United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. Tharp, Jr. Judge
Mona Mustafa brings suit against her former employer, NSI
International, Inc. (“NSI”), and its counsel,
Milman Labuda Law Group, PLLC (“MLLG”), alleging
that NSI and MLLG retaliated against her, in violation of
Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a), for filing a
disability discrimination complaint. The alleged retaliation?
Seeking to enforce settlement agreements in which Mustafa
released her discrimination and retaliation claims. Mustafa
also alleges that the legal complaints NSI and MLLG filed
defamed her and that NSI disparaged her in a remark made to
an industry recruiter by an NSI employee. Finally, Mustafa
alleges that MLLG committed legal malpractice-against
her-by practicing law in Illinois without being
licensed to do so, in violation of Supreme Court Rule 707.
NSI and MLLG moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) and for sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. Because her
claims are time-barred and fail to state any plausible claim,
the motion to dismiss is granted. Further, the Court finds
that the claims Mustafa has asserted in this suit are
frivolous and likely intended to harass the defendants, and
therefore grants the motion for sanctions.
claims that she began working for NSI in July 2007, and that
NSI terminated her employment on December 12, 2008. Compl.
¶ 17, ECF No. 1. Mustafa is currently a citizen of
Illinois, while NSI is a Delaware corporation headquartered
in New York. Id. at 2. When she was employed by NSI,
Mustafa worked in Lake Villa, Illinois. Id. at
¶ 17. NSI has asserted it terminated Mustafa for poor
work performance, but Mustafa claims NSI began discriminating
against her on the basis of a disability (breast cancer)
several months before her termination and that its
discrimination has continued to the present. See
Compl. ¶18; NSI Int'l, Inc. v. Mustafa
(“NSI I”), No. 09-CV-1536(JFB)(AKT),
2009 WL 2601299, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 20, 2009). Following
her termination, Mustafa did not go gently into that good
night,  but instead began an aggressive campaign
of litigation against NSI and its law firm, MLLG.
March 5, 2009, Mustafa filed a complaint with the Illinois
Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) alleging
employment discrimination against NSI on the basis of her
disability because she was fired without being given a
reason. See Compl. Ex. 11. (Mustafa's original
discrimination complaint will be referred to as Mustafa
I). On March 18, 2009, NSI filed suit against Mustafa in
New York state court, which Mustafa removed to federal court
on April 14, 2009 (No. 09-cv-01536). In the New York case
(hereafter, NSI I), NSI alleged that by filing her
IDHR complaint, Mustafa had violated a previous verbal
settlement agreement. NSI I, 2009 WL 2601299, at
*1-2. Mustafa then filed a second IDHR complaint (Mustafa
II) on September 15, 2009 alleging that NSI had
retaliated against her for filing the previous IDHR complaint
by filing the NSI I state court suit. See
Compl. ¶ 20; IDHR Compl. at ¶ 8, ECF No. 20, Ex. D.
On August 9, 2010, Mustafa withdrew Mustafa I, her
original IDHR complaint of employment discrimination
regarding her termination. See NSI Int'l, Inc. v.
Mustafa (“NSI II”), No.
CV125528JFBAKT, 2014 WL 12539347, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 25,
2014), report and recommendation adopted, No.
12-CV-5528 JFB AKT, 2014 WL 1232941 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2014),
aff'd, 613 F.App'x 84 (2d Cir. 2015).
Mustafa II, however, remained pending.
2011, Mustafa and NSI entered into a written agreement to
settle NSI I as well as Mustafa's administrative
agency claims, including Mustafa II. See
Agreement and Release, ECF No. 20, Ex. C. In that agreement,
NSI agreed to pay Mustafa $60, 000, and Mustafa agreed to
withdraw and waive any and all claims against NSI.
Id. Mustafa alleges that, at some point after
signing this agreement, an NSI employee named Brian Waldman
made a disparaging comment about her to an industry
recruiter. Compl. ¶ 85. Pursuant to the settlement
agreement, NSI's suit against Mustafa was dismissed, but
Mustafa did not reciprocate by withdrawing her pending
retaliation complaint (Mustafa II) with the IDHR.
Nevertheless, it appears that at NSI's request her
retaliation claim was dismissed by the IDHR at some point due
to a lack of substantial evidence establishing a prima
facie case of harassment. See Compl. Ex. 13 at
2. Neither party provided any record of this decision, but
Mustafa included with her complaint the decision of the
Illinois Human Rights Commission (“IHRC”), which
adjudicates appeals from IDHR decisions not to proceed with
cases and reviews claims that do proceed on the merits. The
IHRC revived Mustafa's IDHR retaliation claim on appeal,
finding that Mustafa had established a prima facie
case of harassment by NSI. See Id. at 3. That
decision is dated August 8, 2012, well after Mustafa and NSI
had signed the written settlement of her claims in July 2011.
See Id. at 4. Mustafa appears to have continued
pursuing the IDHR claim from August of 2012, when she
received a notice of substantial evidence (see
Compl. Ex. 12), until June 28, 2013, when the
found that the complaint was frivolous and recommended
dismissal with sanctions. See ECF No. 20, Ex. E and
F. That recommendation was ultimately approved by the IHRC on
October 28, 2014. See ECF. No. 20, Ex. G. That
approval ended the proceedings on Mustafa's second IDHR
complaint (which, again, had alleged retaliation for the
filing of her first IDHR claim, which had alleged
November 8, 2012, while Mustafa continued to pursue her IDHR
retaliation claim, NSI filed a second complaint (NSI
II) in the Eastern District of New York, asserting that
Mustafa was in breach of the 2011 settlement agreement.
See NSI II, 2014 WL 12539347, at *4. NSI was granted
summary judgment on this breach of contract claim on February
25, 2014. See NSI II, 2014 WL 12539347 at *15;
NSI Int'l, Inc. v. Mustafa, No. 12-CV-5528 JFB
AKT, 2014 WL 1232941, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2014),
aff'd, 613 F.App'x 84 (2d Cir. 2015). The
judge presiding over that case (Judge Bianco) awarded NSI
$80, 645 in damages for Mustafa's breach of the signed
settlement agreement by continuing her complaints against
NSI. See Judgment, ECF No. 20, Ex. A and B. Mustafa
appealed that Court's grant of summary judgment, but the
Second Circuit affirmed the decision on August 25, 2015.
See NSI Int'l, Inc. v. Mustafa, 613 F.App'x
84, 85 (2d Cir. 2015). Unbowed following the Second
Circuit's decision, Mustafa refused to produce
post-judgment information needed by NSI's counsel and
continued filing motions for reconsideration that attempted
to relitigate the New York case. See NSI Int'l, Inc.
v. Mustafa, No. CV125528JFBAKT, 2016 WL 3014666, at *2
(E.D.N.Y. May 24, 2016). As of the date of this order,
Mustafa has an appeal of Judge Bianco's judgment on
attorney fees pending while Judge Bianco has recently denied
Mustafa's motions for a new trial and motions to compel.
See NSI II, Dkt. 138-140.
March of 2015, Mustafa opened up a second front here in
Illinois. While her appeal to the Second Circuit was ongoing,
Mustafa filed another discrimination charge with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission in Chicago alleging NSI was
discriminating against her by filing “legal
actions” against her (Mustafa III). Compl. Ex.
1 at 1. The EEOC closed its file and issued a right to sue
letter on May 15, 2015. Id. at 2. This is the right
to sue letter under which Mustafa filed the present case.
the filing of Mustafa III, NSI requested that Judge
Bianco issue a litigation injunction barring Mustafa from
filing “any actions in any court or administrative
agency in the United States without first obtaining
permission from this Court.” NSI Int'l v.
Mustafa, No. 12-CV-5528JFBAKT, ECF. No. 89 (March 19,
2015). In an unpublished order, Judge Bianco denied the
request, noting that such requests are subject to a
“heightened standard” and none of Mustafa's
lawsuits at that time had been deemed
frivolous. NSI Int'l v. Mustafa, No.
12-CV-5528JFBAKT, ECF. No. 92 (filed as Compl. Ex. 20).
However, Judge Bianco warned Mustafa that “any future
frivolous filings may result in sanctions, including a
litigation injunction.” Id.
this process, MLLG has represented NSI and Mustafa has
brought claims against MLLG and its attorneys on a number of
occasions. Mustafa has filed complaints requesting
investigation of Joseph Labuda and Jamie Felsen of MLLG by
the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission at
least three times (in 2010, 2012, and 2015). Compl. ¶
19. MLLG was admitted to practice law in Illinois pro hac
vice by an administrative law judge with the Illinois
Human Rights Commission on December 12, 2012. See
Order of Human Rights Commission, ECF. No 20, Ex. H.
Mustafa's complaint alleges that MLLG has violated Title
VII and the Illinois Human Rights Act because MLLG was not
admitted to practice by the Illinois Supreme Court, which she
believes is the only court able to admit attorneys to
practice in any way. See Compl. ¶ 37.
filed this complaint on August 11, 2015. The claims in her
complaint are discussed in greater detail below.
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Adams v. City of
Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(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.” Adams, 742 F.3d
at 728 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). A court must accept all of the plaintiff's
factual allegations as true when reviewing the complaint, but
conclusory allegations merely restating the elements of a
cause of action do not receive this presumption. See
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Here, Mustafa's claim fails
to satisfy this standard because the allegations in her
complaint fail to state a plausible claim under Title VII or
Illinois defamation law.
Counts I, II, III, and IV: Retaliation Claims
claims that defendants NSI and MLLG retaliated against her
(for filing her original IDHR complaint alleging
discrimination) in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-3(a), by filing case 09-09931 in New York state court
on March 5, 2009 (NSI I) and case 12-5528 in the
Eastern District of New York on November 8, 2012 (NSI
II). Compl. ¶ 35. Additionally, Mustafa claims that
NSI and MLLG continued their retaliation against her for
filing that initial discrimination complaint by ...