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Gregory P. Marron v. Eby-Brown Company

January 23, 2012

GREGORY P. MARRON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EBY-BROWN COMPANY, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Eby-Brown Company's motion to dismiss [11] Counts IIIVI of Plaintiff Gregory P. Marron's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendant's motion [11].

I. Background*fn1

On or around June 11, 2007, Marron began employment as an IT Network Manager for Eby-Brown. ¶ 6. The terms and conditions of Marron's employment were stipulated in a written agreement dated May 22, 2007, which was signed by Marron, Marron's manager, and EbyBrown's Executive Vice President of Human Resources. ¶ 7. During his employment, Marron proved to be a "diligent and conscientious worker," and "fulfilled all requirements for his job." ¶ 8. However, Marron experienced criticism and daily harassment by his co-workers and management officials on account of his religion--Jehovah's Witness. ¶¶ 3, 9. Marron reported the criticisms and harassment during his employment to Eby-Brown management, but no remedial action was taken. ¶ 10. To the contrary, Marron's reporting resulted in even more criticism and harassment. ¶ 11.

Marron alleges that on or about December 6, 2010, Eby-Brown terminated his employment because of his religious beliefs. ¶ 13. Eby-Brown agents reported to various persons that Marron's termination was due to poor performance. ¶ 16. Upon Marron's termination, he was asked to sign an agreement not to sue Eby-Brown. ¶ 15. Marron refused to sign the agreement, at which time Eby-Brown threatened Marron with losing his rights to unemployment compensation. ¶ 15. Eby-Brown hired a replacement for Marron who was not a Jehovah's Witness. ¶ 14.

About one month after Marron's termination, on January 10, 2011, Marron filed a charge of religious discrimination and retaliation, charge number 440-2011-01708. ¶ 5. The same month, Marron received a right-to-sue letter. ¶ 5. The complaint fails to specify with whom Marron filed a charge of religious discrimination and retaliation, or from whom Marron received a right-to-sue letter. Marron then filed a six-count complaint against Eby-Brown, alleging Count: (I) Violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Discrimination); (II) Violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Retaliation); (III) Breach of Contract; (IV) State Law Wrongful Discharge; (V) Defamation; and (VI) Violation of Illinois Human Rights Act. On June 9, 2011, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Counts III-VI pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6).

II. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."

Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007). The factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 n.14). In other words, the pleading must allege facts that plausibly suggest the claim asserted. Twombly, 550 U.S.at 570. "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). However, "[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." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (omission in original). The Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn there from. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005).

III. Analysis

A. Count III: Breach of Contract

Marron alleges that his employment agreement with Eby-Brown contained an implied condition of good faith and fair dealing and other conditions that Eby-Brown breached when it terminated Marron's employment based on his religion and opposition to religious discrimination. Eby-Brown moves to dismiss Count III, claiming that: (1) Marron is an at-will employee, which precludes him from claiming breach of contract; and (2) Illinois law prohibits a claim of breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

1. Breach of Contract

Under Illinois law, a plaintiff asserting breach of contract must allege: (1) "the existence of a valid and enforceable contract"; (2) that he or she substantially performed on the contract; (3) that the defendant breached the contract; and (4) that damages resulted from the alleged breach of contract. Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 764 (7th Cir. 2010) ...


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