United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on defendant Professional
Transportation, Inc.'s (“PTI”) motion to
transfer this Title VII sexual harassment and retaliation
case to the United States District Court for the District of
Montana pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (Doc.18).
Plaintiff Marie Ramirez has responded to the motion (Doc.
30), and PTI has replied to that response (Doc. 31).
began working for PTI on June 23, 2013. PTI is in the
business of transporting railroad crews from worksites across
the United States, and it hired Ramirez as a driver. PTI
hired Ramirez at its branch in Dupo, Illinois, within the
Southern District of Illinois, and Dupo was considered her
“home branch.” Ramirez worked in Dupo briefly
before she was transferred to a PTI branch in Glasgow,
Montana. While working in Montana, PTI paid her travel and
alleges that in Glasgow a coworker began sexually harassing
her by making multiple inappropriate statements and gestures
to her every day. Ramirez complained to her branch manager,
but PTI did not investigate or take any remedial action.
Ramirez then reported the harassment to her “utility
manager” and PTI's human resources department and
asked to be transferred from the Glasgow branch. Ramirez
alleges that PTI retaliated against her for her complaints.
Specifically, she claims PTI denied her transfer request and
told her she would have to return to her home branch first,
and then she would be immediately sent to another location.
Other employees seeking transfers were not required to return
to their home branch first. Ramirez also claims PTI
retaliated against her by treating her worse than her
coworkers, threating to terminate her, giving her undesirable
work assignments, denying her legitimate requests for medical
leave and punishing her disproportionately for a minor
returned to her home branch, but she was not immediately sent
out to another location as PTI had told her she would be.
Instead, she worked out of Dupo for three months at a lower
rate of pay than she would have received elsewhere. She
believes this delay was also in retaliation for her
complaints of sexual harassment. She was eventually
reassigned to work in Grand Forks, South Dakota, where PTI
continued to retaliate against her by giving her undesirable
work assignments and issuing improper discipline.
no longer works for PTI and now lives in Dupo with her
mother. She has not been able to find other employment since
Standard for Transfer Where Venue is Proper
parties agree that venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. §
1391 in both the Southern District of Illinois and the
District of Montana. Therefore, the decision whether to
transfer this case is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1404,
which applies when venue is proper in the plaintiff's
chosen district. Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612,
634 (1964). Section 1404(a) states, “For the
convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interest of
justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to
any other district or division where it might have been
brought.” The decision to transfer a case is left to
the discretion of the district court. Stewart Org., Inc.
v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988); Van
Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622; Research Automation, Inc. v.
Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 977
(7th Cir. 2010) (citing Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron
Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986)).
deciding a § 1404(a) motion to transfer, the Court
should consider a number of case-specific factors bearing on
the convenience of the potential transferee forum to the
parties and witnesses and the interests of justice in
general. Stewart, 487 U.S. at 29-30; see
Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219 (citing Van Dusen, 376
U.S. at 622); Research Automation, 626 F.3d at
977-78. The movant has the burden of establishing that the
transfer is “clearly more convenient.”
Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219-20. The Court should give
substantial weight in favor of the forum in which the
plaintiff chose to file the complaint and should rarely
transfer a case from the plaintiff's selected forum.
In re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d 662,
663-64 (7th Cir. 2003); Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey
Powder Co., Inc., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989).
the circumstances indicate that a transfer would be clearly
more convenient to the parties and witnesses, a court may
still refuse to transfer the case if it is not in the
interest of justice. Coffey, 796 F.2d at 220;
Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 625. “Factors
traditionally considered in an ‘interest of
justice' analysis relate to the efficient administration
of the court system.” Coffey, 796 F.2d at 221.
One of these factors is where the litigants are more likely
to receive a speedy trial. Id.
PTI's pending motion, it offers a host of reasons to
transfer this case to the District of Montana. The most
cogent are that the alleged harassment and retaliation
occurred in Montana and that key witnesses - like the alleged
harasser, PTI's employees with knowledge about
Ramirez's employment and complaints, and retaliators -
reside in Montana (or at least closer to Montana than to
southern Illinois). It also argues that Ramirez's choice
of forum should hold little sway because southern Illinois
has little to do with the key allegations in the case and a
court here has little interest in adjudicating a case where
the key events did not occur in the district. It notes that
the corporate records are electronic and easily producible in
either district. Finally, it notes that both courts are
equally familiar with the relevant federal employment law,
but that there are fewer pending cases in the District of
Montana than in the Southern District of Illinois and that a
court in Montana has a greater interest in deciding this case
than one in Illinois because no key events occurred in
response, Ramirez argues that Illinois is, indeed, connected
to this case. She was hired to work for PTI in southern
Illinois and worked in southern Illinois for 25% of the time
she was employed by PTI. A major component of the alleged
retaliation was her transfer back to Illinois for an extended
period of lower pay before her reassignment. She also notes
that several of her ...