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Lauriee v. Custer

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 22, 2017



          David R. Herndon United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Pending before the Court is defendant William M. BeDell Achievement and Resource Center's (hereinafter “the Center”) motion to dismiss or alternatively to strike (Doc. 10). The Center contends that Counts III and IV of Laurie's complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Center also moves to dismiss or strike the alleged common-law retaliation claim for reporting “on-the-job injuries” in Count V of the complaint. Laurie responded opposing the motion (Doc. 29), to which the Center replied (Doc. 30). For the reasons discussed below, the Center's' motion is DENIED.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff Geneva Laurie alleges that she was hired as an employee by the Center in August 2008. Thereafter, around August 2013, Program Director, Rosjean Custer, began making inappropriate age and health related comments about Laurie (Doc. 1-1). On May 22, 2014, Laurie filed a written grievance with her employer in which she indicated that she felt harassed and discriminated by Ms. Custer because of her age (Id.). Thereafter, on May 23, 2014, Laurie was terminated due to “concerns over the safety of staff, failure to meet performance standards, [and] gross misbehavior and insubordination.” (Id.).

         Laurie later filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on September 10, 2014, in which she alleged that the Center violated provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). (Doc. 29-1). The complaint was immediately cross-filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) according to the workshare agreement between the two agencies. (Doc. 1-1); See 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 5/7A-102(A-1) (West 2012); Kaimowitz v. Bd. of Trustees of the Univ. of Ill., 951 F.2d 765 (7th Cir. 1991). On March 29, 2016, the EEOC issued its “right to sue” letter to Laurie notifying her that the EEOC was closing her case, and that she had the right to sue in federal or state court within 90 days of her receipt of the notice (Doc. 1-1, pg. 15).

         According to Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), a complainant must “submit a copy of the EEOC's determination [to the IDHR] within 30 days after service of the determination by the EEOC on complainant.” § 5/7A-102(A-1)(1). Laurie submitted the copy of EEOC's right to sue letter to the IDHR on May 19, 2016, 51 days after receiving it (Doc. 29-1). On that basis, the IDHR sent the parties an Investigation Report stating that they lack jurisdiction to hear the case because Laurie did not timely file a copy of the EEOC's determination. On August 2, 2016, the IDHR issued a Notice of Dismissal for Lack of Jurisdiction to notify the parties that the case was dismissed, and if the complainant disagreed with this action, the complainant could “(a) seek review of this dismissal before the Illinois Human Rights Commission” or “(b) commence a civil action in the appropriate state circuit court within ninety (90) days after receipt of this Notice.” (Doc. 29-1).

         Laurie subsequently filed an action arising from the same operative facts as the instant case on May 23, 2016, in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Illinois (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiff's initial complaint alleged six counts: Count I ADEA (discrimination); Count II ADEA (retaliation); Count III IHRA (discrimination); Count IV IHRA (retaliation); Count V Illinois Common Law Retaliation; and Count VI Complaint against Rosjean Custer.

         On July 7, 2016, defendants removed this case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois asserting this Court has original jurisdiction on the basis of a federal question under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (Doc. 1). Defendants, on July 14, 2016, moved to dismiss or strike plaintiff's complaint arguing that Counts III and IV of the complaint should be dismissed due to Laurie's failure to exhaust administrative remedies pursuant to the procedures enumerated by the IHRA (Doc. 10). Additionally, the Center claims that Laurie failed to state a claim for common law retaliatory discharge (Count V) for reporting “on-the-job injuries.” (Id.). Plaintiff Laurie opposes the dismissal by arguing that she has exhausted her administrative remedies under the IHRA for Counts III and IV and that she sufficiently pled the Illinois common law claim retaliation claim (Doc. 29)

         III. Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants' motion to dismiss is made pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). The Supreme Court explained in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), that Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is warranted if the complaint fails to set forth “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” In making this assessment, the district court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Rujawitz v. Martin, 561 F.3d 685, 688 (7th Cir. 2009); St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007).

         Even though Twombly (and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)) retooled federal pleading standards, notice pleading remains all that is required in a complaint. “A plaintiff still must provide only enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and, through his allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that he is entitled to relief.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008) (citations and quotations omitted).

         The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals offers further guidance on what a complaint must do to withstand dismissal for failure to state a claim. The Court in Pugh v. Tribune Co.,521 F.3d 686, 699 (7th Cir. 2008) reiterated the premise: “surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires more than labels and conclusions;” the complaint's allegations must “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” A plaintiff's claim “must be plausible on its face, ” that is, “the complaint must establish a non-negligible probability that the claim is valid…” Smith v. Medical Benefit Administrators Group, Inc.,639 F.3d 277, 281 (7th Cir.2011); See also Scanlan v. Eisenberg, 669 ...

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