United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. YANDLE United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 11). Plaintiff filed a
response (Doc. 12). For the following reasons, the motion is
Complaint sets forth the following allegations: Plaintiff
Jaimie Hileman worked for Defendant Internet Wines &
Spirits Co. (“IWS”) from October 2011 to March
2015. In April 2013, Hileman told Defendant George Randall
that she was transgender and planned to transition to female.
Afterwards, IWS subjected Hileman to discrimination and
retaliation. Hileman filed a Charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in August 2013.
In November 2013, Randall threatened Hileman, yelling that
she “picked the wrong guy to fight” and that he
would never stop and he never loses. Hileman filed another
Charge in December 2013 naming IWS as a Respondent and
describing Randall's conduct. In December 2014, Hileman
filed suit against IWS and Randall in federal court (see
Hileman v. Internet Wine & Spirits Co., et al, Case
No. 14-cv-1400-JPG-DGW). Hileman settled her federal suit
against Defendants in March 2015. As a part of the
settlement, Hileman resigned from her position with IWS.
November 2015, Fox2 News aired a report about the local
transgender community. Hileman was interviewed for the story
and discussed some of the events leading to her termination
and subsequent lawsuit. During the report, neither Hileman
nor the reporter ever mentioned IWS by name. Following the
news report, IWS demanded that Hileman request its removal
from Fox2's website.
subsequently filed suit against Hileman in state court,
alleging breach of the settlement agreement, defamation per
se and defamation per quod. Specifically, IWS alleged that
Hileman had breached the Non-Disparagement Clause of the
settlement agreement during the news report by stating that
IWS had fired Hileman as a result of transgender
discrimination. The state court dismissed the defamation per
se and defamation per quod claims, partially dismissed the
breach of contract claim, and sanctioned IWS for its failure
to respond to discovery requests. Hileman alleges that IWS
filed the state court action knowing that the claims were
meritless. The state court action is still pending.
filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC and Missouri
Commission on Human Rights (“MCHR”), alleging
that Defendants retaliated against her for opposing
discrimination and filing her previous federal lawsuit. On
January 11, 2017, and January 20, 2017, the EEOC and MCHR,
respectively, issued notices of right to sue. On February 16,
2017, Hileman filed the instant action, asserting that
Defendants retaliated against her by filing the state court
move to dismiss Hileman's Complaint, contending that she
did not sufficiently plead a prima facie cases for
retaliation under Title VII or the Missouri Human Rights Act.
federal pleading standards, 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 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
“Specific facts are unnecessary, but the complaint must
give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Huri v. Office of the
Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook Cty., 804 F.3d
826, 832 (7th Cir. 2015). In reviewing a complaint, the Court
must accept all factual allegations as true, and must draw
all reasonable inferences in Hileman's favor. Virnich
v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011).
VII's anti-retaliation provision forbids an employer from
discriminating against an employee because the employee
opposed any practice made unlawful by Title VII or made a
charge, testified, assisted, or participated in a Title VII
proceeding or investigation. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). The
scope of the anti-retaliation provision extends beyond
workplace-related or employment-related retaliatory acts and
harm. Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. v.
White, 548 U.S. 53, 57, (2006). Former employees are
protected under the anti-retaliation provision. Robinson
v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337 (1997).
pleading standard for Title VII cases differs from the
evidentiary burden a plaintiff must subsequently meet at the
summary judgment stage - it is “undemanding”.
Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014,
1028 (7th Cir. 2013), Tate v. SCR Med. Transp., 809
F.3d 343, 346 (7th Cir. 2015). To state a claim for Title VII
retaliation, a plaintiff need only plead that she engaged in
a statutorily protected activity and was subjected to
materially adverse actions as a result of that activity.
Burlington Northern, 548 U.S. at 57.
MHRA is even broader than Title VII. It makes it unlawful to
retaliate or discriminate in any manner against any other
person because such person has opposed any practice
prohibited by the MHRA. § 213.070, RSMo. The Act's
reach is not limited to the employer-employee relationship.
Keeney v. Hereford Concrete Prod., Inc., 911 S.W.2d
622, 625 (Mo. 1995).
Hileman's retaliation claims as pled meet the low
threshold to survive a motion to dismiss. She alleges that
Randall told her she “picked the wrong guy to
fight” and that he would never stop and he never loses.
Hileman further alleges that after she filed Charges of
Discrimination and her previous federal lawsuit, Defendants
discriminated against her by knowingly initiating a meritless
state court action. Hileman's Complaint sets forth
specific allegations and facts as to how the state court
action is meritless and why Hileman believes the sole purpose
of that lawsuit was to retaliate against her for engaging in
statutorily protected activity - the filing of the initial
Charges and the federal lawsuit. The Complaint also asserts
that Defendants subjected Hileman to a materially adverse
action - the state court action. At the pleading stage,
nothing more ...