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Dr. Maria I. Reyes v. North Park University; Dr. David Parkyn

December 27, 2012

DR. MARIA I. REYES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTH PARK UNIVERSITY; DR. DAVID PARKYN, PRESIDENT; DR. JOSEPH JONES, PROVOST; AND DR. REBECCA NELSON, DEAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (the "SAC"). For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Dr. Maria I. Reyes (hereinafter, "Reyes" or "Plaintiff") is a tenured associate professor in the School of Education at North Park University ("the University"). She was hired in 1999. In 2007, Ryes filed an EEOC complaint against the University, alleging racial discrimination; Reyes and the University settled the dispute by agreement. As part of the settlement, the University agreed that its president would recommend Reyes for tenure. Reyes subsequently received such tenure. The University also agreed that a 2006 Faculty Personnel Committee ("FPC") Report on Reyes would be sequestered in the office of President and that the University "will not use the [2006] FPC Report with regard to future employment decisions regarding Reyes." SAC, Ex. C., at 2.

However, when Plaintiff applied in 2009 for a promotion to full professor, the FPC Report of July 2009 denied her promotion and cited liberally from the 2006 FPC Report. Additionally, Plaintiff recounts a litany of incidents she believes reflect the racial animosity and adverse employment actions taken toward her by her immediate boss, Defendant Dean Rebecca Nelson ("Nelson"); the University provost, Dr. Joseph Jones ("Jones"); and the university president, Dr. David Parkyn ("Parkyn"). These incidents will be further discussed below where relevant.

Counts I, II and III allege violations of 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. (Title VII) against the University only. Count I alleges racial discrimination, Count II alleges retaliation, and Count III alleges discrimination based on national origin. Counts IV-VI allege violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against all four Defendants. Count IV alleges racial discrimination, Count V alleges discrimination based on national origin, and Count VI alleges retaliation. Lastly, Count VII alleges breach of contract against all four Defendants.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in Plaintiffs' Complaint and draws all inferences in their favor. Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011). Plaintiffs need not allege "detailed factual allegations," but must offer more than conclusions or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action[.]" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement" will not suffice -- a complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Title VII (Counts I-III)

In Counts I and III, Plaintiff alleges race and national origin discrimination, respectively, under Title VII. The University protests that these charges must be dismissed because Plaintiff did not file EEOC complaints within 300 days after the discrimination occurred.

Plaintiff was denied a promotion by the Faculty Personnel Committee ("FPC") on March 31, 2009. She quickly appealed this decision to the FPC, which subsequently affirmed its decision. Reyes appealed the decision to Provost Jones. In a letter dated May 11, 2009, Jones concluded the judgment of the FPC was appropriate. Plaintiff then took her case to the President Parkyn. As Parkyn pointed out in a letter to Reyes, the University's Manual of Academic Personnel Policies ("MAPP") only allows for appeal to the president when the FPC recommends promotion but the "University's chief academic officer" (in this case, Provost Jones) denies the application in spite of the FPC recommendation. SAC, Ex. B, at 1. Nonetheless, Parkyn agreed to review the situation. In a letter to Plaintiff dated July 28, 2009, he indicated he agreed with the FPC and Provost Jones.

The University contends that Reyes was put on notice of the allegedly discriminatory action when the FPC denied promotion on March 31, 2009 -- 413 days before the EEOC complaint of May 18, 2010 and well outside the 300 day period required. Even if the date of the provost's decision (May 11, 2009) is considered, that date, too, is 372 days prior to the EEOC complaint. Reyes says the decision did not become final until Dr. Parkyn's letter was issued on July 28, 2009, which is within 300 days of the EEOC complaint.

As a preliminary matter, the Court must decide which documents that have been presented to it can be considered at the motion to dismiss stage. Dr. Parkyn's letter is certainly fair game, since Plaintiff attached it to her Complaint. See FED. R. CIV. P. 10(c) (noting "an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes"). In her response, Plaintiff attached a copy of the MAPP, and quotes it extensively in her response to argue that her EEOC filing was timely. Since the MAPP governs when promotion decisions are final and is central to Plaintiff's claims, the Court may consider it. See Grabianski v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., No. 12 C 284, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129757, at *18-19 n.2 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 11, 2012) (considering a contract attached to plaintiff's response to a motion to dismiss because the contract was central to the plaintiff's complaint). Additionally, Plaintiff cites to the MAPP and the appeal process in her Complaint. Pl.'s Compl. 10. See Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.1 (7th Cir. 2012) (noting ...


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