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Holmes v. Housing Authority of Joliet

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

November 20, 2014

JANICE HOLMES, Plaintiff,
v.
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF JOLIET, MICHAEL SIMELTON, individually and as Chief Executive Officer of the Housing Authority of Joliet, and HENRY MORRIS, individually and as a former Chief Executive Officer of the Housing Authority of Joliet, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES P. KOCORAS, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the separate motions of Defendants Housing Authority of Joliet (the "Housing Authority"), Michael Simelton ("Simelton"), individually and as Chief Executive Office of the Housing Authority, and Henry Morris ("Morris"), individually and as the former Chief Executive Officer of the Housing Authority (collectively "Defendants") to dismiss Counts I, III, and IV and strike time-barred allegations in the amended complaint brought by Plaintiff Janice Holmes ("Holmes") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Court strikes the time-barred allegations, dismisses Count I with leave to refile, and dismisses Count III and IV. Count II stands. Holmes has thirty days from the entry of this opinion to amend her complaint consistent with the Court's ruling.

BACKGROUND

For the purposes of the instant motion, the following well-pleaded allegations derived from Holmes's amended complaint are accepted as true. The Court draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Holmes. The Housing Authority serves people with "low to moderate" income levels. It is an agency under the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Simelton is the current Executive Director of the Housing Authority. Morris is the former Executive Director of the Housing Authority.

On August 14, 2002, Holmes began working for the Housing Authority as an assistant in the Human Resources Department. At that time, Holmes was 61 years old. Holmes alleges that her supervisor at the time, Deborah Truss ("Truss"), was "not happy" that she was hired, and Truss was determined to find Holmes unqualified. Truss constantly criticized Holmes for her work, made false accusations against her, and interrupted her when Holmes tried to speak or ask questions.

Shortly after she began working at the Housing Authority, Holmes claims that Morris began to call her in his office because he noticed the difficulty she was having with Truss and wanted to address any issues. At first, Holmes and Morris had a friendly, professional relationship. However, soon after, Morris began turning their relationship from professional to personal. He would often ask her questions about her personal life and tell Holmes, "you look pretty" or "you dress very well." Holmes was constantly in fear that she would lose her position with the Housing Authority, but Morris would tell Holmes that since he was her friend, that he would not let anyone bother her.

In November 2002, Truss left the Housing Authority. Shortly thereafter, in January 2003, Jody McNeeley ("McNeely") became Holmes's supervisor. Similar to Truss, Holmes and McNeely also had a truculent relationship. Around this time, Morris began to call Holmes into his office on a daily basis. When McNeely gave Holmes an unfavorable evaluation, Morris reassured Holmes, stating "you don't need to worry about that baby" and "I'm not going to let anything happen to you." Morris continued with these comments, telling Holmes that he would be very pleased to "have [her] on his arm" and that "any man would be happy to have [her]." Holmes claims that Morris would also discuss other employees' personal lives and Holmes observed other female employees spending long periods of time in Morris's office on numerous occasions.

Throughout her amended complaint, Holmes overtly describes inappropriate incidents she experienced that involve Morris. For example, in November 2005, Morris told Holmes and a co-worker to come to his house during their lunch break. At his house, Morris allegedly performed sexual acts on the co-worker while making Holmes watch. Although she does not give specific dates, sometime after the incident with the co-worker, Holmes also engaged in unsolicited and nonconsensual sexual relations with Morris in his office at the Housing Authority on at least two occasions. Morris told Holmes that it was to be done "as a term of employment". Holmes states, "[i]t has been seven (7) years, but I still have the memories fresh in my mind..." Thus, the Court deduces that these incidents in Morris's office occurred in approximately 2007.

For some unknown reason, from around 2007 to September 2011, Holmes does not allege any lawful activity. Then beginning in September 2011, Holmes alleges that Morris began to engage in unlawful conduct again. At this time, Holmes claims that Morris started to make comments about her appearance like he used to, telling her "[y]ou look good baby." Holmes notes that Morris had not spoken to her in such familiar terms in a long time. Morris would also tell Holmes that he missed their friendship.

On October 6, 2011, Holmes asked her supervisor for an advanced paycheck due to a family emergency, but that supervisor went to Morris, who stated that it could not be done through the payroll. Instead, Morris said he would loan Holmes the money. Holmes did not feel comfortable borrowing money from Morris, but Morris came to her desk with the $600.00 she needed. Holmes insisted on drafting a promissory note, which she and Holmes both signed. Holmes also arranged with another employee at the Housing Authority to have her give Morris the periodic loan repayments so Holmes would not have to communicate with Morris.

In her amended complaint, Holmes alleges that Morris continued to sexually harass her from October 6, 2011 to April 13, 2012. Holmes provides specific comments Morris made to her while she worked at the Housing Authority. On April 13, 2012, Holmes filed a complaint for sexual harassment against Morris with the Housing Authority's Human Resources Department. Morris learned of the meeting and stormed into the room, demanding to know what was going on. On April 21, 2012, Holmes filed a charge of discrimination (the "First Charge") against the Housing Authority for sex discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). In the First Charge, Holmes claimed that while working at the Housing Authority, she had been exposed to sexual harassment and a hostile environment, and that she had complained about Morris's conduct to her supervisors. On April 24, 2012, Morris was placed on administrative leave. It is unknown when Simelton began as the Executive Director of the Housing Authority.

On January 11, 2013, Holmes was discharged from her position at the Housing Authority. On February 11, 2013, Holmes amended her charge of discrimination (the "Second Charge") against the Housing Authority. In the Second Charge, Holmes argued that she had been discriminated against because of her sex and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Particularly, Holmes claimed that she was exposed to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment and that she complained about Morris's conduct to her supervisors. Holmes then reported that she was then subject to different terms and conditions of employment. Attached to Holmes's joint response, but not included in her amended complaint, is a memorandum from a December 2, 2013 Pre-Determination Interview ("PDI") the EEOC conducted. The memorandum states:

"[e]xplained to Holmes that R was sticking with its original settlement offer of $5, 000. Holmes stated that she was not interested in taking this offer. I stated that I would then close the investigation and issue the NRTS so that Holmes could proceed into court. Holmes stated that she would like a few days to think about whether she would accept a settlement of $5, 000. We agreed that if I did not hear from her by 5pm on Wednesday, December 4, that I would proceed with the closure of the case file."

On January 30, 2014, the EEOC closed its file on the Second Charge and found that based on its investigation, it was unable to conclude that the information ...


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