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Theodore Yancy v. Village of Maywood

May 9, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman


Plaintiff sues the Village of Maywood, Jason Ervin and Joe Ponsetto for their alleged violations of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and state law. Before the Court is defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the Fourteenth Amendment, FLSA and state tortious interference claims.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motion.


In 1995, plaintiff started working as a police officer for the Village of Maywood. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 8.) In 2007, he became a Sergeant and was promoted to Supervisor of Investigations. (Id. ¶ 11.) In June 2009, he was promoted to Commander. (Id. ¶ 17.)

In July 2009, however, the Maywood Police Chief put plaintiff on administrative leave pending an investigation. (Id. ¶ 19.) The Chief did not tell plaintiff why he was being investigated or question plaintiff about any alleged misconduct. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 21, 23.)

After being put on leave, plaintiff started working as a security officer at a local school, Proviso Area for Exceptional Children ("PAEC"). (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) Neither the Police Chief nor the administrators of PAEC objected to his working there while on leave. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) Plaintiff worked for PAEC without incident during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years and expected to return for the 2010-11 school year. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.)

In March 2010, defendants Ervin and Ponsetto, who were Maywood's Assistant Village Manager and Village Manager, respectively, instructed Maywood police officers to tell PAEC's principal that plaintiff's employment there violated Police Department rules. (Id. ¶ 34.) Subsequently, Ponsetto personally urged the principal to terminate plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 36.) When the principal declined to do so, Ervin and Ponsetto sent Maywood police officers to the school to performed an unwarranted search of plaintiff in the principal's presence. (Id. ¶¶ 37-38.) Immediately thereafter, PAEC put plaintiff on administrative leave and cancelled his contract for the 2010-2011 school year. (Id. ¶ 39.)

At the end of August 2010, after 396 days of administrative leave, plaintiff was reinstated to the Maywood Police Department. (Id. ¶¶ 42-43.) Plaintiff was not, however, reinstated to a Commander position. (Id. ¶ 48.) Rather, he was put on desk duty, barred from wearing a uniform and working overtime and denied his uniform allotment and vacation pay. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) Plaintiff asked the Village to investigate his complaints and hold a hearing on the propriety of his leave, but the Village ignored his requests. (Id. ¶ 52.)

In February 2011, the Police Department reinstated plaintiff to a supervisory position. However, plaintiff has yet to receive his uniform allotment and unpaid vacation time. (Id. ¶ 63.)


On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint, drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009). "[A] complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations" but must contain "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

Fourteenth Amendment

In Counts I and VII, plaintiff seeks to recover damages for defendants' alleged deprivation of his property interest in the Commander position and occupational liberty without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The latter claim is easily dispatched. The Fourteenth Amendment protects an individual's right "to follow a trade, profession, or other calling," but does not protect his right to hold a specific job. Lawson v. Sheriff of Tippecanoe Cnty., 725 F.2d 1136, 1138 (7th Cir. 1984). Accordingly, to state a viable occupational liberty claim, plaintiff must allege that defendants' actions have effectively "blacklisted" him from law enforcement, so that it is virtually impossible for him find a job in that field. Townsend v. Vallas, 256 F.3d 661, 670 (7th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff, who is still working as a Maywood police officer, cannot make such an allegation. Thus, he cannot state a viable claim for deprivation of occupational liberty.

Plaintiff's property deprivation claim is apparently based on plaintiff's suspension from the Commander position. (See 1st Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 19.) Whether plaintiff has a constitutionally-protected property interest in that position is a question of state law. Moulton v. Vigo Cnty., 150 F.3d 801, 804 (7th Cir. 1998). As relevant here, state law provides that Maywood police officers, except the Chief, Deputy Chief and Commanders, are appointed by the Maywood Board of Fire and Police Commissioners ("Commission") and can be suspended for more than five days only for cause and after notice and an opportunity to be heard. 65 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/10-1-18(b), 10-2.1-17; Vill. Maywood Code § 31.21(C), (E). Maywood Police Commanders, however, are appointed and removed by the Village Manager, not the Commission. See Vill. Maywood Code §§ 30.04 (E)(2),(13), 31.21(C). Moreover, plaintiff has not cited and the Court has not found, any Village or state law that makes the Commander position anything other than at-will. See Moulton, 150 F.3d at 804 ("Protected property interests ...

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