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Elaine Moorman v. Wal-Mart Stores

February 11, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


Before the Court is "Defendant Wal-Mart's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's

Complaint" (Doc. 10).

I. Introduction and Procedural Background

In May 2010, pro se Plaintiff Elaine Marie Moorman, filed suit in the District Court of the Southern District of Illinois, against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. ("Wal-Mart") (Doc. 1). The matter proceeds on Moorman's complaint which alleges as follows.

Between June 13, 2006, and November 5, 2008, Moorman was employed as a cashier by Wal-Mart Supercenter in Flora, Illinois. During this time, Moorman allegedly experienced a series of miscellaneous events that occurred with fellow employees of Wal-Mart. On November 5, 2008, Moorman terminated her employment at Wal-Mart because of a scheduling conflict.*fn1

Plaintiff filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC terminated the action on March 5, 2010, and notified Moorman of her right to sue in federal court within ninety days of the termination.

Moorman filed her complaint on May 28, 2010 (Doc. 1). Moorman's complaint contains allegations of age discrimination, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, sexual harassment, and an adverse employment action due to the "possible assumption that [Moorman] worked for a labor union and/or belonged to a labor union." Moorman seeks back pay, front pay, costs of suit, money damages, liquidated double damages, prejudgment interest, post-judgment interest, attorney's fees, expert witness fees, and injunctive relief.

On August 26, 2010, Wal-Mart moved to dismiss Moorman's complaint for bringing time-barred claims and for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Doc. 10). Moorman filed a Response in Opposition to which no reply was filed (Doc. 23). The Court now rules on Wal-Mart's motion to dismiss, which is fully briefed. II. Applicable Legal Standards Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint fails to set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); EEOC v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). In making this assessment, the District Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Tricontinental Industries, Inc., Ltd. v. Price Wa terhouse Coopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir. 2007); Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 969 (7th Cir. 2006). Although federal complaints need only plead claims (not facts), the pleading regime created by Bell Atlantic requires the complaint to allege a plausible theory of liability against the defendant. Sheridan v. Marathon Petroleum Co., LLC, 530 F.3d 590, 596 (7th Cir. 2008); see also Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Village of Lemont, Ill., 520 F.3d 797, 803-804 (7th Cir. 2008).

In Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008), the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit emphasized that even though Bell Atlantic "retooled federal pleading standards," notice pleading is still all that is required. "A plaintiff still must provide only enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and, through his allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that he is entitled to relief." Id. Accord Pugh v. Tribune Co., 521 F.3d 686, 699 (7th Cir. 2008) (the allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level").

In the specific context of claims of employment discrimination, the Seventh Circuit instructed that "a plaintiff alleging employment discrimination . . . may allege these claims quite generally." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). "A complaint need not 'allege all, or any, of the facts logically entailed by the claim,' and it certainly need not include evidence." Id. (quoting Bennett v. Schmidt, 153 F.3d 516, 518 (7th Cir. 1998)) (emphasis in original). Instead, "the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[P]laintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together.").*fn2

Under that minimal pleading standard, "in order to prevent dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint alleging [employment] discrimination need only aver that the employer instituted a (specified) adverse employment action against the plaintiff on the basis of her [protected status]." Tamayo, 526 F.3d. at 1084. "[O]nce a plaintiff alleging illegal discrimination has clarified that it is on the basis of her [protected status], there is no further information that is both easy to provide and of clear critical importance to the claim." EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2007). Moreover, this Court bears in mind that pro se pleadings, such as plaintiff's complaint, must be liberally construed. Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1427 (7th Cir. 1996).

III. Analysis

A. Plaintiff's Claims Against Wal-Mart are not Time Barred

Defendant contends Moorman is precluded from bringing a lawsuit against Wal-Mart based on any incident that occurred more than 300 days before she filed her Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC (Doc. 10). In response, Moorman invokes the "continuing violation doctrine" (Doc. 23).

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623(a), prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their age. Horwitz v. Board of Educ. of Avoca School District No. 37, 260 F.3d 602, 610 (7th Cir.2001); Broadwater v. Heidtman Steel Products, Inc., 182 F. Supp. 2d 705, 715--16 (S.D. Ill. 2002). Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), forbids employers from engaging in actions that "discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." Berry v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 260 F.3d 803, 808 (7th Cir. 2001).

Both Title VII and the ADEA delineate certain prerequisites which an individual must satisfy before he may institute a lawsuit. For instance, an aggrieved employee in Illinois must file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the time that his action began to accrue. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(a); 29 U.S.C. § 626(d)(2); Skouby v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 130 F.3d 794, 797 (7th Cir. 1997). An employee's action accrues when he discovers that he has been injured, not when he determines that the injury was unlawful. Thelen v. Marc's Big Boy Corp., 64 F.3d 264, 267 (7th Cir. 1995). Resolution of this issue requires analysis of Moorman's EEOC charge and initial complaint filed in this Court.

In this Court, Moorman alleges that a series of events during her employment with Wal-Mart (between June 13, 2006, and November 5, 2008) constituted age discrimination, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, and sexual harassment, violative of the ADEA and Title VII. Moorman mailed her EEOC charge on March 26, 2009 (Doc. 23). On April 21, 2009, the Kansas City Area Office for the EEOC notified Moorman that her charge would be transferred to the Chicago District Office for appropriate jurisdiction (Doc. 23, Exhibit C). The EEOC Chicago District Office date-stamped Moorman's EEOC Charge on April 24, 2009 (Doc. 10, Exhibit A). Moorman received a right-to-sue letter on that charge on or about March 5, 2010. She filed suit within 90 days of receiving the right-to-sue letter. ...

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