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Motley v. United Airlines, Inc.

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

March 8, 2017

Kenneth Motley, Plaintiff,
v.
United Airlines, Inc., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Virginia M. Kendall, U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff, Kenneth Motley brings this action for damages and injunctive relief against his former employer, Defendant, United Airlines, Inc., (“United”) for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 42 U.S.C. § 200e, et seq. (“Title VII”); 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”); and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). (Dkt. 34 at ¶ 1.) Motley also seeks redress for the intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) by United and its agents. (Id.)

         United moves to dismiss two counts in Motley's Second Amended Complaint. (Dkt. 42.) First, United moves to dismiss the IIED claim because the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) preempts the claim and United asserts that even if the claim is not preempted, dismissal is appropriate because Motley fails to plausibly state a claim for relief. (Dkt. 42 at 2.) Second, United moves to dismiss the racial harassment claim brought under Title VII because Motley did not provide notice of a harassment claim in his Charge of Discrimination filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Dkt. 42 at 2.) United's motion is denied; both counts may proceed.

         FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         The Court accepts as true all well-pleaded allegations in the Complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank, 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007); Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013).

         Motley worked for United from the time he was hired in May 1999, until he was terminated on June 25, 2015. (Dkt. 34 at ¶ 4.) At the time of termination, he worked as a fulltime Ramp Service Employee at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Motley alleges that beginning in February 2015, United began a series of investigations into his alleged misconduct at work. However, United's investigations were not in good faith because Motley's alleged misconduct was not behavior ordinarily subject to investigation; similarly-situated white employees were not subject to investigation when engaging in substantially-similar conduct; United's employees intended to harass Motley; and United's actions were motivated by racial animus. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-29, 37-40, 48-51, 70-71.)

         First Investigation

         Sometime during February 2015, Motley's area supervisor and general manager notified Motley that he was under investigation for leaving his work area early. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Under United's policies, procedures, and/or common practices, an employee may leave his work area fifteen minutes prior to the end of a work shift. (Id. at ¶ 19.) On the day at issue, Motley left work at 12:45 p.m. and his shift ended at 1:00 p.m. (Id. at ¶ 15.) His area supervisor and general manager claimed that Motley's work shift ended at 1:15 p.m. and therefore he should not have left until 1:00 p.m. (Id. at ¶ 20.) However, Ramp Services Employees work standard shifts: 4:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Therefore, under no circumstances could an employee leave work “early” at 1:00 p.m., because there is no standard shift that ends at 1:15 p.m. Motley's 12:45 p.m. departure was not early. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.)

         Second Investigation

         On another day in February 2015, Motley was wearing headphones during his lunch break when he was approached by his area supervisor. (Id. at ¶¶ 30, 32.) Under United's policies, procedures, and/or common practices, employees are permitted to wear headphones during lunch breaks. (Id. at ¶ 33.) Motley's supervisor approached Motley and instructed him to remove his headphones. Despite Motley's explanation to his supervisor that he was on his lunch break, United still followed-up with an investigation into Motley's alleged failure to comply with his supervisor's instruction. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-36.)

         Third Investigation

         On or about February 22, 2015, Motley's Product Sort Belt Supervisor instructed Motley to throw a number of “hot bags” into the “sorter.”[1] (Id. at 41.) Motley complied with this direction, but United still investigated the incident and issued a verbal/written warning as discipline. (Id. at ¶¶ 43-47.)

         FMLA Request

         Motley requested FMLA “in order to address his fatigue and mental and emotional stress, ” caused in part by United's “pattern of harassment.” (Id. at ¶¶ 97-98.) Motley's request was approved and he took leave from February 25, 2015 through March 11, 2015. (Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 98-99.) ...


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