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Bonner v. Village of Burnham

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

August 7, 2014

DAVID C. BONNER, Plaintiff,
VILLAGE OF BURNHAM, et al., Defendants.


AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

The Court denies Defendants' motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(f) motion to strike [15]. Defendants' Answer is due on or before August 29, 2014.


On March 17, 2014, Plaintiff David C. Bonner ("Bonner") brought the present three-count Complaint alleging race discrimination and retaliation claims against Defendants Village of Burnham ("Burnham") and Peter J. Belos, the Chief of Police of the Burnham Police Department ("Chief Belos") in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983. Bonner also brings a claim against Burnham pursuant to Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs. of N.Y.C., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and alternative motion to strike under Rule 12(f). For the following reasons, the Court denies Defendants' motion.


"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted." Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (citation omitted). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Put differently, a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, [courts] accept the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true, Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2013), and draw "reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs." Teamsters Local Union No. 705 v. Burlington No. Santa Fe, LLC, 741 F.3d 819, 823 (7th Cir. 2014).


In his Complaint, Bonner, an African-American male, alleges that during the relevant time period he was employed by Burnham, an Illinois municipal corporation, as a full-time police officer. (R. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 6.) Bonner further alleges that Chief Belos, was, and is Burnham's Chief of Police and was the decision-maker and policy-maker for the Burnham Police Department. ( Id. ¶ 3.)

In 2002, Defendants hired Bonner as a police officer after Bonner passed the written, physical, oral, and psychological examinations as required. ( Id. ¶ 7.) In 2005, Defendants promoted Bonner to the rank of sergeant after he passed the required examinations. ( Id. ¶ 8.) At the time Defendants promoted Bonner, Burnham's table of organization recommended that the police department assign two officers in the rank of sergeant to perform supervisory and training duties for other officers. ( Id. ¶ 9.) From 2005 through and including 2011, Bonner, who was the only sergeant, performed his assigned duties, including supervising other officers. ( Id. ¶ 10.)

Bonner further alleges that beginning in May 2011, in addition to his responsibilities as the only sergeant of the Burnham Police Department, Defendants also assigned him the duties and responsibilities that the only lieutenant of the Burnham Police Department, Lieutenant Brne, who retired in May 2011, had routinely performed. ( Id. ¶ 11.) After Chief Belos assigned Bonner the additional responsibilities and duties previously assigned to Lieutenant Brne, Bonner had to work a split shift beginning in July 2011. ( Id. ¶ 12.)

In July 2011, Bonner successfully passed all required written, physical, oral, and psychological examinations as required for promotion to lieutenant. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Also, Bonner alleges that despite successfully and satisfactorily meeting all requirements for promotion to the rank of lieutenant, Chief Belos refused to recommend Bonner for the promotion to the Village Council. ( Id. ) Bonner contends that he complained about not being promoted, after which Chief Belos demanded that he take and pass additional tests, including a polygraph test, psychological test, a physical agility test, and a fitness test. ( Id. ¶ 15.) Despite passing these additional tests, as well as satisfactorily completing all requirements for promotion to the rank of lieutenant, Chief Belos refused to submit Bonner's name for promotion to the Village Council. ( Id. )

Bonner then voiced his complaint of suspected racial discrimination to the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP"), after which Burnham promoted him to lieutenant on February 1, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 16.) After Bonner's promotion, Chief Belos immediately took steps to undermine and single out Bonner for disparate treatment by imposing different and more restrictive conditions on his employment in complete disregard of Bonner's senior status and rank. ( Id. ¶ 17.) These conditions included that: (1) Chief Belos did not assign Bonner an unmarked car like other senior officers; (2) Chief Belos did not provide Bonner with a cell phone like other senior officers; (3) Bonner was the only senior officer that Chief Belos did not confer seniority privileges to avoid routine emergency call-outs; (4) Chief Belos did not provide Bonner office keys so he could enter through the private door reserved for senior officers; (5) Chief Belos required Bonner to "punch in and out" like patrol officers and sergeants; (6) Chief Belos required Bonner to submit his vacation requests "once per year" unlike other senior officers; and (7) Chief Belos did not permit Bonner unlimited and unrestricted access to his assigned computer like other senior officers. ( Id. )

Moreover, Bonner asserts that in an effort to further undermine his new senior status and superior rank of lieutenant and to further deprive him of the earned special status and privileges as "the second most senior officer" of the Burnham Police Department, Chief Belos engaged in a plan to promote a non-African American officer, Nick Nomikos, to a position senior to Lieutenant Bonner. ( Id. ¶ 18.) Bonner maintains that Chief Belos hired Nomikos to become a special detective without requiring him to pass the competitive testing, examinations, or other recognized procedures for determining promotion eligibility. ( Id. ¶ 19.) Also, Chief Belos was Nomikos' direct and sole supervisor. ( Id. ¶ 20.) Thereafter, Chief Belos took steps to select, assign, and register Nomikos to attend and complete a series of advanced professional police development/training courses which were not offered to any African-American officers during this same time period. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Chief Belos also assigned Nomikos to numerous high-profile, joint task force assignments to build Nomikos' professional law enforcement resume and to provide Nomikos special experiences that Chief Belos did not offer to other qualified and experienced African-American officers. ( Id. )

According to Bonner, as Chief Belos openly promoted and steered Nomikos' daily assignments, special duties, and special training opportunities, Chief Belos continually denied requests from Bonner and others to apply and compete for similar assignments or to attend advanced professional education courses. ( Id. ¶ 22.) Specifically, Chief Belos restricted Bonner's work assignments to police duties that entailed primarily office type administrative responsibilities, including report writing and reviewing other officers' reports. ( Id. ) Thirteen months after Chief Belos assigned Nomikos to the position of detective, ...

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