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Schaad v. Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

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

April 14, 2016

JOY M. SCHAAD, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO METROPOLITAN AGENCY FOR PLANNING, an Illinois municipal corporation, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RUBÉN CASTILLO, Chief District Judge.

         Plaintiff Joy M. Schaad ("Schaad") brings this action against Defendant Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning ("CMAP"), alleging six counts relating to her employment with and termination by CMAP. (R. 21, Second Am. Compl.) Presently before this Court is CMAP's motion to dismiss Count V for promissory estoppel and Count VI for age discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (R. 24-1, Def.'s Mot. at 1.) CMAP argues that these Counts are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. ( Id. ) For the reasons stated below, CMAP's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 26, 2014, Schaad filed her initial complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County alleging three common law claims for wrongful termination, retaliatory discharge, and breach of contract. (R. 2-1, Compl.) In that complaint, Schaad alleged in relevant part that on October 2, 2009, CMAP reduced her salary in retaliation for filing a written inquiry into adverse findings in her 2009 performance review. ( Id. ¶ 21.) She also claimed that CMAP demoted her and reduced her compensation without cause on June 28, 2013. ( Id. ¶ 10.) Additionally, she alleged that CMAP failed to treat her "in a same or similar manner as other younger employees" by increasing the "scrutiny, assignments, and pressure to perform on [her] despite other employees at the same position level not having any of the same scrutiny, assignments or pressure." ( Id. ) She further claimed that the company treated her differently than younger employees by failing to "conduct a full fiscal year 2013 performance review or evaluation for [her] entire work effort in violation of CMAP policy and in discriminate treatment from other employees at the same position" in an effort to "manufacture cause to terminate [her] employment." ( Id. ) According to Schaad, CMAP also violated its policies "by retaliating against [her] for filing grievances and EEO complaints." ( Id. )

         On April 20, 2015, Schaad filed her first amended complaint in Cook County alleging four counts, including two procedural due process claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and two state common-law claims for wrongful discharge and promissory estoppel related to her dismissal. (R. 2-1, First Am. Compl.) On May 15, 2015, CMAP removed this action to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. (R. 2, Notice of Removal ¶ 6.)

         On November 18, 2015, Schaad filed her second amended complaint, reiterating her four previous counts and adding two more. (R. 21, Second Am. Compl.) Count V for promissory estoppel is based on Schaad's allegation that when CMAP reduced her salary on October 2, 2009, it did so in direct contradiction to a promise it made to her in September 2007. ( Id. ¶¶ 41-43.) Count VI for age discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause is based on Schaad's allegations that she was treated differently than CMAP's younger employees and retaliated against for filing grievances to that effect. ( Id. at ¶ 15.)

         On January 11, 2016, CMAP filed its answer to Counts I-IV, (R. 26, Answer), as well as its motion to dismiss Count V and Count VI pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that both counts are untimely, (R. 24-1, Def.'s Mot. at 1). Schaad maintains that both counts relate back to her original August 2014 complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(B). (R. 28, Pl.'s Resp. at 2.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under federal pleading standards, 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). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss challenges the sufficiency of a complaint by "arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may granted." Firestone Fin. Corp. v. Meyer, 796 F.3d 822, 825 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Thus, "[t]o 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, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007)). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, and draws all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Vesely v. Armslist LLC, 762 F.3d 661, 664-65 (7th Cir. 2014).

         The Seventh Circuit has cautioned that when a defendant raises untimeliness in response to a complaint, "[d]ismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is irregular, for the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense." Chi. Bldg. Design, P.C. v. Mongolian House, lnc., 770 F.3d 610, 613 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal alteration and citation omitted); see also Cancer Found., Inc. v. Cerberus Capital Mgmt., LP, 559 F.3d 671, 674 (7th Cir. 2009) ("Dismissing a complaint as untimely at the pleading stage is an unusual step, since a complaint need not anticipate and overcome affirmative defenses, such as the statute of limitations."). "[A] motion to dismiss based on failure to comply with the statute of limitations should be granted only where the allegations of the complaint itself set forth everything necessary to satisfy the affirmative defense." Chi. Bldg. Design, 770 F.3d at 613-14 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "In other words, the plaintiff must affirmatively plead himself out of court; the complaint must plainly reveal that the action is untimely under the governing statute of limitations." Id. (internal alteration, quotation marks, and citation omitted). If this standard is not satisfied, "questions of timeliness are left for summary judgment (or ultimately trial), at which point the district court may determine compliance with the statute of limitations based on a more complete factual record." Sidney Hillman Health Ctr. of Rochester v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 782 F.3d 922, 928 (7th Cir. 2015).

         Rule 15(c)(1)(B) allows an amendment to relate back to the date of the original pleading when "the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out-or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(c)(1)(B). This means that if a plaintiff "merely adds legal conclusions or changes the theory of recovery" in an amended complaint, then it will relate back to the filing date of the earlier complaint. Henderson v. Bolanda, 253 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 2001). However, the new claim only relates back if "the factual situation upon which the action depends remains the same and has been brought to defendant's attention by the original pleading." Id. (citation omitted). This requires the court to "consider whether the defendant had notice of the new claim based on the facts as originally pled." Cunliffe v. Wright, 51 F.Supp. 3d 721');">51 F.Supp. 3d 721, 733 (N.D. Ill. 2014). Rule 15(c) should be "liberally construed to effectuate the general purpose of seeing that cases are tried on the merits and to dispense with technical procedural problems." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Staren v. Am. Nat'l Bank & Tr. Co., 529 F.2d 1257, 1263 (7th Cir. 1976)). If the defendant did not have notice of the new claim based on the facts as originally pled, then the claim does not relate back and the amended complaint's filing date will be used to determine the timeliness of the claim. Henderson, 253 F.3d at 933.

         ANALYSIS

         CMAP argues that Counts V and VI of Schaad's second amended complaint are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. (R. 24-1, Def.'s Mot. at 1.) The parties do not dispute the applicable statutes of limitations. (R. 24-1, Def.'s Mot. at 3; R. 28, Pl.'s Resp. at 1.) Nonetheless, Schaad maintains that Counts V and VI relate back to the August 2014 filing ...


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