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Dorrene Sokn v. Fieldcrest Community Unit School District No. 8

June 24, 2011

DORRENE SOKN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FIELDCREST COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 8, AN ILLINOIS LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL ENTITY, RANDY VINCENT, SUPERINTENDENT IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, JOE KIRKPATRICK, PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, THOMAS BARTH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, TAMMI COONS, SECRETARY OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, SCOTT HILLENBURG MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, GREG KROESCHEN, MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, HEIDI COOK, FORMER MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, TIM MCNAMARA, MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DANIELLE REICHMAN, MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION, IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND LINDA REIGNIER, FORMER MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION IN HER INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDADE United States Senior District Judge

E-FILED

Monday, 27 June, 2011 08:51:39 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION & ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 21), Memorandum in Support (Doc. 22) and Motion to File Amendment to Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 23).*fn1 Also before the Court is, Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 25), Plaintiff's Rule 56(f) Motion to Deny Application for Summary Judgment or Continue Hearing (Doc. 26) and Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Rule 56(f) Motion to Deny Application for Summary Judgment or Continue Hearing (Doc. 28). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Rule 56(f) Motion to Deny Application for Summary Judgment or Continue Hearing is DENIED, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is DISMISSED.

BACKGROUND

On December 27, 2010, Plaintiff, Dorrene Sokn, filed her Amended Complaint against Defendants. (Doc. 13-1). Prior to initiating this lawsuit, Plaintiff was employed as Principal of Fieldcrest Elementary School South ("Fieldcrest Elementary") from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2010. (Doc. 13-1 at 2). Plaintiff has now brought claims against Defendants for violations of the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206 et. seq. ("EPA"); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et. seq. ("Title VII"); the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, U.S. Const. amend. XIV; Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §1983;

Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-102 et. seq. ("IHRA"); and Illinois Whistleblowers Act, 740 ILCS 174/1. (Doc. 13-1 at 9-18).

On February 25, 2011, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss seeking to have Plaintiff's claims dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 21). Defendants attached a March 24, 2010 email sent by Plaintiff to Superintendent Randy Vincent to their Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 21). On May 10, 2011, Plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Rule 56(f) Motion to Deny Application for Summary Judgment or Continue Hearing (Doc. 26), alleging that the email attached to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss was outside the scope of the pleadings and therefore, pursuant to Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Motion to Dismiss should be converted to a Rule 56(f) Motion for Summary Judgment. On June 3, 2011, Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff's Rule 56(f) Motion to Deny Application for Summary Judgment or Continue Hearing. (Doc. 28).

LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d), if on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. However, if the document is referred to in the plaintiff's complaint, the defendant is allowed to submit the document to the court, and the court may consider it, without converting it to Rule 56. Tierney v. Vahle, 304 F.3d 734, 738 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Romani v. Shearson Lehman Hutton, 929 F.2d 875, 879 (1st Cir. 1991); Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453-54 (9th Cir. 1994)).

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss does not test whether the plaintiff will prevail on the merits, but instead whether the claimant has properly stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Village of Lemont Ill.,520 F.3d 797, 797 (7th Cir. 2008).To state a proper claim, the plaintiff must make a plausible, rather than a merely speculative claim for relief. Id. The plaintiff must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombley, 127 U.S 1955, 1964 (2007)).

The court accepts facts and reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's complaint as true. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). However, the court is not bound to accept a legal conclusion couched in the plaintiff's complaint as a fact. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 U.S. 1937, 1957 (2009). Furthermore, when the plaintiff's well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint does not sufficiently show that the pleader is entitled to relief "above a speculative level." Concentra, 496 F.3d at 776 (citing Bell Atlantic, 127 U.S at 1965, 1973).

Moreover, while the court should construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the court should not ignore facts set forth in the complaint that either undermine the plaintiff's claim or give weight to unsupported conclusions of law. Buchanan-Moore v. Cnty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009). Therefore, if a court finds that the plaintiff's complaint does not establish a set of facts that support the relief sought, the court must dismiss the complaint. McCormik v. City of Chi., 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

According to the applicable legal standard, all allegations contained in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are taken as true for purposes of determining the instant Motion to Dismiss. See Tamayo,526 F.3d at 1081. As such, the facts relevant to Plaintiff's claims are as follows. From July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2010, Plaintiff was employed as Principal of Fieldcrest Elementary. (Doc. 13-1 at 4). In addition to administrative duties, she taught special education classes for the first two years, and provided intervention as needed for the third year. (Doc. 13-1 at

5). Plaintiff was the only female administrator employed in the Fieldcrest School District ("the District") during that time. (Doc. 13-1 at 5). When she became Principal, Fieldcrest Elementary had been without a full-time principal for several years. (Doc. 13-1 at 5). During that time period, Fieldcrest Elementary staff members became unsatisfied with their working conditions and were uncooperative. (Doc. 13-1 at 5). During Plaintiff's employment, the District did not provide her with health benefits, which were paid to the male principals, because of benefits she was receiving from her spouse's employment. (Doc. 13-1 at 6). Additionally, Plaintiff's salary was less than Mr. Demay (Principal at Fieldcrest West) and Mr. Lapp (Principal at Fieldcrest High School), but was more than Mr. Roberts (Principal at Fieldcrest East). (Doc. 13-1 at 6).

On July 6, 2009, Superintendent Vincent informed Plaintiff that she would receive a 1% increase whereas the other principals received an average of a 4% increase. (Doc. 13-1 at 7). Prior to that time, Plaintiff had been involved in numerous discussions about her performance and her inability to resolve the growing number of conflicts among the staff members at Fieldcrest Elementary (Doc. 13-1 at 7-8). By March 30, 2010 the Fieldcrest Community Unit School Board ("School Board") had decided not to renew Plaintiff's employment contract after Superintendent Vincent recommended her non-renewal. (Doc. 13-1 at 8).

Defendants assert that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to adequately state a claim upon which relief can be granted for unequal pay. (Doc. 21 at 2). Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's retaliation claims under Title VII and the IHRA should be dismissed because the alleged protected conduct cannot have motivated what she alleges to be a retaliatory discharge, because the decision not to rehire her was made prior to the alleged protected conduct. (Doc. 21 at 2). Plaintiff's state law discriminatory pay and retaliatory discharge claims should also be dismissed for the same reasons that her federal claims should be dismissed. (Doc. 21 at 2). Furthermore, Plaintiff's retaliation claim under the Illinois Whistleblower Act, 740 ILCS 174/1, should be ...


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