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Leone v. Naperville Professionals, Inc.

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

April 17, 2015



JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, District Judge.

On December 1, 2014, plaintiff Elizabeth Leone ("Leone") filed a single-count complaint (Dkt. No. 1) alleging that her employer, RE/MAX Professionals Select, discriminated against her based on her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. On February 4, 2015, defendant Naperville Professionals, Inc. ("Naperville Professionals"), a residential real estate company doing business as RE/MAX Professionals Select, filed a motion to dismiss Leone's complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 13.) Although Leone's original complaint incorrectly identified the defendant as RE/MAX Professionals Select, the parties agreed to allow Leone to correct her complaint and to treat Naperville Professionals' pending motion as one to dismiss Leone's forthcoming corrected complaint. On February 20, 2015, Leone filed her corrected complaint ("Corrected Complaint") (Dkt. No. 18 ("Compl.")), and Naperville Professionals' motion to dismiss is now ripe for ruling. For the reasons explained below, Naperville Professionals' motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 13) Leone's Corrected Complaint is denied.


From April 25, 2011 until July 27, 2013, Leone worked for Naperville Professionals as an administrative assistant to one of its realtors, Adam Stary ("Stary"). (Compl. ¶ 12.) She worked at Naperville Professionals' office and was supervised by Stary and Ellen Conte-Batinick ("Conte-Batinick"), Naperville Professionals' office manager. ( Id. ¶¶ 12, 15.) Leone alleges that her work was exemplary, and Naperville Professionals apparently agreed (at some point) since it advertised her positive customer reviews on its company webpage. ( Id. ¶ 13.)

In September 2012, Leone told Conte-Batinick and Stary that she was pregnant and would need to take three months off of work for the birth of her son, beginning in May 2013. ( Id. ¶¶ 16, 17.) Stary assured Leone that she would still have her job when she returned from maternity leave. ( Id. ¶ 17.) In October 2012, well before her scheduled maternity leave, Leone began to suffer from hyperemesis. ( Id. ¶ 18.) Hyperemesis is a pregnancy-related condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance. ( Id. ) Her doctors placed her on bed-rest and Leone missed work from October 2012 through January 7, 2013 as a result. ( Id. )

On January 1, 2013, Leone signed an "acknowledgment" ("Acknowledgment")[1] stating that her position at Naperville Professionals was "as an unlicensed assistant for Adam Stary... under the Naperville Professionals Inc. DBA RE/MAX Professionals Select Real Estate Corporation." (Dkt. No. 14-2 at 5.) The Acknowledgment announced a new policy, effective March 1, 2013, that "all unlicensed assistants must have an employment contract on file with RE/MAX Professionals Select." ( Id. ) It is not clear whether the required "employment contract" was to be between agents and their assistants, or assistants and Naperville Professionals. The Acknowledgment further stated that employees' wages could be paid by their agents or through Naperville Professionals' payroll system, but cautioned that employees must participate in Naperville Professionals' payroll system to qualify for "unemployment, worker's compensation or any other benefits provided by Naperville Professionals Inc. to it's [sic] employees." ( Id. )

After Leone recovered from her hyperemesis and returned to work on January 7, 2013, Stary reduced her share of work on his most lucrative account in favor of his other administrative assistant, Brittany Kaurich ("Kaurich"). ( Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) Kaurich was not pregnant or a new mother. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Because part of Leone's compensation took the form of bonus payments for successful closings, the work she lost to Kaurich cost Leone hundreds of dollars each month. ( Id. ¶ 20.)

At the end of April 2013, Leone left work to give birth to her son. Stary then hired a new, full-time assistant to replace Leone.[2] ( Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Stary's new assistant, unlike Leone, was neither pregnant nor a new mother. ( Id. ¶ 23.) When Leone returned to work on July 27, 2013, Stary called her into his office and terminated her employment. ( Id ) Stary told Leone that he longer needed her services because business had slowed. ( Id. ) He also handed Leone a typed list of purported transgressions dating back to October 2012. ( Id. ¶ 23.)

On November 8, 2013, Leone filed a charge of discrimination against RE/MAX Professionals Select (again using the wrong corporate name) with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Compl. Ex. A.) The IDHR dismissed Leone's charge on April 30, 2014, (Dkt. No. 20 Ex. A), and the EEOC sent Leone a right to sue notice on September 4, 2014 (Compl. Ex. B). Leone filed this lawsuit on December 1, 2014.


I. Rule 12(b)(1)

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) challenges the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. "The standard of review for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss depends on the purpose of the motion." Bolden v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2014 WL 6461690, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 18, 2014) (citing 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 plaintiffs favor." Bolden, 2014 WL 6461690, at *2 (citing United Phosphorus, Ltd. v. Angus Chem. Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003)). A factual challenge to the court's subject matter jurisdiction, on the other hand, is based on the assertion that "the complaint is formally sufficient but... there is in fact no subject matter jurisdiction." United Phosphorus, 322 F.3d at 946 (emphasis in original). When considering a factual challenge to the court's jurisdiction, "[t]he district court may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Evers v. Astrue, 536 F.3d 651, 656-57 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007)). "Where jurisdiction is in question, the party asserting a right to a federal forum has the burden of proof, regardless of who raised the jurisdictional challenge." Craig v. Ontario Corp., 543 F.3d 872, 876 (7th Cir. 2008).

II. Rule 12(b)(6)

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint's allegations need only to set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not required, "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A complaint must "include sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Justice v. Town of Cicero, 577 F.3d 768, 771 (7th Cir. 2009)). "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." Ashcroft v. ...

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