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Lucas v. Gold Standard Baking, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 10, 2014

BRIAN LUCAS, ARONZO DAVIS, TORRENCE VAUGHANS, on behalf of themselves and similarly situated job applicants, Plaintiffs,
v.
GOLD STANDARD BAKING, INC., PERSONNEL STAFFING GROUP, LLC d/b/a MOST VALUABLE PERSONNEL d/b/a MVP, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

SARA L. ELLIS, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Brian Lucas, Aronzo Davis, and Torrence Vaughans, individually and on behalf of similarly situated job applicants, filed a third amended complaint against Defendants Gold Standard Baking, Inc. ("GSB") and Personnel Staffing Group, LLC, doing business as Most Valuable Personnel ("MVP"), alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981. GSB filed a motion to dismiss, which MVP has joined. The Court previously denied the motion in part and continued it as to (1) the failure to file an EEOC charge on the Title VII disparate impact claims and (2) the failure to adequately allege joint-employer liability. See Aug. 22 Minute Entry, Doc. 44; Aug. 22 Transcript of Proceedings, Doc. 45-1. For the following reasons and those previously stated, the motion to dismiss [38] is denied.

BACKGROUND[1]

GSB operates an industrial baking facility in Chicago, Illinois, and procures its employees by hiring them directly and through staffing agencies, including MVP. The majority of workers at GSB are Latino employees, with almost no African-Americans assigned to work there. MVP recruits low and moderately skilled laborers, with the majority of its advertisement conducted in Spanish-language media. Although MVP regularly performs pre-assignment background check screening on African-American laborers, it does not do the same for Latino laborers. MVP gives preference to placing immigrant laborers at GSB because it believes that they are less likely to complain about being compensated for less than the full amount of time worked.

Beginning in November 2011, Plaintiffs sought employment directly at GSB but were instead instructed to apply through MVP's dispatch office in Cicero. Despite specifically asking the dispatcher at MVP to be assigned to work at GSB, Plaintiffs were not assigned to GSB. In refusing to assign Plaintiffs to GSB, MVP was complying with GSB's request not to assign African-American workers to its facility. Plaintiffs, however, were as qualified to work at GSB as the Latino workers who sought and were given work assignments there.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, 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. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). 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 be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. 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 inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

ANALYSIS

I. Disparate Impact Claims

Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' Title VII disparate impact claims should be dismissed because they failed to include these claims in their EEOC charges. "A Title VII plaintiff may bring only those claims that were included in her EEOC charge, or that are like or reasonably related to the allegations of the charge and growing out of such allegations.'" Geldon v. S. Milwaukee Sch. Dist., 414 F.3d 817, 819 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting McKenzie v. Ill. Dep't of Transp., 92 F.3d 473, 481 (7th Cir. 1996)). An allegation in an EEOC charge is reasonably related to a federal claim if it involves "the same conduct and implicate[s] the same individuals." Ezell v. Potter, 400 F.3d 1041, 1046 (7th Cir. 2005).

In their third amended complaint, Plaintiffs have alleged theories of both disparate treatment and disparate impact. These theories, however, are "conceptually distinct." Noreuil v. Peabody Coal Co., 96 F.3d 254, 258 (7th Cir. 1996). Disparate treatment "requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendants acted with actual discriminatory intent, " while disparate impact "exists where a specified employment practice, although neutral on its face, has a disproportionately negative effect on members of a legally protected class." Vitug v. Multistate Tax Comm'n, 88 F.3d 506, 513 (7th Cir. 1996). Defendants do not dispute that Plaintiffs can properly pursue the disparate treatment claims but contend that the disparate impact claims exceed the scope of the EEOC charges.

Plaintiffs filed nearly identical EEOC charges against both GSB and MVP.[2] These charges asserted race discrimination and included the following narrative:

3. I was qualified to perform the job(s) for which I applied at Gold Standard Baking, Inc. However, I was denied employment with Gold Standard Baking, Inc. directly or through its affiliated companies, agents and/or contracted staffing agencies to perform work at Gold Standard Baking, Inc. because of my race, African-American.
4. On information and belief, Gold Standard Baking, Inc. had a policy and practice of steering qualified African-American applicants and employees of its contracted staffing agencies, including me, away from work at Gold Standard Baking, Inc. while other, less-qualified, non-African-American employees were hired directly by Gold Standard Baking, Inc. or through one of its affiliated ...

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