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Reid v. Chicago Housing Authority

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

July 10, 2014

KIMBERLY REID, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO HOUSING AUTHORITY; the WALSH CONSTRUCTION COMPANY; and DEMOS PAINTING AND DECORATING, INC. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN J. THARP, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff Kimberly Reid is an African American resident of Altgeld Gardens, a public housing development in Chicago. In 2012, Reid filed a complaint in federal court alleging that she suffered discrimination on the basis of her race and sex by the Chicago Housing Authority ("CHA"), Walsh Construction Company, and Demos Painting and Decorating, Inc. Following this Court granting the defendants' motions to dismiss (Dkt. 56), Reid filed an amended complaint, which is now the subject of a second round of motions to dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, the defendants' motions to dismiss (Dkt. 58, 62)[1] are granted and the amended complaint is dismissed in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

The Chicago Housing Authority owns and operates Altgeld Gardens. Walsh is a private construction company that contracted with the CHA for construction work on Altgeld Gardens between 2009 and 2010. Demos was a subcontractor on the project.

Reid, an African American woman and resident of Altgeld Gardens, claims that from 2009 to early 2010, she sought employment from Walsh and Demos to be a painter at Altgeld Gardens, but she was rejected because of her race and sex in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Am. Compl. (Dkt. 57) ¶¶ 1, 6. Reid specifies that she was "subjected to different treatment" by Walsh and Demos, "she was denied jobs that were given to white and male employees, " and that she was denied "job referrals." Id. ¶ 12. She adds that these actions were intentional and "for the purpose of passing over the Plaintiff and other [African American] Altgeld Garden residents... and [based on] the personal observation of Plaintiff, [Walsh and Demos hired] few workers who were African Americans." Id. ¶¶ 12, 16. Reid further alleges that she complained to the CHA, Walsh, and Demos about her treatment, as well as to the Altgeld Gardens Local Advisory Council. Id. ¶ 7. She adds that Walsh and Demos then retaliated against her by failing to provide Reid with certain letters regarding Reid's employment and by denying her employment as a priority hire. Id. ¶¶ 12, 18.

In this Court's March 28, 2013 opinion, the Court dismissed all of Reid's claims against the defendants. Specifically, the Court dismissed Reid's claim under the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968, 12 U.S.C. § 1701u(c)(1)(A), with prejudice because the statute contains no individual right to bring a claim for relief. The Court also dismissed Reid's Title VII claim with prejudice because Reid failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and it was too late to do so; she filed a claim with the EEOC but never received a "Right to Sue" letter. Last, the Court dismissed Reid's § 1981 claim without prejudice for failure to state a claim; the Court noted that Reid "could conceivably allege additional facts to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under § 1981...." Mem. Op. at 9. The Court subsequently granted Reid leave to file an amended complaint. Reid's amended complaint contains claims against the CHA, Walsh, and Demos for discrimination and retaliation in violation of § 1981.[3]

II. DISCUSSION

The defendants set forth various arguments in support of dismissing Reid's amended complaint in its entirety. All three defendants argue that Reid lacks standing to bring claims on behalf of others, that Reid has failed to state a claim of discrimination under § 1981, and that Reid has failed to state a claim of retaliation under § 1981. The Court will consider each of these arguments in turn.[4]

As an initial matter, Walsh has attached to its brief in support of its motion to dismiss several exhibits reflecting letters between the defendants and third parties regarding Reid's employment. In general, a court "may only consider the plaintiff's complaint when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion." Burke v. 401 N. Wabash Venture, LLC, 714 F.3d 501, 505 (7th Cir. 2013). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(c), however, permits certain documents attached to Rule 12(b)(6) motions to be considered, such as "if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claim." McCready v. eBay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882, 891 (7th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). The Court may consider Walsh's exhibits without converting its motion into one for summary judgment because Reid refers to the letters in her complaint and they are indeed central to her claims, at least from her point of view. See Burke, 714 F.3d at 505. The Court, however, "is not bound to accept [Reid's] allegations as to the effect of the exhibit[s], but can independently examine the document[s] and form its own conclusions as to the proper construction and meaning to be given the material." Id.

A. Reid Lacks Standing to Bring Claims on Behalf of Others.

Reid does not expressly purport to bring claims on behalf of any other persons and the Court does not read her amended complaint to attempt to do so. Nevertheless, there are isolated references that could be read to suggest the assertion of a claim on behalf of others ( see, e.g., ¶¶ 16 and 21). To the extent Reid is still attempting to bring her claims on behalf of others, including other African American residents of Altgeld Gardens, see Am. Compl. ¶ 16, she may not do so as a pro se plaintiff and as a non-lawyer. See Navin v. Park Ridge School Dist. 64, 270 F.3d 1147, 1149 (7th Cir. 2001) (a pro se plaintiff is "free to represent himself, but as a non-lawyer he has no authority to appear as [another's] legal representative"). The Court will therefore construe Reid's claims as on behalf of herself only; to the extent that Reid alleges claims on behalf of other individuals, those claims are dismissed without prejudice.

B. Reid Fails to State a Claim of Discrimination under § 1981 against the CHA, Walsh, and Demos.

Reid fails to state a claim of discrimination under § 1981 against any of the three defendants. 42 U.S.C. § 1981 states, in relevant part:

All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right... to make and enforce contracts... and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of ...

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