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Anthony Travis v. the City of Chicago

June 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joan B. Gottschall


Plaintiff Anthony Travis filed a four-count amended complaint against the City of Chicago, the Chicago Fire Department ("the Department"), and seven individual defendants who serve the Department as Commissioners, Deputy and Assistant Commissioners, Department Chiefs, and Supervisors. He alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as Illinois tort law. Now before the court is the City's motion to dismiss the complaint in part pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). By the parties' agreement, the court dismisses all claims against the Department and the individual defendants in their official capacities and the Title VII (Count I) claims against the individual defendants. For the reasons stated below, the court dismisses Travis's § 1983 against the City (Count II) without prejudice. The court also dismisses his state-law claims (Counts III & IV). Travis's Title VII claim against the City stands, as do his § 1983 claims against five of the defendants in their individual capacities.


Travis has worked as a Senior Air Mask Technician for the Department since 1995. According to his complaint, he has been the only African-American in that position during that time. Travis alleges that: (I) the defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race, treated him less favorably than similarly situated white employees, and retaliated against him for complaining about his supervisors' conduct, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (II) the City and the Department maintained policies of deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of African-American Department employees, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (III) the defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon him, in violation of Illinois law; and (IV) the defendants tortiously interfered with his employment relationship and prospective economic advantage, in violation of Illinois law.

In response to the City's motion to dismiss, Travis has voluntarily dismissed part of his complaint. He concedes that his claims against the Department should be dismissed because it is not an entity separate from the City, that his claims against the individual defendants in their official capacities should be dismissed because they are redundant, and that he cannot bring Title VII claims against individual defendants. (Pl.'s Mem. in Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss 2 n.1, ECF No. 32.) He also concedes that he cannot recover punitive damages against the City. (Id.) He further clarifies that his Title VII claims are not based on "pattern and practice," but only on incidents involving himself as an individual. (Id. at 9.) Travis argues, however, that his Title VII and § 1983 claims should stand, along with his state-law claims. Defendants now move the court to dismiss the § 1983 and state-law claims, although they do not challenge the Title VII claim at this time.


To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim satisfies this pleading standard when its factual allegations "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56; see also Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[P]laintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together."). For purposes of the motion to dismiss, the court takes all facts alleged in the plaintiff's complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of plaintiff, although conclusory allegations that merely recite the elements of a claim are not entitled to this presumption of truth. Virnich v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011).


A. Travis's § 1983 Claims

Travis asserts § 1983 claims against the City of Chicago and against five defendants in their individual capacities. The individual defendants are Michael Callahan (Deputy Fire Commissioner), Emmett O'Donnell (Chief of Equipment and Supply Department), Robert Anthony (Chief of Breathing Service Apparatus Department), Debbie Biniak (Supervising Senior Air Mask Technician), and Chuck Killman (Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Employee Relations).

1. § 1983 Claims against Individual Defendants

Travis seeks to maintain his suit against defendants Callahan, O'Donnell, Anthony, Biniak, and Killman in their individual capacities. The defendants may be held liable for their personal actions if those acts were taken in violation of § 1983. To recover damages, Travis must establish the defendants' personal responsibility for a deprivation of his constitutional rights. See Kuhn v. Goodlow, 678 F.3d 552, 555-56 (7th Cir. 2012) (stating that individual § 1983 liability is premised on the wrongdoer's personal participation in an alleged constitutional deprivation). The Seventh Circuit has explained that "an official satisfies the personal responsibility requirement if she acts or fails to act with a deliberate or reckless disregard of plaintiff's constitutional rights, or if the conduct causing the constitutional deprivation occurs at her direction or with her knowledge and consent." Crowder v. Lash, 687 F.2d 996, 1005 (7th Cir. 1982).

The defendants argue that Travis has failed to allege that he suffered a constitutional deprivation, that any of the defendants were personally responsible for a constitutional violation, or that the defendants acted knowingly, willfully, or recklessly in violation of Travis's constitutional rights. The court has reviewed Travis's complaint and will summarize his allegations against each individual defendant to determine whether Travis has sufficiently alleged a § 1983 violation against each of them.

Killman (Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Employee Relations): On June 16, 2009, Killman reprimanded Travis for reporting discriminatory conduct by other defendants. On September 24, 2009, Killman suspended Travis for three days for insubordination for reporting illegal and discriminatory conduct. On December 11, 2009, Killman detailed Travis to an assignment in violation of his collective bargaining agreement, although he had more seniority than white workers who were not detailed to the assignment. On December 14, 2009, Killman ...

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