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William Hall and Jasen Winfrey v. Walsh Construction Company

August 9, 2012

WILLIAM HALL AND JASEN WINFREY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
WALSH CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INTERNATIONAL DECORATORS, INC., AND CHICAGO REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow

OPINION AND ORDER

William Hall and Jasen Winfrey filed a complaint against defendants Walsh Construction Company ("Walsh"), International Decorators, Inc. ("IDI"), and the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters ("CRCC"), alleging racial harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and unlawful termination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Before the court are Walsh's and IDI's motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn1 IDI also moves to strike certain allegations from the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f). For the reasons set forth below, Walsh's motion to dismiss [#24] will be denied, IDI's motion to dismiss [#29] will be granted, and IDI's motion to strike will be denied.

FACTS*fn2

I. Hall's and Winfrey's Employment with IDI and Walsh

IDI hired Hall and Winfrey as carpenters in March 2006. Both Hall and Winfrey are African American. In July 2006, Walsh hired IDI as a subcontractor and Hall and Winfrey were assigned to work at various Walsh job sites. Walsh controlled the job operations, subcontractors, and workers' day-to-day duties at some of the sites where Hall and Winfrey worked. IDI controlled Hall's and Winfrey's terms of employment and job responsibilities and assigned them to work at specific job sites.

Hall and Winfrey were subjected to numerous forms of racial harassment and discrimination by IDI and Walsh employees, managers, and supervisors. They were called racially derogatory names, including "spook," "shadow-man," and "batman," and there was a picture of a hooded KKK clansman and a noose made out of carpentry tools at one of the job sites. When Hall and Winfrey complained to Walsh and IDI about the harassment and discrimination, they were simply transferred to another job site.

Both Hall and Winfrey stopped working for IDI in December 2006. Citing Winfrey's attendance violations, IDI terminated Winfrey by phone on November 6, 2006. Winfrey was immediately re-hired, however, when one of his attorneys contacted IDI. Winfrey was again terminated by phone on December 6, 2006. After Hall experienced continued racial harassment and discrimination at his job sites, he was forced to resign from IDI on December 10, 2006.

II. Employment Discrimination Charges against IDI Filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC")*fn3

Winfrey filed a charge of discrimination against IDI on December 22, 2006, alleging discrimination based on race and retaliation for complaining about the discrimination. (IDI's Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 1.)*fn4 Hall filed a charge with the EEOC against IDI on May 1, 2006, also alleging discrimination based on race and retaliation. (IDI's Mot. to Dismiss Ex. 2.) The particulars of the two charges are nearly identical.

The charges assert that, in October 2006, Hall and Winfrey were "subjected to racial harassment in that [they were] intimidated, threatened and subject to racially derogatory remarks by [IDI] and other subcontractors." (IDI's Mot. to Dismiss Exs. 1 & 2.) The charges further allege that when Hall and Winfrey complained to IDI about the discrimination later that month, they were transferred to another location. Finally, each charge asserts, "As of today, [IDI] continues to harass me and retaliate against me for complaining of discrimination." (Id.)

The EEOC issued determinations in favor of Winfrey and Hall and against IDI on June 6, 2011.*fn5 (Compl. Exs. B, E.) The determinations explain that the EEOC's investigation of Hall's and Winfrey's charges against IDI established reasonable cause to believe that Hall and Winfrey were subjected to harassment and intimidation based on their race and that IDI retaliated against them for complaining of the harassment by transferring them to another location, in violation of Title VII. (Id.) The EEOC issued notices of right to sue on September 8, 2011.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)challenges a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); GE Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). In ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. Dixon v. Page, 291 F.3d 485, 486 (7th Cir. 2002). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis, but must also establish that the requested relief is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable ...


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