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Snow v. Board of Education of J. Sterling Morton High School District 201

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

February 6, 2017

LAQUITHA SNOW, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF J. STERLING MORTON HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 201, JOSE GAMBOA, and MICHAEL KUZNIEWSKI, Defendants.

          ORDER

          AMY J. ST. EVE United State District Court Judge

         The Court denies Defendants' motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and denies Defendants' Rule 12(f) motion to strike. [44] Defendants shall answer by 2/21/17. Status hearing set for 4/6/17 is stricken and reset to 2/27/17 at 8:30 a.m.

         STATEMENT

         Plaintiff Laquitha Snow filed her original complaint in this matter on February 29, 2016. On October 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed the present five-count Second Amended Complaint alleging that her former employer Defendant Board of Education of J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 (the “Board”) discriminated against her based on race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff further alleges that individual Defendants Jose Gamboa and Michael Kuzniewski discriminated against her based on race in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983. Before the Court are Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss and Rule 12(f) motion to strike. For the following reasons, the Court denies both motions.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         I. Motion to Dismiss

         “A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (citation omitted). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Put differently, 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 172 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In determining the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, courts must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs' favor.” Roberts v. City of Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016).

         II. Motion to Strike

         Pursuant to Rule 12(f), the Court can strike “any insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f); Delta Consulting Grp., Inc. v. R. Randle Constr., Inc., 554 F.3d 1133, 1141 (7th Cir. 2009). A district court may strike an allegation as scandalous when it “bears no possible relation to the controversy, ” or when the allegations are “devoid of any factual basis.” Talbot v. Robert Matthews Distrib. Co., 961 F.2d 654, 664-65 (7th Cir.1992); see also Anderson v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chicago, 169 F.Supp.2d 864, 867-68 (N.D. Ill. 2001) (“[p]rejudice results when the matter complained of has the effect of confusing the issues”). Motions to strike are appropriate if they serve to expedite litigation. See Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder, 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989). District courts have considerable discretion under Rule 12(f). See Delta, 554 F.3d at 1141-42; Blankenship v. Pushpin Holdings, LLC, 157 F.Supp.3d 788, 796 (N.D. Ill. 2016).

         BACKGROUND

         In her Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Laquitha Snow, who is African-American, alleges that starting in January 2009, she worked at Morton East High School in Cicero, Illinois (“Morton East”) as a high school counselor and then as Dean of Students. (R. 34, Second Am. Compl. ¶ 12.) In April 2014, Plaintiff applied for the position of Assistant Principal at Morton East, but did not get the position. (Id. ¶ 14.) She maintains that Defendant Gamboa, Morton East's Principal, told her in June 2014 that she did not get the position of Assistant Principal because she was black and non-Hispanic. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 15.) Further, Plaintiff alleges - upon information and belief - that Principal Gamboa had input into the decision not to promote her to Assistant Principal. (Id. ¶ 16.) In December 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in which she alleged race discrimination and retaliation based on Defendants' failure to promote her to Assistant Principal. (Id. ¶ 6.) On April 13, 2015, Plaintiff amended her EEOC Charge. (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff received her EEOC right to sue letter on or about December 5, 2015. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         Plaintiff further asserts that after she complained about racial discrimination - and also after she filed her EEOC Charges - Defendants retaliated against her. (Id. ¶ 17.) In particular, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against her by giving her a negative evaluation, reprimanding her for being late, threatening to place her on a performance improvement plan, and denying her bonus pay, among other actions. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff also alleges that in February 2016 she requested to be moved to an open counselor position, after which Defendant Kuzniewski, District 201's Superintendent, told her he would not move her to that position because she filed an EEOC Charge. (Id. ¶ 18f.) Plaintiff further asserts that she resigned from her position of Dean of Students on September 9, 2016 due to Defendants' ongoing retaliation. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff characterizes her resignation as a “constructive discharge.” (Id.)

         Based on these allegations, Plaintiff brings the following claims: (1) a Title VII failure to promote claim against the Board (Count I); (2) a Title VII retaliation claim against the Board (Count II); (3) a Monell custom and practice claim against the Board based on race discrimination (Count III); (4) a race discrimination claim against individual Defendant Gamboa (Count IV); and a race ...


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