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Linton v. Hertz

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 7, 2015

ROBERT HERTZ, Individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Madison County, Illinois, MADISON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE and MADISON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.


STACI M. YANDLE, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on defendants Robert Hertz, Madison County Sheriff's Office, and Madison County, Illinois' ("Madison County") (collectively "Defendants") Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 14). Plaintiff Jaimie Linton filed a response (Doc. 15) to which Defendants replied (Doc. 16). For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

During the relevant time period, Plaintiff was a secretary for the Madison County Sheriff's Department and Defendant Robert Hertz was one of her direct supervisors. In her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Hertz falsely accused her of having an extra-marital affair, accused her of having a "secret life, " monitored and scrutinized her phone calls and threatened her job based on his false beliefs of the affair. Plaintiff also alleges that Hertz demanded that she be available to him by telephone and e-mail during her family vacations and that he would send abusive emails to her while he was on his own vacations. Plaintiff further alleges that Hertz would make inappropriate hand gestures in front of male employees after she left a room indicating he wanted to grab her breasts or that he was unzipping his pants. Ultimately, after an investigation of Plaintiff's allegations began, she was transferred to the probation department.

Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint alleging the following causes of action: (1) Count I - Title VII sexual harassment/hostile work environment against all Defendants; and (2) Count II - intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") against Hertz. Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss arguing (1) Plaintiff's Title VII claim against Madison County and Hertz must be dismissed because neither Madison County nor Hertz employed Plaintiff; (2) the punitive damages demand against Defendants in Count I must be dismissed because punitive damages are not recoverable against government entities; and (3) the IIED claim against Hertz must be dismissed because Hertz is immune from liability pursuant to the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act and the Amended Complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state an IIED claim.

When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This requirement is satisfied if the complaint (1) describes the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and (2) plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 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, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 556).

Count I

Defendants first argue that both Hertz and Madison County must be dismissed because neither defendant is an "employer" within the meaning of Title VII. Under Title VII, only an "employer" is a proper defendant. Carver v. Sheriff of LaSalle Cnty., Ill., 243 F.3d 379, 381 (7th Cir. 2001). "Employer" is defined as the employing entity, not the individual supervisors or other natural persons. Id .; Williams v. Banning, 72 F.3d 552, 554 (7th Cir. 1995). As such, Hertz, in his individual capacity is not a proper defendant. Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's Title VII claim against Hertz in his individual capacity. However, Defendants' motion is denied as to the Title VII claim asserted against Hertz in his official capacity.

It is well settled that Illinois sheriffs' offices are separate from the county. See Thompson v. Duke, 882 F.2d 1180, 1187 (7th Cir. 1989). As such, Madison County is not Plaintiff's "employer." Plaintiff seems to concede as much in her response. However, she contends that Madison County must be maintained as a defendant in the instant Title VII claim for indemnity purposes.

The Seventh Circuit has found:

a county in Illinois is a necessary party in any suit seeking damages from an independently elected county officer (sheriff, assessor, clerk of court, and so on) in an official capacity. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 17, 19. Because state law requires the county to pay, federal law deems it an indispensable party to the litigation.

Carver, 324 F.3d at 948. As such, while Madison County is not an "employer" for purposes of Title VII, it is nonetheless a "necessary" party because it would be required to pay any damages under Illinois law. Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant Madison County's motion to dismiss Count I.

Next, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's punitive damages demand set forth in Count I must be dismissed because municipalities, including individual officers in their official capacities, are immune from punitive damages. Plaintiff concedes in her response that the Sheriff's Office of Madison County is immune from punitive damages. However, she contends that a demand for punitive damages against Hertz, individually, is appropriate. However, since Hertz individually is not an appropriate party to Plaintiff's Title VII claim, the Court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's punitive damages demand from Count I of the Amended Complaint.

Count II

Next, Defendant Hertz argues that Plaintiff's IIED claim must be dismissed because it is barred by the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act and it fails to state a claim. Plaintiff counters that the terms of the statute do not apply to this case because "[s]exual ...

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