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Mayona Hamilton v. Commonwealth Edison Co

July 5, 2011

MAYONA HAMILTON PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMONWEALTH EDISON CO., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Mayona Hamilton has worked for defendant Commonwealth Edison Corporation for 25 years, but alleges that her workplace has become hostile because she is African-American. Moreover, she alleges, when she complained about how she was being treated, ComEd retaliated against her by disciplining her and lowering her earnings. Hamilton sued her employer for disparate treatment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.

ComEd has filed an affirmative defense alleging that Hamilton's complaint is untimely, and now seeks judgment on that affirmative defense. For the reasons that follow, the court grants ComEd's motion and enters judgment in its favor. ComEd also filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) but, because ComEd is entitled to judgment, the court strikes the motion to dismiss as moot.

BACKGROUND

As a threshold matter, although ComEd seeks judgment on its affirmative defense, it does not identify under which rule it is proceeding. Because Hamilton was on notice that ComEd seeks judgment, and because the parties both rely on undisputed evidence outside the pleadings, the court construes ComEd's motion as one for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. See Golden Years Homestead Inc. v. Buckland, 557 F.3d 457, 461-62 (7th Cir. 2009) (court may construe motion as one for judgment under Rule 56 where non-moving party is on notice that defendant seeks judgment). The relevant undisputed facts are as follows.

Hamilton works as a general clerk for ComEd. Her complaint is sparse on factual allegations and does not detail the type of treatment to which she was allegedly subjected. She alleges that she complained about the harassment, but in response was disciplined, including a suspension without pay and "two verbal coachings."

She cross-filed two charges of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC, an original charge filed on April 7, 2008, and an amended charge filed on November 12, 2009. In response to both charges, the EEOC mailed a single right-to-sue letter to her attorney, Michael Smith, on December 8, 2010.

The post office delivered the right-to-sue letter on December 10, 2010. Smith was out of the office and out of town that day, and another attorney at the same address, Kris Tsitsis, signed for the letter and placed it with the rest of Smith's mail as a courtesy to Smith. Four days later, on December 14, 2010, Smith returned to his office and opened the right-to-sue letter. Smith filed the complaint that initiated the instant lawsuit on March 14, 2011, which was 90 days after he opened the right-to-sue letter on December 14, 2010, but 94 days after the letter was delivered on December 10, 2010.

In lieu of an answer, ComEd has filed a motion to dismiss Hamilton's complaint for failing to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). ComEd also filed an affirmative defense in which it alleges that Hamilton's complaint is untimely because it was filed beyond the 90-day statute of limitations set out in the right-to-sue letter.

ANALYSIS

I. ComEd's Summary Judgment Motion

A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Thus, where the relevant facts are undisputed, the court may settle questions of law on summary judgment. See Cavoto v. Hayes, No. 08 CV 6957, 2009 WL 3380664, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 19, 2009) (pure questions of law may be decided on ...


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