United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. Lee United States District Judge
Michelle Thomas has sued Coach Outlet Store, an unknown Coach
Outlet Store Manager, and Coach, Inc. (collectively,
“Defendants”). She alleges race discrimination in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I) and Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(Count II), and she also brings state law claims for
negligent supervision (Count III) and intentional infliction
of emotional distress (Count IV). Defendant Coach Inc.
(“Coach”) has moved to dismiss the complaint for
failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6).For the reasons stated
herein, Coach's motion to dismiss is granted in part and
denied in part.
Michelle Thomas is an African American woman who resides in
Illinois. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 9, ECF No. 1. In 2014, she
was employed as a security guard by SOS Security.
Id. ¶ 9. SOS Security entered a contract with
the Coach Outlet Store in Aurora, Illinois, to provide an
overnight security guard at the store while the store was in
the process of being remodeled. Id. ¶ 10. In
connection with this contract, Thomas was assigned to work as
the overnight security guard at the Coach Outlet Store for
three nights, beginning the night of May 1, 2014.
Id. ¶¶ 11-12.
claims arise from an incident that took place on the second
night of her assignment. On May 2, 2014, a Coach Outlet Store
manager arrived at the store where Thomas was working.
Id. ¶ 15. According to Thomas, the manager
proceeded to immediately-and falsely-accuse Thomas of
stealing items from the store. Id. ¶¶
16-17. The manager then physically patted down Thomas and
“roughly searched” through her belongings,
“holding up [Thomas's] intimate apparel and other
items in front of people in the store.” Id.
manager's search did not reveal any stolen items.
Id. ¶ 20. Nevertheless, the manager e-mailed
various individuals after the incident, including
Thomas's supervisor at SOS Security, and told them Thomas
had stolen something from the store. Id.
¶¶ 22, 24. The manager then terminated Thomas from
the remainder of her assignment. Id. ¶¶
23, 25. Thomas alleges that she was falsely accused of theft
and terminated from her employment at the Coach Outlet Store
on account of her race. Id. ¶¶ 25, 30, 35,
survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a
complaint must “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” 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.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint “need
only provide 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); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court must
accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint
and must draw inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
See Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1081.
has moved to dismiss all four counts of Thomas's
complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant under Rule
12(b)(6). First, Coach contends that Thomas's § 1981
and Title VII claims should be dismissed because Thomas has
not sufficiently alleged the existence of an employment
contract or employment relationship with Coach. Next, it
seeks dismissal of Thomas's negligent supervision claim
because Thomas has not alleged that Coach knew or should have
known the Coach Store Outlet manager posed a danger to
Thomas. Coach also argues that Thomas's claim for
intentional infliction of emotional distress should be
dismissed on the ground that Thomas has not sufficiently
alleged extreme and outrageous conduct to support her claim.
The Court will address each of these arguments below.
Count I: Race Discrimination Under 42 U.S.C. §
42 U.S.C. § 1981, all persons, regardless of race, are
guaranteed “the same right . . . to make and enforce
contracts.” 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a). This guarantee
protects the rights to enter, perform, modify, and terminate
contracts, as well as to enjoy “all benefits,
privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual
relationship.” Id. § 1981(b). Section
1981 therefore offers a basis for relief “when racial
discrimination impairs an existing contractual relationship,
so long as the plaintiff has or would have rights under the
existing . . . contractual relationship.”
Domino's Pizza, Inc. v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470,
argues that Thomas has failed to state a claim under §
1981 on the ground that Thomas has not alleged the existence
of a contractual relationship between Thomas and Coach.
Def.'s Mem. Supp. at 3. The Seventh Circuit, however, has
made clear that a defendant “can be liable under §
1981 for interfering with the plaintiff's
relationship with his employer, ” even when the
plaintiff has no direct contractual relationship with the
defendant itself. Sklyarsky v. Means-Knaus Partners,
L.P., 777 F.3d 892, 896 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing
Muhammad v. Oliver, 547 F.3d 874, 878 (7th Cir.
2008); Thanongsinh v. Bd. of Educ., 462 F.3d 762,
782-83 (7th Cir. 2006)). In other words, a defendant's
“tortious interference with [the plaintiff's]
contract rights violates section 1981 when the motivation for
the interference is racial, ” regardless of whether the
defendant itself was a party to the contract at issue.
Muhammad, 547 F.3d at 878. The lack of an employment
relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant thus
does not preclude the plaintiff from prevailing on a §
1981 claim. See id; Deets v. Massman Const.
Co., 811 F.3d 978, 984 (7th Cir. 2016).
Thomas has alleged that she had an employment relationship
with SOS Security. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 11. She further
alleges that Defendants interfered with this employment
relationship by terminating Thomas's assignment to work
at the Coach Outlet Store and by falsely reporting to
Thomas's supervisor at SOS Security that Thomas had
stolen items from the store. Id. ¶¶ 22-25.
Because these allegations amount to a claim that Defendants
interfered with Thomas's employment relationship with SOS
Security, and because Thomas attributes this interference to
racial motivation, see Id. ¶¶ 28-31,
Thomas has sufficiently ...