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Service Employees International Union v. County of Cook

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

February 26, 2014

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL 73, ON BEHALF OF ITS ADVERSELY AFFECTED MEMBERS, CHERYL CONDON AND ALL OTHER SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF COOK, COUNTY OF COOK HEALTH AND HOSPITAL SYSTEMS, CERMAK HEALTH SERVICES DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, Service Employees International Union, Local 73, ("SEIU") on behalf of its adversely affected members, Cheryl Condon ("Condon") and all others similarly situated (collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed the instant action for employment discrimination claiming disparate treatment and disparate impact. Defendants Cook County, County of Cook Health and Hospital Systems and Cermak Heath Services Department (collectively, "Defendants") now move to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted.

Background

Plaintiffs are a class of employees over the age of 40 employed by Defendants as Mental Health Specialist Seniors ("MHS Senior") and Mental Health Specialists II ("MHS II"). Plaintiffs allege that, prior to November 2011, their positions did not require a master's degree or state license. On November 21, 2011, Plaintiffs claim they were notified that they would be required to obtain a master's degree and state license as a condition of continued employment. According to Plaintiffs, they were required to apply to an accredited master's degree program by February 15, 2012, enroll in a program by August 1, 2012 and are required to complete a program by June 2015 - on their own time and at their own expense. As a result of the new requirements, Plaintiffs allege Defendants intentionally discriminated against them based on their age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA").

On May 15, 2012, Condon filed a class action charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on behalf of all affected members. (Dkt. #15, Ex. B to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss.) On January 1, 2013, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter. (Dkt. #1-1, Ex A to Compl.) Plaintiffs filed suit on April 18, 2013.

Defendants assert four grounds for dismissal: 1) the ADEA preempts the class action procedure under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23; 2) Plaintiffs lack standing pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); 3) Plaintiffs fail to meet the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) and thus fail to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); and 4) defendants County of Cook Health and Hospital Systems and Cermak Heath Services Department are non-suable entities and should be dismissed from the case.

Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss under either Rules 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Gilbert v. Illinois State Bd. of Educ., 2008 WL 4390150 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 24, 2008) aff'd, 591 F.3d 896 (7th Cir. 2010). In ruling on a motion to dismiss the district court must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor. Retired Chicago Police Assoc. v. City of Chicago, 76 F.3d 856, 862 (7th Cir. 1996). A motion to dismiss is decided solely on the face of the complaint and any attachments that accompanied its filing. Miller v. Herman, 600 F.3d 726, 733 (7th Cir. 2010).

Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), a court must dismiss any action for which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The party invoking the federal courts' subject matter jurisdiction bears the burden of proving that the jurisdictional requirements have been met. Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 468 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). This standard is met when the plaintiff pleads factual content that "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

Discussion

Defendants argue that a class action under the ADEA cannot proceed under Rule 23. Further, Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), Defendants assert a factual challenge to plaintiff SEIU's standing to bring the suit. Plaintiffs concede these arguments and seek leave to file an amended complaint as an opt-in collective action and to withdraw SEIU as class representation.

1. Plaintiff Condon lacks standing to bring suit

Defendants argue plaintiff Condon lacks standing to bring suit. The constitutional minimum of standing requires: 1) an injury-in-fact, meaning "an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical;" 2) a causal connection between the injury and the defendant's conduct; and 3) likely redressability through a favorable decision. Wernsing v. Thompson, 423 F.3d 732, 743 (7th Cir. 2005) (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561-61). The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561. At the pleading stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice. Id. However, abstract injury is not enough to establish injury-in-fact. City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101-02 (1983).

Defendants argue that Condon fails to plead an injury-in-fact giving rise to a case or controversy because she has not been terminated and she fails to allege facts that her termination is imminent. Defendants suggest the only injury Condon alleges to have suffered is further education and state licensure which they argue does not constitute an injury-in-fact under Article III. In response, Condon argues that costs incurred to meet the new educational requirements constitute an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer standing. Further, Plaintiffs state that since filing their complaint, "six employees (and potential class members) have lost ...


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