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Williams v. County of Cook

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

August 28, 2013


Page 1069

Paula Y. Williams, Plaintiff, Pro se, Chicago, IL.

For AFSME Council 31 Local 3477, et al., Defendant: Melissa J. Auerbach, LEAD ATTORNEY, Cornfield & Feldman, Chicago, IL.


Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Court Judge.

Page 1070


Plaintiff Paula Williams filed this suit pro se against Cook County, the Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department (the and its Chief Executive Officer, Michael Rohan, the Office of the Independent Inspector General of Cook County (collectively the " County Defendants" ), and two labor organizations, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 (" Council 31" ) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3477 (" Local 3477" ) (collectively the " Union Defendants" ). Williams alleges she was discriminated against based on her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (" ADEA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq ; her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq ; and her race, color, and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § § 1981 and 1983. Williams also alleges that the defendants retaliated against her for asserting rights protected under the above statutes and refused to honor the Illinois Worker's Compensation Act (" IWCA" ) by terminating her employment while she was on worker's compensation leave. The Union and County Defendants move separately

Page 1071

to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Court dismisses all of Williams's claims except for her Title VII race discrimination, Title VII retaliation, and IWCA claims against the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department.


The following facts are taken from Williams's Complaint and attached exhibits and are assumed to be true for purposes of this Motion to Dismiss. See Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). In this case, Williams's Complaint states the legal bases for her claims but contains very few detailed factual allegations. Thus, the majority of the facts have been drawn from exhibits attached to the Complaint. See Bogie v. Rosenberg, 705 F.3d 603, 609 (7th Cir. 2013) ( " In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), district courts are free to consider .... exhibits attached to the complaint, or documents referenced in the peadings if they are central to the claim." ) (internal citations and quotations omitted); Reger Development, LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 764 (7th Cir. 2010) (" [On a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss], [w]e consider documents attached to the complaint as part of the complaint itself." ). All reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of Williams, 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)).

Paula Williams is a former employee of the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department and began her employment as a probations officer on November 17, 1995. (Dkt. No. 1, p. 7.) On December 8, 2008, Williams complained to Charles Young, the Assistant Director of Probation Services, that she was being subjected to racial harassment and discrimination in the workplace. ( Id. at 7.) Williams informed Young via memorandum that on December 4, 2008, two officers, Robin Petchenik and Georgann Struss, stated to her that " when you go black you never go back and when you are white, you are always right." ( Id. at 9.) Williams states that these comments did not seem harmless and that she interpreted them " with the same venomous tone that [she could] only remember seeing on the television when Klu Klux Klan meetings were shown." ( Id. )

Williams sent a copy of her memorandum to Defendant Michael Rohan, the then-Director of Probation and Court Services ( Id. at 10-11.) Rohan confirmed receipt of Williams's complaint on December 10, 2008 and responded that the " department does not condone such behavior" and that the " comments appear[ed] to be out of character for the individuals [Williams] attributed them to." ( Id. at 11.) Rohan also indicated that he had asked Young to contact her immediately to " ascertain additional facts so that he might initiate an investigatory meeting involving the two officers" against whom the charges were made. ( Id. ) In May 2009, an investigative interview was conducted with Young and Rose Marie Golden, the then-Human Resource Deputy for the Probation Department. ( Id. at 14.) Williams's Complaint does not contain any factual allegations detailing what if anything transpired at that interview or whether Rohan took any further action.

On March 17, 2010, Human Resource Administrator Bruce Wisniewski informed Williams that her presence was required at an investigative interview. ( Id. at 19.) Williams was informed that she had a right to union representation per the terms of her collective bargaining agreement and that her union had been made aware of the meeting. ( Id. at 19.) Williams was notified

Page 1072

by Independent Inspector General Patrick Blanchard that the meeting was to take place on March 26, 2010 at 10:30am. ( Id. at 20.) The Complaint does not contain any details regarding the nature of the investigative interview or whether it was related to Williams's previous allegations.

On May 27, 2010, Williams suffered injuries to her spine and right arm when a co-worker, Anthony Jordan, " yanked [a] door open as [Williams] entered [the] office." ( Id. at 22, 25.) On August 3, 2010, Williams filed a Petition for an Immediate Hearing with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. ( Id. at 22.) Williams subsequently went on medical leave and was placed under the care of Dr. Ignas Laubanaukas, an orthopedic surgeon. ( Id. at 28.) Near the end of her treatment, Williams was seen by Dr J. Mankowski, Cook County's in-house physician. ( Id. at 24, 27.) On August 1, 2011, Dr. J. Mankowski issued a " Physician's Approval to Medical Division - Return to Work" letter from the Cook County Department of Human Resources. ( Id. at 24.) Dr. Mankowski stated that her opinion Williams could return to work on August 2, 2011. ( Id. at 24.) Dr. Mankowski also stated that she had advised Williams to report to her personnel department. ( Id. ) Upon receiving this opinion, Williams saw her treating physician, Dr. Laubanakas, who prepared a Work Status Report dated August 11, 2011 recommending Williams return to work on September 3, 2011. ( Id. at 23.) Williams chose to follow the advice of her treating physician and did not return to work on August 2. ( Id. at 28.) Andrew Marzal, the attorney representing Williams in her workman's compensation proceedings, informed Assistant State's Attorney Jeremy Schwartz of this development and conveyed that Williams would return to work on September 6, 2011. [1] ( Id. at 28.) According Marzal's letter to Becerra, Schwartz did not disagree with this. ( Id. )

On August 30, 2011, Williams was discharged from her employment by Rose Marie Golden, who was at this point the Director of Human Resources. ( Id. at 8.) The stated reason for Williams's termination was failure to return to work from medical leave, or " job abandonment." ( Id. ) Williams filed a Complaint Form with the Cook County Office of the Independent Inspector the next day. ( Id. at 26.) Williams alleged in her Complaint Form that the real reason for her termination was that she made phone calls to the Cook County Inspector General's Office to report that county employees were " conducting political activity on county time and using county equipment for the same." ( Id. at 26.) Williams also asserted her belief that both her termination and her injury at work were retaliatory acts in response to her cooperation with the Cook County Inspector General. ( Id. ) Lastly, Williams asserts that her termination was unlawful because she was on worker's compensation as of the date of her termination for failure to return from medical leave.

On October 12, 2011 Williams filed a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (" IDHR" ) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) alleging claims of unlawful retaliation. Williams listed the Cook County Juvenile Probation Department as the sole respondent in the charge and did not name the Union Defendants or the other County Defendants. ( Id. at 7.) On November 15, 2012, Williams received her right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Department of Justice-Civil Rights Division. ( Id. at 12.)

Page 1073

The letter stated that Williams had a right to institute a civil action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act against " the above-named respondent." ( Id. ) " Cook County Juvenile Probation Department" was the only respondent named in the letter. ( 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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. 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. Title VII and ADEA Claims

Title VII and the ADEA require plaintiffs seeking to pursue claims in federal court to first file a charge with the EEOC. Sauzek v. Exxon Coal USA, Inc., 202 F.3d 913, 920 (7th Cir. 2000). A party not named in an EEOC charge may not be sued under Title VII or the ADEA. Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 666 (7th Cir. 2013); Schnellbaecher v. Baskin Clothing Co., 887 F.2d 124, 126 (7th Cir. 1989); Bright v. Roadway Services, Inc., 846 F.Supp. 693, 696 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (" Because ADEA and Title VII share a common purpose and because the filing requirements of the two statutory schemes are similar, this principal applies with equal force to actions brought under the ADEA." ) (citing Oscar Mayer & Co. v. Evans, 441 U.S. 750, 755-56, 99 S.Ct. 2066, 60 L.Ed.2d 609 ...

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