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Butler v. Chicago Transit Authority

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

August 12, 2014



SARA L. ELLIS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Stephanie Butler, a bus operator for the Chicago Transit Authority (the "CTA"), filed a lawsuit after the CTA terminated her on June 18, 2012 and claims discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment for events leading up to and culminating in her termination. Butler is an African American woman who was forty-six years old when the CTA discharged her from her job as a bus operator. Butler's Amended Complaint ("Complaint") alleges: race/color discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"); retaliation in violation of Title VII; disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a) (the "ADA"); hostile work environment; and age discrimination. CTA moves to dismiss all claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Because Butler has sufficiently pled only a Title VII race discrimination claim, CTA's motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Butler is a bus operator for the CTA. Before being discharged on June 18, 2012, Butler worked for the CTA for over twenty-one years. On April 11, 2012, Butler was charged with a procedural violation, after which the CTA placed her on probation. On May 10, 2012, four bus operators (including Butler) waited for the CTA bus sign-out operator to return to her post. The bus sign-out operator had to sign out the operators' buses before they could begin their shifts. As the sign-out time approached, one of the operators complained that it was time for them to depart. After the sign-out operator failed to appear, a CTA mechanic took over the sign-out process and incorrectly logged Butler's bus departure time. Butler subsequently informed the mechanic and the sign-out operator of the timing error. Because of the timing error, Butler was charged with another procedural violation, whereas the other three bus operators were not disciplined.

Butler informed her manager of the error and filed a complaint with the CTA, but her manager failed to investigate the complaint. Butler then filed a grievance claim. In an interview about the grievance, Butler explained that her departure time was incorrectly logged and that she had followed protocol and informed her manager of the problem. The CTA failed to investigate Butler's claims.

Butler was discharged on June 18, 2012, despite the fact that one of the violations was in grievance status and had not yet been adjudicated. During the discharge meeting, Butler began to experience shortness of breath and dizziness. Butler became disruptive and suffered what she describes as a breakdown. The police and fire department were called to the scene to take her to the hospital. That same day, Butler's union representative asked the manager who terminated Butler to postpone the discharge meeting because of the hospitalization, but the meeting was not postponed. In July, Butler was hospitalized again due to stress and depression.

On July 12, 2012, a dispute-resolution manager denied Butler's grievance. About one month later, Butler's union filed a "Notice of Reconsideration and Appeal" of the discharge. In October 2012, Butler was hospitalized again due to stress and depression resulting from her discharge and the appeal process. On or about April 15, 2013, Butler filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging retaliation and discrimination based on race, color, disability, and genetic information. In January 2014, after an arbitration hearing, the CTA reinstated Butler. On July 24, 2013, Butler, proceeding pro se, filed this action. After securing counsel, Butler filed the Complaint on February 15, 2014.


A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The party asserting jurisdiction has the burden of proof. United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chem. Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003), overruled on other grounds by Minn-Chem, Inc. v. Agrium, Inc., 683 F.3d 845 (7th Cir. 2012). The standard of review for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss depends on the purpose of the motion. Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 443-44 (7th Cir. 2009). If a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the allegations regarding subject matter jurisdiction (a facial challenge), the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See id.; United Phosphorus, 322 F.3d at 946. If, however, the defendant denies or controverts the truth of the jurisdictional allegations (a factual challenge), the Court may look beyond the pleadings and view any competent proof submitted by the parties to determine if the plaintiff has established jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See Apex Digital, 572 F.3d at 443-44; Meridian Sec. Ins. Co. v. Sadowski, 441 F.3d 536, 543 (7th Cir. 2006).

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.


I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

As an initial matter, the CTA moves to dismiss all of Butler's claims under Rule 12(b)(1), arguing that Butler does not having standing to bring these claims in federal court. CTA argues that Butler's suit is a challenge to the arbitration decision on her discharge and because she is not a party to the collective bargaining agreement (the "CBA") between the CTA and Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 241 and Local 308 (the "union"), she may not bring a claim challenging the arbitration decision. The CTA further argues that the Illinois Labor Relations Board ("ILRB") has exclusive initial jurisdiction to interpret the CBA and to hear any dispute arising from the CBA.

Butler's Complaint is somewhat difficult to interpret as it is a stream-of-consciousness factual narrative without any specific counts. However, taking all inferences in Butler's favor, as the Court must at this stage, Butler is not seeking to modify or vacate the arbitration decision or seeking interpretation of the CBA. Instead, Butler expressly brings the current action alleging wrongful discharge under several federal civil rights statutes. See Compl. ¶ 1 ("This is an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, American Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to correct unlawful employment practices[.]"). Jurisdiction is therefore proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

The CTA does not argue that any provision of the CBA mandated that Butler arbitrate discrimination claims that are otherwise available under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), the ADA, or the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). And, although the CTA attached the CBA to their motion, the Court at this point has no information about the extent of the arbitration and the decision. Whether a collateral estoppel or res judicata theory precludes Butler's ...

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