources representative, but they refused to address the situation directly, and her problems with her co-workers continued (¶¶22-30). On top of those underlying issues, Brindley was faulted for problems in her performance that resulted directly from the actions of her co-workers (¶¶31-38), was undermined in making her supervisory decisions (¶¶41-48), was given the demeaning position of "Restroom Captain" (¶¶50-54) and was required to perform the work of three employees who quit their jobs (¶¶55-57).

Brindley wanted to apply for two different ETL openings in 2009 and 2010 but was discouraged from doing so, and in one case she was not even given the opportunity to apply (¶¶75-84). Throughout her time at the store in 2009 and 2010 Brindley was denied mentorship and leadership opportunities offered to younger employees, and her complaints about harassment from younger members of the management team fell on deaf ears (¶¶88-89).

On April 24, 2010 Brindley resigned because she could no longer accept her situation at the store (¶101). On August 12 of that year Brindley filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), asserting that she was the victim of both age discrimination and retaliation (T. Mem. Ex. A).*fn4 As usual, the charge was cross-filed with the Illinois ...

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