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James Knapp v. City of Markham; David Webb

August 9, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Edmond E. Chang


Plaintiff James Knapp alleges that the City of Markham, Mayor David Webb, Jr. (individually and in his official capacity), Chief of Police Wade Ingram (individually and in his official capacity), and former Chief of Police Pascal Crawford (collectively "Defendants") discriminated against him on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count 1) and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count 2). Knapp's complaint also includes claims for violations of his right to free speech under the First Amendment (Count 3), breach of contract (Count 4), quantum meruit (Count 5), and violations of various state and federal wage statutes (Counts 6-8). Defendants have moved to dismiss [R. 23] Counts 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court denies in part and grants in part the motion to dismiss.


At this stage of the litigation, we accept Plaintiff's allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. In 1991, James Knapp, a Caucasian male, was hired by the City of Markham to work as a patrolman for the Markham Police Department (MPD). R. 20 (Compl.) ¶ 16. Over the years, Knapp received several promotions, served on the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, and maintained an exemplary record with the MPD. Id. ¶¶ 17-19. Knapp was also well-regarded by his colleagues. In February 2005, MPD employees wrote a letter to the Mayor of Markham, David Webb, Jr., advocating that Knapp be promoted to Chief of the Markham Police Department. Id. ¶ 21. Knapp received a promotion that year, but not to Chief of Police; rather, Knapp was promoted to the position of Deputy Chief in May 2005. Id. ¶ 17. Some time in 2005 Knapp learned that the Chief of Police, Pascal Crawford, planned to fire five officers for violating the City of Markham's residency requirement. Id. ¶ 23. Knapp met with Mayor Webb and recommended that, instead of termination, the officers should be given an opportunity to comply with the residency requirement. Id. ¶ 23. Knapp explained that the residency requirement had not been enforced for at least fifteen years. Id. Mayor Webb disregarded Knapp's advice, and Crawford fired the officers. Id. ¶ 24.

In 2006, the City of Markham approved a project, proposed by Knapp, to renovate the Markham Police Department building. Id. ¶¶ 76-77. The City agreed to compensate Knapp for his time, services, and expenses related to the renovation. Id.

The City budgeted $100,000 for materials, and Knapp purchased the materials for the renovation. Id. ¶ 83. Knapp worked on the renovation project for around one year. Id. ¶ 79. He devoted his holidays and at least ten hours every weekend to renovating the building. Id. ¶ 79. Knapp claims that it would have cost the City approximately $1,000,000 to hire a contractor to perform the renovations. Id. ¶ 82. Instead, the City agreed to pay Knapp and other individuals to do the work. Id. ¶ 78. However, Knapp claims that he was not compensated for the time he spent working on the MPD renovation project. Id. ¶¶ 78, 84-85. Knapp's contract and wage claims arise from the City's alleged breach of the renovation agreement.

Meanwhile, the officers who were fired for violating the residency requirement were preparing to arbitrate their claims for reinstatement. In early October 2006, Knapp received a subpoena to testify at the arbitration hearing. Id. ¶ 25. In mid-October, shortly before the hearing, Mayor Webb's administrative assistant, William Relford, contacted Knapp on two separate occasions and informed Knapp that Webb did not want Knapp to testify about how the City had failed to enforce the residency requirement for several years preceding the terminations. Id. ¶ 26. Knapp told Relford that he intended to comply with the subpoena and testify truthfully at the arbitration hearing. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. On October 26, 2006, Knapp attended the arbitration hearing and testified that the residency requirement had not been enforced during his tenure at the MPD. Id. ¶ 29. In 2007, the arbitrator ruled in the fired officers' favor and ordered them reinstated with back pay. Id. ¶ 30.

According to Knapp, after the arbitration ruling was issued, Defendants "engaged in a campaign of retaliation" against him. Id. ¶ 32. Knapp claims that Defendants' retaliatory acts included, among other things, interfering with his investigations, changing his office locks, falsely reporting Knapp missing from the job, and refusing to compensate Knapp for the work he performed on the MPD renovation project. Id. In June 2008, Knapp received a memorandum from then-Chief Crawford notifying Knapp that he was being demoted from his position as Deputy Chief of Police to the civil service rank of Sergeant. Id. ¶ 36. According to the memo, one of the reasons for Knapp's demotion was his failure to leave his city vehicle at the police station when not on call. Id. ¶ 37. However, Knapp had previously been told that this policy did not apply to him because he was the on-call detective for all major crimes and the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force. Id. ¶¶ 35, 38. When Knapp inquired why he was being demoted, Crawford responded that Knapp should "know what this is about," but promised to explain further once he (Crawford) retired from the Department. Id. ¶ 41. Markham's city counsel appointed an African-American patrolman to replace Knapp as the Deputy Chief. Id. ¶ 43. Around one week after his demotion, Knapp was removed from the Major Crimes Task Force. Id. ¶ 44. Knapp contends that he was demoted and removed from the Task Force because of his race and in retaliation for testifying at the arbitration hearing. Id. ¶ 42. One year later, in June 2009, Knapp was demoted again -- this time from his position in the Investigation Division to the Patrol Division. Id. ¶ 46. As with his first demotion, Knapp claims that this adverse action was due to his race and in retaliation of his testimony at the October 2006 arbitration hearing. Id. ¶ 47.

In April 2010, Knapp filed a charge of race discrimination against the City with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Id. ¶ 5. Knapp's charge is still pending. Id. ¶ 6; R. 50.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint generally need only include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The Seventh Circuit has explained that this rule "reflects a liberal notice pleading regime, which is intended to 'focus litigation on the merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities that might keep plaintiffs out of court." Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506,514 (2002)).

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). "[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); McGowan v. Hulick, 612 F.3d 636, 637 (7th Cir. 2010) (courts accept factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor). A "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. -, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. And the allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth are those that are factual, rather than mere legal conclusions. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.



Defendants argue that Knapp's Title VII claim must be dismissed for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. The statute provides that the initial charge of discrimination must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). In "deferral states" such as Illinois, this deadline is extended from 180 to 300 days. § 2000e-5(f)(1); Sharp v. United Airlines, 236 F.3d 368, 372 (7th Cir. 2001). According to the statute, if the charge filed with the EEOC is dismissed, or if within 180 days from the filing of such charge the EEOC has not filed a civil action under this section, the EEOC must notify the claimant. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). At that point, according to the statute, "within ninety days after the giving of such notice a civil action may be brought against the respondent named in the charge." Id. As discussed below, because Knapp has not received notice of his right to sue, the Court dismisses Knapp's Title VII claim without prejudice.


As explained further below, the Court concludes that Knapp's Title VII claim is premature and dismisses Count 1 without prejudice. However, first, the Court will briefly address Defendants' alternative argument. Defendants argue that Knapp's Title VII claim is barred because he failed to timely file a charge of unlawful employment practices with the EEOC prior to bringing this action. Defendants claim that all but one of the alleged discriminatory acts fall outside of Title VII's 300-day statute of limitations. R. 37 at 2-4. The Court agrees that Knapp failed to timely file charges on his June 2008 demotion and removal from the Major Crimes Task Force. These acts occurred more than 300 days before the EEOC charge he filed on April 13, 2010. Therefore, Knapp would be precluded, in any event, from pursuing those claims in the instant litigation. With respect to Knapp's demotion from the Investigation Division to the Patrol Division in June 2009, Defendants concede that Knapp alleges that this incident occurred within the 300-day ...

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