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Pride v. Illinois Department of Human Services

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

May 28, 2014

JANATH PRIDE, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge.

Presently before us is a motion filed by Defendant Illinois Department of Human Services ("IDHS") seeking summary judgment as to all claims brought by Plaintiff Janath Pride. Pride's claims are as follows:[1] (1) that IDHS discriminated against her based on her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-34; (2) that IDHS discriminated against her based on her gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et. seq. ("Title VII"); and (3) that IDHS unlawfully retaliated against her in violation of Title VII. For the reasons set forth below, we grant IDHS's Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

Pride began working at IDHS in 1973. (Pl.'s 56.1 RSOF ¶ 7.) Since she began working for IDHS, Pride served as an assistant administrator of various public aid offices until she retired on December 31, 2011. ( Id. ¶¶ 7, 9.) Pride had numerous supervisors during the course of her employment with IDHS, but all of Pride's present claims are based exclusively on the alleged conduct of William States during the one-year period from January 1, 2011 until December 31, 2011, when States was Pride's supervisor. ( Id. ¶¶ 9, 16, 26.)

Prior to the time period when States acted as Pride's supervisor, Pride states that she had good relationships with her coworkers. ( Id. ¶ 55.) During this same time period, Pride received discipline in the form of a written reprimand, coach and counseling, and verbal warnings. ( Id. ¶ 14.) After States became Pride's supervisor, Pride felt "isolated" because States instructed Pride's subordinates to report directly to him, instead of Pride. ( Id. ¶ 55.) Pride felt that this interference diminished her relationships with her coworkers. ( Id. ) Pride claims, although IDHS denies, that States changed Pride's job duties by discouraging employees from meeting with Pride for training, and by preventing Pride from speaking to employees about their work product or managing the office. ( Id. ¶ 72.) According to Pride, she was humiliated after States called her a liar on one occasion in front of her coworkers. ( Id. ¶ 59.)

On April 26, 2011, States issued a written reprimand to Pride for engaging in conduct unbecoming a state employee. ( Id. ¶ 14(a).) On April 27, 2011, Pride filed an internal discrimination complaint against States. (Mem., Ex. D, Attach. 19, Pride's 4/27/2011 internal complaint against States.) On June 22, 2011, States issued a three-day suspension to Pride for failing to follow supervisory instructions. (Pl.'s 56.1 RSOF ¶ 14(b).) On September 26, 2011, IDHS issued Pride a ten-day suspension for engaging in conduct unbecoming a state employee. ( Id. ¶ 14(d).) On October 7, 2011, Pride filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that she had been discriminated against based on age and sex and that she had suffered retaliation. (Mem, Ex. B, Pride's EEOC charge.) In her EEOC charge, Pride indicated that the discrimination and retaliation was continuing. ( Id. ) On October 28, 2011, IDHS suspended Pride ten additional days for engaging in conduct unbecoming a state employee. (Pl.'s 56.1 RSOF ¶ 14(c).)

Pride retired on December 31, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 9.) Pride claims that she was forced to retire because she could no longer tolerate the stressful conditions brought about by her isolation, her alienation, and the change in her job duties and because, overall, she could no longer do her job. ( Id. ¶ 73.) Pride claims that she would have worked for three additional years if not for States' conduct. ( Id. ¶ 64.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper only when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue for trial exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). This standard places the initial burden on the moving party to identify those portions of the record that "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). Once the moving party meets this burden of production, the nonmoving party "must go beyond the pleadings" and identify portions of the record demonstrating that a material fact is genuinely disputed. Id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, we must accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513.

ARGUMENT

A. Pride Is Not Barred from Pursuing A Constructive Discharge Claim.

As a preliminary matter, IDHS argues that Pride is barred from pursuing her constructive discharge claim because it is beyond the scope of her EEOC complaint. (Mem. at 6.) Defendants are correct that, generally speaking, claims not included in a plaintiff's underlying EEOC charge of discrimination are subject to dismissal if later raised in a federal lawsuit. Graham v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, 247 F.Appx. 26, 28-29 (7th Cir. 2007); Cheek v. W. & S. Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1994); see Collins v. Fox Home Ctr., Inc., 12 C 9555, 2014 WL 441427, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 4, 2014); Peterson v. Bay Valley Foods, LLC, 11 C 50309, 2012 WL 195036, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 23, 2012). "This rule serves two purposes: affording the EEOC the opportunity to settle the dispute between the employee and employer, and putting the employer on notice of the charges against it." Sitar v. Indiana Dep't of Trans., 344 F.3d 720, 726 (7th Cir. 2003); Cheek, 31 F.3d at 500; Ammons-Lewis v. Metro. Water Reclamation Dist. of Greater Chi., 11 C 6920, 2012 WL 1802148, at *3 (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2012).

Courts recognize an exception to this rule for "claims that are like or reasonably related' to the EEOC charge, and can be reasonably expected to grow out of an EEOC investigation of the charges." Sitar, 344 F.3d at 726 (quoting Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mut. Hosp. Ins., Inc., 538 F.2d 164, 168 (7th Cir. 1976)); Cheek, 31 F.3d at 500. To qualify as "like or reasonably related, ' the claims must, at minimum, describe the same conduct and implicate the same individuals." Swearnigen-El v. Cook Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 602 F.3d 852, 864 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Cheek, 31 F.3d at 500); Graham, 247 F.Appx. at 29; Peterson, 2012 WL 195036, at *2; see Ammons-Lewis, 2012 WL 1802148, at *3 (noting that claims are reasonably related if they share a factual relationship). We hold that that Pride's constructive discharge claim is reasonably related to her EEOC charge.

Pride filed her EEOC charge on October 7, 2011. (Mem., Ex. B.) Pride retired on December 31, 2011. (Pl.'s 56.1 RSOF ¶ 9.) Since Pride's alleged constructive discharge post-dates her EEOC charge, she did not include a constructive discharge claim in the EEOC charge. In Pride's EEOC charge, she alleged that she was treated differently than younger, male employees, was disciplined subsequent to registering a complaint, and that the treatment was continuing as of the filing date. (Mem., Ex. B.) While Pride's EEOC charge does not allege constructive discharge or state the specific conduct or individuals that she includes in her federal complaint, we do not find this dispositive. "[T]he requirement that a plaintiff have filed EEOC charges before suit is not intended to erect an elaborate pleading requirement or to allow form to prevail over substance." Jarrells v. Select Pub., Inc., 35 F.Appx. 265, 266 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Cable v. Ivy Tech State Coll., 200 F.3d 467, 477 (7th Cir. 1999) (emphasis in original)). "The Supreme Court has also observed more generally that procedural technicalities should not be used to bar a Title VII claim." Jarrells, 35 F.Appx. at 266 (citing Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, 455 U.S. 385, 397-98, 102 S.Ct. 1127, 1134-35 (1982)). Pride's EEOC charge, while vague, alleges the same conduct as her federal complaint. Requiring her to file a new EEOC charge to include a constructive discharge claim that post-dates her initial EEOC charge would amount to a procedural technicality that is unwarranted. As such, we hold that Pride's constructive discharge claim may proceed. See also McKenzie v. Illinois Dept. of ...


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