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Levia Moultrie v. Penn Aluminum International

July 31, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge:


Before the Court is defendant Penn Aluminum International, LLC's ("Penn Aluminum") motion to dismiss count IV (Doc. 35), a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act (the "IHRA" or the "Act"), 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq., of plaintiff Levia Moultrie's first amended complaint (Doc. 35). For the reasons stated below, defendant Penn Aluminum's motion to dismiss (Doc. 35) is granted because plaintiff's IHRA claim is untimely.

I. Background

On September 3, 2009, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and the Equal Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On November 16, 2010, the IDHR notified plaintiff that it determined that there was not substantial evidence to support the allegations of his charges. Accordingly, the IDHR dismissed the charges and gave plaintiff notice that plaintiff could seek review of the dismissal before the Illinois Human Rights Commission (the "Commission") by filing a "Request for Review" by December 21, 2010, or could "commence a civil action in the appropriate state circuit court within ninety (90) days after receipt of this Notice." The notice also informed plaintiff if he intended to exhaust his State remedies, he should notify the EEOC immediately as "[t]he EEOC generally adopts the Department's findings." The notice also contained the following information:

4. If an EEOC charge number is cited above, this charge was also filed with the [EEOC]. If this charge alleges a violation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Complaintant has the right to request EEOC to perform a Substantial Weight Review of this dismissal. Please note that in order to receive such a review, it must be requested in writing to EEOC within fifteen (15) days of the receipt of this notice, or if a request for review is filed with the Human Rights Commission, within fifteen days of the Human Rights Commission's final order. Any request filed prior to your receipt of a final notice WILL NOT BE HONORED. Send your request for a Substantial Weight Review to EEOC, 500 West Madison Street, Suite 2000, Chicago, Illinois 60661. Otherwise, EEOC will generally adopt the Department of Human Rights' action in this case.

On March 30, 2011, the EEOC sent plaintiff a dismissal and notice of rights, notifying plaintiff that the EEOC was closing its file on his charge and as the notice sent by the IDHR had warned plaintiff if he did not request the EEOC to perform a review within fifteen days, the EEOC had adopted the findings of the IDHR. The dismissal stated:

This will be the only notice of dismissal and of your right to sue that we will send you. You may file a lawsuit against the respondent(s) under federal law based on this charge in federal or state court. Your lawsuit must be filed WITHIN 90 days of your receipt of this notice; or your right to sue based on this charge will be lost. (The time limit for filing suit based on a claim under state law may be different.)

On June 14, 2011, plaintiff filed his complaint in federal court against Penn Aluminum alleging three counts: racial discrimination, retaliation, and violations of the IHRA. On October 26, 2011, plaintiff filed his first amended complaint, adding claims against the Marmon Group, LLC ("Marmon"), the parent company of Penn Aluminum, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, Local 702 (the "Union"), the labor organization to which plaintiff belonged. Specifically, plaintiff alleged five counts, including his IHRA violation claim (count IV) against Penn Aluminum, breach of contract (count I), racial discrimination (count III), and retaliation (count V) claims against Penn Aluminum and Marmon, and a § 301 breach of duty of fair representation claim (count II) against the Union. At issue here is Penn Aluminum's motion to dismiss the IHRA claim (count IV) for lack of timeliness (Doc. 35).

II. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must establish a plausible right to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The allegations of the complaint must be sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

In making this assessment, the district court accepts as true all well- pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Rujawitz v. Martin, 561 F.3d 685, 688 (7th Cir. 2009); St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chi., 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 553 U.S. 1032 (2008). Even though Twombly (and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)) retooled federal pleading standards, notice pleading remains all that is required in a complaint: "A plaintiff still must provide only 'enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and, through his allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that he is entitled to relief.'" Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008). It is well settled that in deciding a motion to dismiss, a court may consider documents attached to the motion to dismiss if they are referred to in plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claim. Brownmark Films, LLC v. Comedy Partners, 682 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Wright v. Assoc. Ins. Cos. Inc., 29 F.3d 1244, 1248 (7th Cir. 1994)).

III. Analysis

It is undisputed that plaintiff was issued his notice of dismissal from the IDHR on November 16, 2010. Pursuant to the IHRA, if an aggrieved individual who has filed a charge with the IDHR chooses to commence a civil action in a circuit court, he or she must do so within ninety days after receipt of the IDHR's notice of dismissal. 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(C)(4). Ninety days from November 16, 2010, was February 14, 2011. Plaintiff did not file his original complaint against Penn Aluminum, however, until June 14, 2011, four months after the IHRA deadline. This Court held in Brandenburg v. Earl L. Henderson Trucking, Co., LLC, No. 09-cv-558, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53664, at *14 (S.D. Ill. June 2, 2010), that an IHRA claim not brought within the ninety day period is properly dismissed as untimely. Thus, plaintiff's IHRA claim against Penn Aluminum must be dismissed.

Recognizing this, plaintiff asserts that the IHRA sets forth the intent of the Illinois legislature that any time limit for filing a state law claim is tolled during the EEOC investigation. In support, plaintiff points to 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(A-1)(5) which provides that the "[t]he time limit set out in subsection (G) of this Section is tolled from the date on which the charged is filed with the EEOC to the date on which the EEOC issues its determination." 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(A-1)(5). Plaintiff asserts that since the EEOC did not issue its determination until March 30, 2011, the ninety day limitations period did not start running until that time.

Alternatively, plaintiff argues that the state law ninety day period marks the end of state jurisdiction but does not end federal jurisdiction. Plaintiff posits that the Illinois ninety day period defines the end of the time within which a plaintiff may pursue exhaustion of state administrative remedies.

"Courts must apply a statute as written when the language is plain and unambiguous." Manning v. United States, 546 F.3d 430, 433 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Dodd v. United States, 545 U.S. 353, 359 (2005)). When interpreting statutes, words are given their plain meaning unless doing so would frustrate the overall purpose of the statutory scheme, lead to absurd results, or contravene clearly expressed legislative intent. Gillespie v. Equifax Info. Servs., L.L.C., 484 F.3d 938, 941 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Davis, 471 F.3d 783, 787 (7th Cir. 2006)). Courts must construe statutes in the context of the entire statutory scheme and avoid rendering statutory provisions ambiguous, extraneous, or redundant. Gillespie, 484 F.3d at 941 (quoting Cole v. U.S. Capital, 389 F.3d 719, 725 (7th Cir. 2004)). Courts should interpret the statute so as to reach a reasonable result, consistent with the intent of the statutory scheme. Id. The title of a section can clarify ambiguities in the legislation's text. Storie v. Randy's Auto Sales, LLC, 589 F.3d 873, 877 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing INS v. Nat'l Ctr. for Immigrants' Rights, 502 U.S. 183, 189-90 (1991)).

Section 775 ILCS 5/7A-102 of the IHRA sets forth the procedures for filing a charge under the Act. That section provides as follows: Sec. 7A-102. Procedures. (A) Charge.

(1) Within 180 days after the date that a civil rights violation allegedly has been committed, a charge in writing under oath or affirmation may be filed with the Department by an aggrieved party or issued by the Department itself under the signature of the Director.

(2) The charge shall be in such detail as to substantially apprise any party properly concerned as to the time, place, and facts surrounding the alleged civil rights violation.

(3) Charges deemed filed with the Department pursuant to subsection (A-1) of this Section shall be deemed to be in ...

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