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Lanton v. City of Chicago

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

February 13, 2017

DENISE LANTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMY J. ST. EVE, United States District Court Judge

         On August 17, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant City of Chicago's motion to dismiss Plaintiff Denise Lanton's First Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[1] The Court also granted Plaintiff leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, which she filed on September 9, 2016. After Defendant filed the present Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss Counts I and III-V of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Third Amended Complaint based on the Court's original and supplemental jurisdiction on November 3, 2016. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367(c). Plaintiff also filed a response to Defendant's pending motion to dismiss. The Court then directed Defendant to address Plaintiff's allegations in the Third Amended Complaint in its reply brief and allowed Plaintiff to file a sur-reply.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the following claims brought pursuant to the Court's original jurisdiction in 28 U.S.C. § 1331 in Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint: (1) Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim (Count I); (2)

         Plaintiff's failure to promote/race discrimination claim brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 (Count III); (3) Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim based on race (Count IV); and (4) Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim based on gender (Count V). The Court grants the City's motion to dismiss in its entirety and, in its discretion, declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim based on the Illinois Constitution as alleged in Count II. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). The Court therefore dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “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. 1397, 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).

         BACKGROUND

         In her Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she has been the City's employee since 1988 starting as a paralegal in the City's Law Department. (R. 34, Third Am. Compl. ¶ 7.) In 1994, Plaintiff was promoted to Assistant to the Commissioner in the Department of Streets and Sanitation (hereinafter “Streets & Sanitation”). (Id. ¶ 8.) In 1999, Plaintiff was promoted to the position of Administrative Service Officer II - a position she still holds. (Id. ¶ 9.) In her role as Administrative Service Officer II, Plaintiff works on labor relations matters, hiring practices disciplinary issues, grievances, arbitrations, and policy development within Streets & Sanitation. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         On February 17, 2014, the City's Department of Human Resources posted a position for Labor Relations Supervisor in Streets & Sanitation, which would have been a promotion for Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.) Plaintiff applied for the position, and on May 8, 2014, the City interviewed her in accordance with the required hiring procedures. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff asserts that the interview process for these types of positions in the City is very structured. (Id. ¶ 15.) Specifically, the City screens the candidates and then the Inspector General's Office ranks the candidates numerically. (Id. ¶ 16.) After her interview, the Streets & Sanitation's Personnel Division informed Plaintiff that the result of the hiring panel's consensus ranked her as the first alternate for the position of Labor Relations Supervisor - above all other candidates except the individual whom they selected for the position. (Id. ¶ 17.) On May 19, 2014, the Director of Personnel Maria Contreras called Plaintiff to notify her that the first choice candidate for the Labor Relations Supervisor position had declined the City's job offer. (Id. ¶ 18.) Because Plaintiff was the first alternate choice, Contreras offered Plaintiff the job, and Plaintiff accepted that same day. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that she was scheduled to start as the Labor Relations Supervisor on June 1, 2014. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         On May 21, 2014, Noelle Brennan, the federal court-appointed monitor of the Shakman Consent Decree, filed her “Corrected May 21, 2014 Report on Substantial Compliance.” (Id. ¶ 20.) Brennan was responsible for monitoring how the City complied with the Shakman Decree, which prevented the City from basing its hiring decisions on an applicant's political affiliation.[2](Id.) In her May 2014 report, Brennan recommended that the federal court no longer needed to actively monitor the City's hiring practices. (Id. ¶ 21.) Brennan, however, recommended that approximately ten employees needed “further investigation.” (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff was one of the individuals whom Brennan had identified as needing “further investigation.” (Id. ¶ 23.)

         Plaintiff alleges that on May 22, 2014, the Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources spoke with Brennan regarding Plaintiff's hiring to the position of Labor Relations Supervisor. (Id. ¶ 29.) Brennan gave her opinion that the City should not hire Plaintiff in this role because the job was connected to the hiring process. (Id.) Nonetheless, on May 27, 2014, Plaintiff met with Contreras to complete the hiring paperwork. (Id. ¶ 30.) At this meeting, the Commissioner of Streets & Sanitation Charles Williams told Plaintiff that there was a problem with Human Resources, but that he would work on it. (Id.) Commissioner Williams directed Contreras to proceed with finalizing Plaintiff's hiring paperwork. (Id.)

         On June 2, 2014, Brennan amended her report regarding Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 32.) More, specifically, Brennan renewed her request to “exclude [Plaintiff] from the hiring process in its entirety and to exclude her from positions wherein she would exercise significant control and discretion over other similar employment actions.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that in this memorandum, Brennan also requested that the City and Inspector General review Plaintiff's interview transcript and another individual's transcript to “determine whether further investigation is warranted.” (Id. ¶ 33.) According to Plaintiff, the City never conducted an investigation into her alleged misconduct after Brennan's recommendation for “further investigation, ” but rather notified Brennan that it had disciplined Plaintiff by barring her from participating in any aspect of the hiring process. (Id. ¶ 35.) Plaintiff alleges that the City never gave her an opportunity to defend herself against Brennan's allegations of wrongdoing - such as notice of the allegations, a hearing, or an opportunity to be heard - despite her written requests to the Streets & Sanitation's Commissioner. (Id.)

         Also in June 2014, the City told Plaintiff that she could not take the position as the Labor Relations Supervisor. (Id. ¶ 36.) On June 24, 2014, Plaintiff sent a letter to Commissioner Williams requesting the documents underlying the decision to revoke her job offer and an opportunity to respond to Brennan's allegations. (Id. ¶ 37.) In that letter, Plaintiff explained that Brennan based her report on innuendoes of participants in a past hiring fraud scheme. (Id. ¶ 38.) As discussed, the City nevertheless revoked Plaintiff's promotion without conducting any further investigations. (Id. ¶ 39.) Thereafter, throughout the remainder of 2014 and 2015, Plaintiff asked her immediate supervisor and others if they had received Brennan's allegations of misconduct against her. (Id. ¶ 40.)

         On January 7, 2016, the Chicago Fire Department (“CFD”) contacted Plaintiff via email asking her to interview for a Labor Relations Supervisor position with the CFD. (Id. ¶ 46.) This position was the same position Plaintiff could not take due to Brennan's recommendation in June 2014. (Id.) The next day, Plaintiff accepted the CFD's request to interview. (Id. ¶ 47.) On January 12, 2016, Joann McNeil, Supervisor of Personnel Services for the CFD, told Plaintiff that the CFD had to cancel her interview at the behest of the City's Human Resources Department. (Id. ¶ 48.) In response, Plaintiff emailed McNeil asking her why the CFD cancelled her interview, after which McNeil explained that she did not know why and gave Plaintiff the contact information of Deputy Commissioner Christina Batorski from the City's Human Resources Department. (Id. ΒΆ 49.) Batorski responded to Plaintiff that ...


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