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Mary R. Maze v. Towers Watson America

February 1, 2012

MARY R. MAZE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWERS WATSON AMERICA, LLC, ELISSA M. SIROVATKA, AND KENNETH LEONARD DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is "Defendant Towers Watson Pennsylvania, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively for a More Definite Statement."*fn1 (Dkt. No. 6 (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss.)) For the reasons stated herein, the motion is denied as to pro se plaintiff Mary Maze's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and granted as to all of Maze's age discrimination and Title VII claims except her claims that she was discriminatorily denied raises and subjected to a hostile work environment. Towers Watson's alternative motion for a more definite statement under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(e) is denied.

BACKGROUND

On November 15, 2011, pro se plaintiff Mary R. Maze, who is a former actuarial analyst with Towers Watson, filed this employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer and two supervisors, Elissa M. Sirovatka, and Kenneth Leonard. (Dkt. No. 1 (Pl.'s Compl.).)

The complaint alleges claims under the Age Discrimination Employment Act ("ADEA"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Specifically, Maze alleges that Defendants discriminated her against her on the basis of age, color, national origin, race, and sex, beginning on January 1, 2009. (Id. ¶ ¶ 6, 9).

In her complaint, the facts of which will be accepted as true for the purposes of this motion, Maze contends that in February 2010, she was put on an unreasonable performance improvement plan ("PIP"), then fired when she could not meet it. (Id. ¶ 12.) She was refused work because of her age and the fact that she had children, and work was taken from her and given to younger Asian male colleagues. (Id.) She was held to different standards than those colleagues, and subjected to harassment and a hostile work environment. (Id.)

In an addendum to her complaint, Maze contends that she was given exemplary reviews and promised raises in meetings, but then denied those raises. (Id., Addendum, ¶ 2.) She was denied the same advancement opportunities as her younger Asian male co-workers. (Id., Addendum, ¶ 2.) Projects were taken away from her, and her office manager told her that work was taken away from her because she was too old and had children. (Id.) When she told a supervisor of these comments, he did nothing and more work was taken away from her. (Id.) Although the addendum does not provide much detail, in her response Maze clarifies that her office manager was Sirovatka, and that on May 5, 2009, they had a meeting in which Sirovatka told her that a project was being assigned to an Asian male colleague because he was younger and had no children. (Dkt. No. 15 (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 13).) On May 28, 2009, Maze went to the company's Bloomington office and told her supervisor, Leonard, about Sirovatka's comments during the meeting earlier that month. (Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 14.) Leonard told her this was unacceptable and he would discuss it with Sirovatka, but after the meeting even more projects were taken from Maze. (Id.)

After she was put on the performance improvement plan, Maze requested that a representative from Human Resources to be present at future meetings. (Pl.'s Compl., Addendum, ¶ 2.) When the representative was not present, Maze was yelled at and reprimanded for her job performance. (Id.) She contends the PIP was extended after 90 days for an additional 30 days because, according to her supervisors, there was not enough documentation of her performance. (Id.) Although she believed her job performance to be satisfactory, she ultimately was given a letter of separation. (Id.)

Attached to Maze's complaint is her EEOC charge of discrimination, which she dated June 17, 2011, and which is file stamped June 22, 2011. (Dkt. No. 1.) In her complaint and her response, however, Maze contends she filed this charge on May 26, 2011. (Pl.'s Compl., 7.1.)

It appears from documents Maze submitted with her response that she may have filed some type of correspondence or an intake questionnaire with the EEOC on May 26, 2011, and later received the charge of discrimination from the EEOC for revisions and her signature. Dkt. No. 15 (Pl.'s Resp.¶ 2, Att. A).) The Seventh Circuit has held that an intake questionnaire that is subsequently verified constitutes a charge in circumstances analogous to those at issue here. Philbin v. Gen. Elec. Capital Auto Lease, Inc., 929 F.3d 321 (7th Cir. 1991). So the court will consider Maze's EEOC charge to have been filed on May 26, 2011, at least for the purposes of this motion.

In the charge, Maze contends that she began her employment with Towers Watson in May 1988, and most recently was an actuarial analyst. During her employment, Maze contended in the EEOC charge, she was subjected to different employment terms than young, non-Caucasian, male colleagues, including the loss of assignments, refusal of the same training opportunities, unwarranted disciplinary action, and a hostile work environment. On Aug. 2, 2010, Maze was discharged. She was 43 at the time of her firing. The EEOC sent Maze a right-to-sue letter mailed on Aug. 17, 2011, informing her that her charge was dismissed because it was not timely filed.

LEGAL STANDARD

In Illinois, an employee may bring suit under the ADEA or Title VII only if she files a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice. Brown v. Ill. Dep't of Natural Res., 499 F.3d 675, 681 n. 5 (7th Cir. 2007); Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of America, 354 F.3d 632, 637 (7th Cir. 2004).Towers Watson contends Maze's complaint must be dismissed for failure to comply with this requirement, and in the alternative seeks a more definite statement of Maze's claims under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e).

Towers Watson moves to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) for lack of jurisdiction. However, this timing requirement for the filing of an EEOC charge is not jurisdictional, as Towers Watson argues, but rather is "a requirement that, like a statute of limitations, is subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling." Mattern v. Panduit Corp., No. 11 C 984, 2011 WL 4889091, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 11, 2011) (quoting Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 393 (1982)). So the appropriate basis for bringing this motion was Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), not 12(b)(1). Regardless, the court may consider a motion to dismiss ...


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