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Wilson v. City of Galesburg

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

December 22, 2016

LISA R. WILSON, Plaintiff,
CITY OF GALESBURG, ILLINOIS, a municipal corporation; and DAVID W. JONES, Human Resource and Risk Management, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss, ECF No. 3. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED, although not all of Plaintiff's claims are hereby dismissed.


         Plaintiff Lisa Wilson, who is African-American, has worked for the City of Galesburg (“the City”) since March 20, 1996. She works as a secretary in the “Handivan Division” of the City's Community Development Department. She points out that although the Galesburg's population is 11% African-American according to the 2013 census, less than 1% of the City's 237 employees (2 of them) identify as African-American or black.

         In July 2012, Defendant Jones, who is white, [2] was hired by the City as its Human Resource and Risk Manager. At some point after being hired, Jones told an unspecified co- worker that since there was another City employee besides Wilson whose first name was “Lisa, ” he would call Wilson “the black Lisa.” He did not refer to the other Lisa with a racial sobriquet.

         In February or March of 2014, Wilson was required by the City to take a drug test. Jones represented that this was because Wilson was classified as a dispatcher at the time (although she was not), and the drug test was required for dispatchers. Wilson asserts that no non-African-American employees working as dispatchers or secretaries were required to take the test.[3] After the test results (impliedly negative, although Wilson does not say) were delivered to the City, Jones discussed these results with one of Wilson's co-workers. He also asked Wilson's supervisor if she thought that Wilson would pass the test. He also told one of Wilson's other co-workers that the way to eliminate undesirable employees was to give them a drug test. Wilson was distressed by all of this conduct.

         Wilson filed the instant lawsuit on February 2, 2016, bringing claims under two Counts: (I) 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Compl. 3, ECF No. 1, and (II) 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Compl. 3-4. She alleges both Counts as to both defendants.


         Although Defendants request that the complaint be dismissed in its entirety, Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 9, ECF No. 4, they argue only that: (1) Wilson fails to allege a municipal policy or custom sufficient to support her § 1983 claim against the City, id. at 3-5; (2) the claims against the City under § 1981 must be dismissed because they rise or fall with the § 1983 claim, id. at 5- 6; (3) the freestanding § 1981 claim against Jones in his individual capacity must be dismissed for the same reasons, id. at 6-8; and (4) venue is not proper in Peoria, where the suit was originally filed, id. at 8. (Plaintiff conceded the final point, Mem. Supp. Resp. Mot. Dismiss 8- 9, ECF No. 8, and the case has since been transferred to the Rock Island division.) Since Defendants do not argue that the § 1983 claim, or the § 1981 claim insofar as it is brought pursuant to § 1983, against Jones in his individual capacity must be dismissed, they have failed to support with argument the request for dismissal of the entire case. The Court addresses below the arguments Defendants do make.

         I. Legal Standard on a Motion to Dismiss

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scanlan v. Eisenberg, 669 F.3d 838, 841 (7th Cir. 2012). A court will dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In determining whether such a claim has been stated, a court should first identify pleadings that “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). It should then take the remaining, well-pleaded factual allegations, “assume their veracity[, ] and . . . determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. This means that a complaint must provide “allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1084 (7th Cir. 2008).

         II. Analysis

         a. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claim Against the City

         Defendants argue that Wilson's § 1983 claim against the City does not allege that a municipal policy or custom gave rise to her injuries, and thus must be dismissed under the rule of Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), which requires the existence of such a policy or ...

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