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Shah v. Littelfuse Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

April 29, 2013

SYED M. SHAH, an individual, Plaintiff,
LITTELFUSE INC., a Delaware Corporation, and DIGITAL INTELLIGENCE SYSTEMS INC., a Virginia Corporation, Defendants.


VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Syed M. Shah filed suit against Defendants Littelfuse, Inc. and Digital Intelligence Systems Corp ("DISYS") pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Shah, an Asian male of Pakistani origin who is a practicing Muslim, alleges that he was harassed, denied a wage increase, and ultimately terminated by the Defendants based on his race, national origin, and religion. DISYS moves to dismiss Counts Four, Five, and Six of Shah's Second Amended Complaint (the "Complaint"), arguing that Shah has failed to allege DISYS was his joint employer for Title VII purposes, failed to allege any conduct that would subject DYSIS to liability in the event it is found to be a joint employer, and failed to allege any discriminatory acts by DISYS that subject it to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. For the reasons stated herein, DISYS's Motion to Dismiss Counts IV through VI is granted.


The following facts are taken from Shah's Complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of this Motion to Dismiss. See Tamayo v. Blagoyevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of Shah, the non-moving party. See Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank, 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006)).

Shah, an Asian male of Pakistani national origin and a practicing Muslim, began his employment at Littelfuse's Chicago facility on or about February 15, 2010. (Complaint, §§ 8, 17.) William Niedner was an employee of Littelfuse who worked with Shah. ( Id. § 18.) In April 2010, Niedner began harassing Shah about his race, national origin, and religion. ( Id. §18.) Specifically, Niedner asked Shah how to say "hello" in "Islam" and asked Shah whether he eats camel. ( Id. § 33-34.) In August 2010 Niedner made statements to Shah indicating that he wished to burn the Qur'an, harassed Shah about fasting during the month of Ramadan, and made other disparaging remarks about Muslims. ( Id. §§ 19-20.) In September 2010, Niedner asked Shah to look at an item Niedner had pulled up on a computer screen and instead showed Shah an article on the screen stating that all Muslims who wished time off from work for Ramadan should leave their non-Muslim countries and go back to their home countries. ( Id. § 21.) Shah complained to his supervisor, David Wolfe, on several occasions about Niedner's comments and behavior. ( Id. § 22.) In September 2010 Wolfe laughed when Niedner stated in the presence of both Shah and Wolfe that all Pakistanis are terrorists and cockroaches. ( Id. § 23.)

Following the September 2010 incident with Wolfe and Niedner, Shah brought Niedner's behavior to the attention of Don McFeggan, Littelfuse's Director for Global Technologies. ( Id. § 24.) Shah states on information and belief that in October 2010, McFeggan contacted a Branch Manager at DYSIS, an employment agency, to advise him of Shah's complaints of harassment. ( Id. §§ 15-25.) Shah also e-mailed Jason Wasikowski, his contacting agent at DISYS, concerning Niedner's harassment. ( Id. § 26.) Shah also brought Niedner's comments and behavior to the attention of Mike Yorke, a manager in Littelfuse's Human Resources Department, and Srinivas Reddy, Littelfuse's Director of Global IT Application Operations. ( Id. §§ 27-28.) Following these conversations, Shah was informed by both Littelfuse and DISYS that the harassment would end. ( Id. § 29.)

On or about December 1, 2010, Littelfuse made Niedner Shah's direct supervisor. ( Id. § 30.) Shah alleges that Niedner gave him undesirable projects, pulled Shah off of favorable assignments, denied Shah help with his projects, and criticized Shah in front of other works about alleged errors in his work. ( Id. §§ 34-35.) In February 2011, Wasikowski informed Shah that he was being denied a raise by Littelfuse. ( Id. § 31.) On March 8, 2011 Wolfe advised Shah that he should quit working at Littelfuse and find a new job. ( Id. § 32.) On April 18, 2011, while off work on a personal day, Shah was informed via e-mail that he had been terminated. ( Id. § 36.) Shah was not given a reason for his termination. ( Id. )


When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Killingsworth, 507 F.3d at 618 (citing Savory, 469 F.3d at 670); accord Murphy, 51 F.3d at 717. To state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a compliant must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Detailed factual allegations" are not required, but the plaintiff must allege facts that when "accepted as true... state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To determine whether a complaint meets this standard, the "reviewing court [must] draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) imposes "two easy-to-clear hurdles" that a complaint must satisfy in order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(6). Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1084 (quoting EEOC v. Concentra Health Svcs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). First, a complaint must describe the plaintiff's claims and the grounds supporting them in "sufficient detail to give the defendants fair notice" of the claims alleged against them. This requires more than mere "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Concentra, 496 F.3d at 776.

Second, to survive a motion to dismiss, the court determines whether the well-pleaded allegations, if true, "plausibly suggest a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level." See Iqbal 556 U.S. at 679; Concentra, 496 F.3d at 776. A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the Court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "The plausibility standard... asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Plausibility' in this context does not imply that the district court should decide whose version to believe, or which version is more likely than not." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). Rather, Twombly and Iqbal require "the plaintiff to provide some specific facts' to support the legal claims asserted in the complaint." McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009)). Though the "degree of specificity required is not easily quantified, ... the plaintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together.'" Id. (quoting Swanson, 614 F.3d at 404). If a complaint does not satisfy these two criteria, "the plaintiff pleads itself out of court." Concentra, 496 F.3d at 776. Accordingly, a motion to dismiss may be properly granted where the plaintiff does not allege a plausible entitlement to relief either by (1) failing to provide the defendant with notice of plausible claims against it or (2) asserting only speculative or conclusory allegations in the complaint.


I. Shah's Complaint Fails to State a Claim Against DYSIS Under Title VII

Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer "to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin...." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). To maintain a cause of action for discriminatory discharge under Title VII, a plaintiff must allege the ...

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