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Foster v. Chicago Transit Authority

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

February 8, 2017

WILLIAM J. FOSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge

         Plaintiff William J. Foster, filed a six count First Amended Complaint on May 15, 2014, alleging employment discrimination, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), and the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/1-101- 5/10-101. Defendant Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”) filed an Answer to the First Amended Complaint, denying the allegations, and filed the instant motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). [67] For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.

         Background

          Plaintiff William Foster worked at CTA from March 13, 1981, until his termination on January 26, 2012. Following arbitration proceedings, CTA reinstated Foster's employment on or about October 1, 2013. Foster alleges that over the years he complained numerous times to CTA about ongoing racial discrimination and sexual harassment that he believed CTA committed against other employees. Foster also alleges that he suffered discrimination based on his age and clinical depression and that CTA retaliated against him, ultimately terminating his employment.

         Foster filed his first Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charge on or about November 28, 2012, only claiming retaliation on January 26, 2012, for his complaints about CTA discriminating against other employees. The Right to Sue letter is dated May 21, 2013. Foster filed his initial complaint pro se in this Court on August 20, 2013, alleging retaliation for the numerous complaints he made to CTA about what he believed to be ongoing racial discrimination and sexual harassment of CTA employees. (Dkt. 1).

         On January 9, 2014, Foster filed his second EEOC charge, alleging discrimination based on age and disability, and retaliation on September 30, 2013. The Right to Sue letter is dated January 31, 2014. Foster filed a First Amended Complaint in this Court on May 15, 2014. Thereafter, on April 29, 2014, Foster filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, which was consolidated with the instant lawsuit and voluntarily dismissed.

         CTA now moves for dismissal of the First Amended Complaint, arguing that it is entitled to judgment on the pleadings because the retaliation and discrimination claims are untimely and the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim is preempted by the Illinois Human Rights Act.

         Legal Standard

          A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is analyzed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1581 (7th Cir. 1991); see also Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 579 (2009) (noting that the practical effect of addressing a statute of limitations defense in a Rule 12(c) motion is the same as addressing it in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion). For purposes of ruling on this motion, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Thomas v. Guardsmark, Inc., 381 F.3d 701, 704 (7th Cir. 2004). Dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(c) is appropriate when a plaintiff alleges sufficient facts to establish the untimeliness of the complaint. See Cancer Found., Inc. v. Cerberus Cap. Mgmt., 559 F.3d 671, 674-75 (7th Cir. 2009).

         Discussion

         CTA argues that Counts I to V, alleging retaliation and discrimination are time-barred. CTA also argues that Count VI, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress is both time-barred and pre-empted by the Illinois Human Rights Act. This Court first addresses the timeliness of the discrimination and retaliation claims.

         Foster had 90 days from receiving his Right to Sue letter from the EEOC to file his Complaint. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); Threadgill v. Moore U.S.A., Inc., 269 F.3d 848, 849-850 (7th Cir. 2001). The EEOC issued a Right to Sue letter on January 31, 2014. Foster filed his First Amended Complaint on May 15, 2014. If the allegations do not aver when a plaintiff received a Right to Sue letter, this Court presumes timely delivery of the letter within seven days. See Bobbitt v. Freeman Cos., 268 F.3d 535, 538 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing McPartlin v. Commissioner, 653 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1981)). Therefore, even if this Court assumes that Foster did not receive the Right to Sue letter until February 7, 2014, the First Amended Complaint was filed 98 days later and is untimely.

         Foster asserts that the claims contained in the First Amended Complaint are timely because they relate back to the original complaint. In the context of employment discrimination and retaliation, claims in the charge and allegations in the complaint must be alike or reasonably related. See Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1030 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Cheek v. Western & Southern Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1994)); see also McKenzie v. Illinois Dep't of Transp., 92 F.3d 473, 482-83 (7th Cir. 1996) (collecting cases). “Normally, retaliation and discrimination charges are not considered ‘like or reasonably related' to one another.” Swearnigen-El v. Cook County Sheriff's Dep't, 602 F.3d 852, 864-865 (7th Cir. 2010).

         Foster's original complaint and his 2012 EEOC charge claimed only retaliation for his complaints about third-party discrimination and thus his age and disability discrimination claims do not relate back to that charge. The original retaliation claim and the current claims that Foster suffered age and disability discrimination do not describe the same conduct by the ...


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