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Seale v. Medsource, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

April 28, 2017

DARLENE L. SEALE, Plaintiff,
MEDSOURCE, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER & OPINION

          JOE BILLY McDADE United States Senior District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. (Doc. 4). The motion has been fully briefed and is ready for decision. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “the court must treat all well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” In re march FIRST Inc., 589 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2009). The pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a motion to dismiss, the challenged pleading must contain sufficient detail to give notice of the claim, and the allegations must “plausibly suggest that the [non-movant] has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a ‘speculative level.' ” EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard requires enough facts “to present a story that holds together, ” but does not require a determination of probability. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). Though detailed factual allegations are not needed, a “formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545. Lastly, when a plaintiff pleads facts demonstrating that he has no claim, dismissal of the complaint is proper. McCready v. eBay, Inc., 453 F.3d 882, 888 (7th Cir. 2006).

         Relevant Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff is an African-American woman. She was employed by Defendant on or about May 16, 2016. On and prior to August 25, 2016, Plaintiff opposed acts of racial discrimination asserted against her and others in the workplace by senior management personnel, supervisory personnel and human resource personnel employed by Defendant. That same day, Plaintiff submitted an employee grievance advising Defendant of the alleged acts of racial discrimination and her opposition to such acts. Defendant investigated the grievance and found it to be unfounded.

         Plaintiff later filed a charge of discrimination against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The allegations in the charge were terse. (See Doc. 5-1). Plaintiff alleged she was subjected to different terms and condition of employment including, but not limited to, being denied an opportunity to interview for a promotion. She also alleged that she believed she was discriminated against because of her race. After an investigation, the EEOC was unable to conclude that the information obtained through its investigation established the violation of any law. It nevertheless issued Plaintiff a right to sue letter. (Doc. 1-1).

         On or around November 13, 2016, the EEOC investigator provided Defendant with a copy of the Right to Sue letter. On January 12, 2017, Plaintiff was terminated by Defendant on the basis that the company was undergoing a reduction in workforce. She alleges that at all times relevant she was meeting Defendant's legitimate business expectations. This action was filed on February 10, 2017.


         The Complaint alleges that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff on account of her race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq. The Complaint is poorly drafted and does not clearly set out the claims. However, the parties seem to agree there are two separate claims: a racial discrimination claim as to the conditions of employment and a retaliation claim for filing an EEOC complaint regarding the racial discrimination claim. Defendant argues that the Complaint should be dismissed because first, the retaliation claim was not presented to the EEOC before this suit was initiated, and second, the racial discrimination claim does not allege sufficient facts to make it plausible that Plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action due to her race. The Court disagrees with the Defendant's first argument but agrees with its second argument.

         I. Retaliation Claim

         Defendant argues that the retaliation claim should be dismissed because Plaintiff did not present it to the EEOC before initiating this lawsuit. A federal employment discrimination plaintiff generally is limited in a Title VII action to pursuing only the claims she made before the EEOC. Teal v. Potter, 559 F.3d 687, 691 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Cheek v. Western & Southern Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1994); Rush v. McDonald's Corp., 966 F.2d 1104, 1110 (7th Cir. 1992)). This requirement's purposes are “to promote resolution of the dispute by settlement or conciliation and to ensure that the sued employers receive adequate notice of the charges against them.” Id. Plaintiffs are also able, though, to pursue claims that are “like or reasonably related to the allegations of the [administrative] charge and growing out of such allegations.'” Id. at 691-92. (quoting Jenkins v. Blue Cross Mut. Hosp. Ins., Inc., 538 F.2d 164, 167 (7th Cir. 1976) (alteration in original)). This inquiry turns on whether “there is a reasonable relationship between the allegations in the charge and those in the complaint, and the claim in the complaint could reasonably be expected to be discovered in the course of the EEOC's investigation.” Id. at 692 (citing Cheek, 31 F.3d at 500).

         An alleged incident of retaliation that occurred after a plaintiff has already filed an EEOC complaint can serve as the basis for a Title VII claim. McKenzie v. Ill. Dept. of Transp., 92 F.3d 473 482-82 (7th Cir. 1996). In situations where the alleged retaliation arose after the EEOC charge was filed, only the single previous filing is necessary to comply with Title VII, “a double filing ‘would serve no purpose except to create additional procedural technicalities.'” Id. citing Steffen v. Meridian Life Ins. Co., 859 F.2d 534, 545 (7th Cir. 1988).

         This situation falls squarely into the exception carved out in McKenzie and Steffen cited above. Plaintiff is claiming that she was retaliated against for filing the EEOC claim. Forcing her to file yet another EEOC claim would be a pointless procedural hurdle that serves no other purpose. Steffen, 859 F.2d at 545. Thus, the latter retaliation claim is clearly reasonably related to ...

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