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Fozyia Huri v. Circuit Court of Cook County

April 25, 2012

FOZYIA HURI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County's (Office of Chief Judge) and Defendant Sylvia McCullum's (McCullum) motion to dismiss, and on Defendant James Lawless' (Lawless) and Defendant Marilyn Filishio's (Filishio) motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, the motions to dismiss are granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Fozyia Huri (Huri) contends that she is a Muslim of Saudi Arabian national origin. In June 2000, Huri allegedly began working for the Office of the Chief Judge as a Child Care Attendant in the Children's Advocacy Rooms of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Huri's supervisor was allegedly McCullum, the Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Rooms of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Huri contends that at all relevant times, she wore an Islamic head scarf covering her hair, but not covering her face. Huri asserts that McCullum was aware of the fact that Huri was Muslim. Huri contends that McCullum repeatedly told Huri that McCullum and other individuals were "good Christian[s]," and referred to one individual as a "good church-going Christian." (SA Compl. Par. 31-33). McCullum also allegedly told another Child Care Attendant that she should work with a "good Christian" and not with Huri, because Huri was "evil." (SA Compl. Par. 34).

Huri also claims that in December 2009, McCullum asked the Child Care Attendants to hold hands and once they were all holding hands, McCullum prayed out loud. Huri contends that she was thus "involuntarily drawn into a Christian prayer circle," which "created a hostile work environment." (SA Compl. Par. 37). Huri asserts that from 2002 to November 2010, McCullum subjected Huri to false criticisms, falsely accused Huri of misconduct, subjected Huri to different rules than other co-workers, screamed at Huri, and subjected Huri to greater scrutiny than her co-workers. Huri contends that from 2002 to November 2010, she repeatedly complained about the religious comments, the prayer circle, and other conditions of her employment. Following Huri's complaints, McCullum allegedly informed Huri that the Office of the Chief Judge "was not interested in [Huri's] complaints and was tired of [Huri's] complaints." (SA Compl Par. 40).

Huri contends that following her complaints, McCullum retaliated against Huri by continuing the alleged harassment. In November 2010, Huri was allegedly transferred to the Court Reporters' Office. Defendant Marilyn Filishio (Filishio) was allegedly the Administrator of the Court Reporters' Office, and Defendant James Lawless (Lawless) was allegedly the Assistant Administrator of the Court Reporters' Office. Huri claims that from November 2010 to the present, Filishio and Lawless have subjected Huri to a hostile work environment and have retaliated against Huri for making complaints about her work conditions prior to and since her transfer. Huri contends that Filishio and Lawless subjected Huri to false criticisms, falsely accused Huri of misconduct, subjected Huri to different rules than other co-workers, screamed at Huri, and subjected Huri to greater scrutiny than her co-workers. Filishio and Lawless also allegedly prohibited Huri from entering the office prior to her start time, but have allowed other employees to have 24-hour access to the office. In addition, Filishio and Lawless allegedly prohibited Huri's daughter from waiting for Huri in the lobby, but allowed other employees' children to wait in the lobby. Filishio and Lawless also allegedly prohibited Huri from having non-work items in the office, but have allowed other employees to have non-work items in the office. Filishio and Lawless also allegedly personally invited all employees except Huri to a social gathering in the office. Finally, Huri contends that Filishio denied Huri's request for time off for an Islamic religious observance.

Huri includes in her amended complaint claims alleging a hostile work environment and discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count I), a Title VII retaliation claim (Count I), claims alleging a violation of her First Amendment rights brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Section 1983) (Count II), and Section 1983 equal protection retaliation claims (Count II). Defendants have now filed motions to dismiss.

LEGAL STANDARD

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must draw all reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff, construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint. Appert v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Inc., 673 F.3d 609, 622 (7th Cir. 2012); Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). A plaintiff is required to include allegations in the complaint that "plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level'" and "if they do not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court." E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting in part Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)); see also Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Inc., 673 F.3d at 622 (stating that "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" and that "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged")(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009))(internal quotations omitted).

DISCUSSION

I. Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim

Defendants contend that the Title VII hostile work environment claim should

be dismissed because the claim is outside the scope of the charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In general, a plaintiff cannot pursue Title VII claims in federal court "that were not originally included in the charges made to the EEOC." Moore v. Vital Products, Inc., 641 F.3d 253, 256-57 (7th Cir. 2011)(internal quotations omitted)(quoting Sitar v. Ind. Dep't of Transp., 344 F.3d 720, 726 (7th Cir. 2003)). Even if certain claims are not specifically referenced in an EEOC charge, "a plaintiff can still bring them if they are like or reasonably related to the allegations of the [EEOC] charge and growing out of such allegations." Id. (internal quotations omitted)(quoting Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mut. Hosp. Ins., Inc., 538 F.2d 164, 167 (7th Cir. 1976)). For a claim to be like or reasonably related, "the relevant claim and the EEOC charge 'must, at minimum, describe the same conduct and implicate the same individuals.'" Id. (internal quotations omitted)(quoting Cheek v. W. & S. Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 501 (7th Cir. 1994)).

In the instant action, Defendants contend that Huri merely alleged discrimination based upon her religion and national origin in the two EEOC charges Huri filed with the EEOC (EEOC Charges), and that she did not allege that she was subjected to a hostile work environment. The court can consider the content of the EEOC Charges without converting the motion to a motion for summary judgment since the EEOC Charges are attached to the second amended complaint and are part of the pleadings. Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c); Fed. R.Civ. P. 12(d). Huri alleged in the EEOC Charges that she was discriminated against because of her religion and national origin. Although Huri made limited references in the EEOC Charges to alleged harassment, Huri presented no allegations that would suggest that her work environment included harassment that was so severe or pervasive that it altered the conditions of her employment. See, e.g., Thompson v. Memorial Hosp. of Carbondale, 625 F.3d 394, 401 (7th Cir. 2010)(stating that "[t]o constitute a hostile work environment under Title VII, the alleged harassment must be both subjectively and objectively so severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of the plaintiff's employment"). Huri did not include in the EEOC Charges allegations regarding her work performance or work environment. The ...


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