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Henry v. Boston Hannah Chicago, LLC

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

June 8, 2015



RUBÉN CASTILLO, District Judge.

Laurin Henry and Rachelle Treiber (collectively, "Plaintiffs") bring this action on behalf of themselves and a class of persons similarly situated against Boston Hannah Chicago, LLC ("Defendant"), alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. $2000-2 et seq. ("Title VII").[1] (R. 1, Compl.) Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (R. 7, Def.'s Mot.) For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Defendant's motion.


Plaintiffs are adult females and residents of Chicago, Illinois. (R. 1, Compl. 12-3.) Defendant is an Illinois corporation involved in publishing that does business in Chicago, Illinois. (Id. ¶ 5; R. 12-3, Treiber Decl. ¶ 2.) Defendant hired Treiber as a Managing Editor in approximately August 2006. (Id. ¶ 12.) Defendant hired Henry as a Graphic Designer in approximately September 2007. (Id ¶ 11.)

In or about January 2010, Defendant transferred an employee, Glenn Oakley, to its Chicago office in order to manage the entire office. (Id. ¶ 11.) From that time forward, although Treiber remained Henry's direct supervisor, Oakley became a supervisor to both Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 11-12.) Plaintiffs allege that upon arriving in the Chicago office, Oakley immediately began sexually harassing both Henry and Treiber on work premises both privately and in front of co-workers. (Id. ) Plaintiffs allege that Oakley constantly made direct sexual verbal advances towards them, spoke openly about his sexual encounters, and inquired about Plaintiffs' personal sex lives. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiffs further allege that Oakley used profane language towards them, including stating that Henry "needs to be fucked[, ]" calling her "a little bitch[, ]" and referring repeatedly to his genitalia in a lewd manner. (Id. ) He also asked Treiber, "Would you fuck [Henry]? She looks like a good one." (Id. )

In or about April 2010, Treiber sent an email on Plaintiffs' behalf to office administrator Kathy Fishman complaining of the sexual harassment, and Plaintiffs notified Fishman verbally. (Id. ¶ 14.) However, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant failed to address Treiber's allegations. (Id.) Plaintiffs further allege that after Treiber informed Fishman of the harassment, Oakley became angry and offensive to Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiffs were both terminated on June 15, 2010, which Plaintiffs contend was a retaliatory act by Oakley. (Id. ) Plaintiffs allege that they were terminated despite above-adequate performance that had resulted in one raise and one promotion for Henry over her time of employment, and no indication that their employment was in jeopardy. (Id. )

Following Defendant's attempts to resolve Plaintiffs' dispute, Henry filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on September 2, 2010. (R. 1-1, Ex. A, Henry EEOC Charge at 1.) Treiber filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC on April 5, 2011. (R. 1-1, Ex. A, Treiber EEOC Charge at 3.) On August 12, 2014, the EEOC issued Plaintiffs right-to-sue notices, informing them that they must file a lawsuit within 90 days. (R. 1, Compl. ¶ 9.; R. 1, Ex. B, EEOC Notices.)

Defendant attaches documents from June 2010 to its motion, in which Defendant argues both Plaintiffs waive their claims against it. (R. 7-1, Ex. A, Henry's Emails at 1; R. 7-2, Ex.B, Treiber's Letter.) In response, Plaintiffs submit additional emails between the parties, exchanged between June 24 and July 13, 2010, that Plaintiffs argue demonstrate Henry's waiver was ineffective. (R. 12, Pls.' Resp. at 6; R. 12-2, Henry Decl. at 2-12.) In addition, Plaintiffs argue that the letter Treiber signed was a waiver for a "whistleblowing matter" she had raised earlier in her employment, and not a waiver of the sexual harassment or retaliation claims at issue in this case. (R. 12, Pls.' Resp. at 9; R. 12-3, Treiber Decl. at 2.)


Plaintiffs commenced this action on November 13, 2014. (R. 1, Compl.) In Count I, Plaintiffs allege sexual harassment in violation of Title VII. (Id. at 3.) In Count II, Plaintiffs allege retaliation in violation of Title VII. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiffs also seek declaratory and injunctive relief in connection with their first two claims. (Id. at 6-7.) Plaintiffs bring this suit on behalf of themselves and other current and former female employees supervised by Oakley pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3). (Id at 8.) On January 22, 2015, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (R. 7, Def.'s Mot.) On February 18, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a response to Defendant's motion, (R. 12, Pls.' Resp.), and Defendant filed a reply on March 6, 2015, (R. 14, Def.'s Reply).


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) "challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Id Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' sufficient to provide the defendant with fair notice' of the claim and its basis." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "To survive a motion to dismiss, 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, 664 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "Plausibility" in this context does not imply that a court "should decide whose version to believe, or which version is more likely than not." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). "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.


Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint on the ground that Plaintiffs knowingly waived their claims. (R. 7, Def.'s Mot. ¶ 2.) In support of its motion to dismiss, Defendant attaches a series of emails and a signed letter that Defendant argues constitute waivers of Plaintiffs' claims. (R. 8, Def.'s Mem. at 2-5; R. 7-1, Ex. A, Henry's Emails at 1; R. 7-2, Ex.B, Treiber's Letter.) Plaintiffs argue that Defendant's motion contains materials outside the pleadings because the documents are not attached to or referred to in the complaint. (R. 12, Pls.' Resp. at 2.) Therefore, Plaintiffs contend that the motion is converted to a motion for summary judgment, and request the motion be stayed pending an appropriate discovery inquiry. (Id. at 2-3.) Defendant counters that the Court should allow the introduction of these ...

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