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Resendez v. Klein Tools, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 10, 2013

KLEIN TOOLS, INC., Defendant.


JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

Defendant Klein Tools, Inc. ("Klein") moves to dismiss Plaintiff Efren Resendez's Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Resendez alleges claims pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and supplemental state-law claims of breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. As explained below, because collateral estoppel based on Resendez's state-court criminal conviction prevents him from establishing facts essential to his state-law breach of contract claim (Count I), the court grants Klein's motion to dismiss that claim. The motion also granted as to the fraudulent misrepresentation claim (Count II). The motion is granted in part as to the Title VII claims (Counts III and IV): Resendez's disparate punishment claims may proceed, but his failure-to-promote claims are dismissed without prejudice.


The Amended Complaint, filed on October 24, 2012, alleges that Klein employed Resendez beginning on January 18, 1988. On August 10, 2011, Resendez, a Mexican who speaks limited English, held the position of utility helper and was responsible for general janitorial duties. According to the complaint, those duties included assisting other Klein employees as requested. On several occasions, Resendez was asked by a shipping clerk to use a forklift to load scrap metal into a truck driven by a Klein truck driver. Although the scrap metal was being stolen from Klein, Resendez alleges that he did not steal the scrap metal or know it was being stolen, but merely followed the instructions of the shipping clerk.

Resendez was called into a meeting with various supervisors and his union president on August 10, 2011. He was questioned in English for a portion of the meeting and was provided with a confession written in English. Resendez alleges that he tried to explain that he did not commit theft. Another employee, Oscar Orellana, was called into the room to translate for him. According to Resendez, rather than translating the confession, Orellana told Resendez in Spanish, "You are stealing. It is better for you to sign this form or the police will be called and you will go to jail." He was told the same thing by the union president. Orellana told Resendez that his supervisor and the human resources representative said that if he did not sign the confession, he would be fired, arrested, and/or deported, and that he had one minute to sign the confession or the police would be called. The human resources manager also yelled at him.

Resendez alleges that he signed the paper without understanding it. He was immediately terminated. Two other employees accused of theft-the shipping clerk and the truck driver- were also fired the same day. Resendez contends that he would not have signed the confession but for Klein's promises not to fire him or call the police if he did so.

On May 9, 2012, after a bench trial, the Circuit Court of Cook County convicted Resendez of misdemeanor theft. He was sentenced to one year of supervision. See People v. Resendez, 2013 Ill.App. (1st) 121656-U (Ill.App.Ct. Aug. 9, 2013). Resendez filed suit against Klein in this court on July 19, 2012. At Klein's request, this court stayed the case until the Illinois Appellate court ruled on Resendez's appeal in the criminal case. (Order Feb. 2, 2013, ECF No. 34.) His conviction was affirmed by the Illinois Appellate Court. People v. Resendez, 2013 Ill.App. (1st) 121656-U. The stay on this litigation was lifted on August 13, 2013. (Order Aug. 13, 2013, ECF No. 35.)

According to the transcript of the state-court bench trial, after the evidence was presented, the court announced the following factual findings before finding Resendez guilty: 1) Resendez spoke with an interpreter in private before signing the confession; 2) Resendez had "previously been told that his job was over;" 3) Resendez was paid $30 for his participation in the theft; and 4) Resendez "acknowledged he was wrong." (Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A (Trial Tr. May 9, 2012, People v. Resendez, 11 MC2 3396 (Cir. Ct. of Cook Cnty.-Crim. Div.)), ECF No. 21-1.) The opinion of the Illinois Appellate Court affirming the conviction similarly states that the Cook County court made the following factual findings related to the conviction: 1) Resendez did something he wasn't supposed to do, was paid $30 for his cooperation, and acknowledged that his actions were wrong; and 2) prior to the August 10, 2011, meeting, Resendez was told that his employment had been terminated. People v. Resendez, 2013 Ill.App. (1st) 121656-U. The appellate court concluded that these findings were not contrary to the evidence submitted at trial, which included the testimony of Resendez and several Klein officials who participated in the August 10, 2011, meeting. Id.

In the Amended Complaint, Resendez claims breach of contract (Count I), based on the fact that Klein promised not to terminate him if he signed the confession. In the alternative, he claims fraudulent misrepresentation (Count II), based on Klein's promises not to terminate him or call the police if he signed the confession. He also alleges that he was discriminated against based on his national origin and ancestry, in violation of Title VII and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 (Counts III and IV). In support of his Title VII claim, he alleges that Klein's investigation of his role in the theft was discriminatory, because Klein refused to listen to his explanation because of his national origin, ancestry, and poor English skills. He also alleges that Mexican workers at Klein are treated with less respect than non-Mexican workers, given tasks that do not allow them the same opportunities for promotion, and are not promoted as quickly as non-Mexican workers with similar skills. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 48, 54, 55, 64, 70, 71.) For his alleged injuries, Resendez seeks back pay from August 10, 2010, along with compensatory and punitive damages.


To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A motion to dismiss should be granted if the plaintiff fails to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual allegations in a complaint must "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56; see also Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[P]laintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together."). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court takes all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, although conclusory allegations that merely recite the elements of a claim are not entitled to this presumption of truth. Virnich v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011). The court may also take judicial notice of matters of public record, such as court records, when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Gen. Elec. Capital v. Lease Resolution, 128 F.3d 1074, 1080-81 (7th Cir. 1997).


A. Breach of Contract and Fraudulent Misrepresentation ...

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