United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia M. Kendall Judge
Jocelyn Gaston (“Gaston”), a 57-year old
African-American female and longtime Chicago Public School
teacher, sued her employer, Defendant Board of Education of
the City of Chicago (“the Board”), for various
types of employment discrimination pursuant to Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act (“ADEA”), including hostile work
environment (Counts I, II), unequal terms and conditions of
employment (Counts III, IV), retaliation (Counts V, VIII, IX,
X, XI, XII), and adverse employment action (Count VI, VII).
Gaston also brought a claim for the intentional infliction of
emotional distress (Count XIII). Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6),
the Board moves to dismiss all of Gaston's claims except
for those alleging unlawful retaliation. For the reasons
stated below, the Board's Motion to Dismiss is granted in
part and denied in part.
Court takes the following allegations as true, as it is
required to do at the motion to dismiss stage. See
Firestone Fin. Corp. v. Meyer, 796 F.3d 822, 826 (7th
Cir. 2015). Gaston, a 57-year-old African American teacher at
Charles H. Wacker Elementary School, has been employed by the
Board since 1986. (Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 4, 5, 8.) The Board
oversees approximately 660 schools, including Wacker
Elementary. (Id. ¶ 5.) Gaston alleges that
between 2014 and 2016, Ekaterini Panagakis
(“Panagakis”), Wacker's principal, harassed
her in a variety of ways due to her age and race. She also
alleges that Panagakis retaliated against her for filing
Gaston alleges that as a result of her age and race,
Panagakis gave Gaston her first poor performance rating in
more than 25 years. (Id. ¶ 10.) Due to the poor
performance review, Gaston was required to participate in a
Professional Development Plan (“PDP”) for one
year and when she needed a performance score of 285 to move
off of the PDP, Panagakis gave Gaston a score of 284.05
points. (Id. ¶¶ 10-13.) Gaston also
alleges that Panagakis purposely heaped excessive amounts of
assignments on her due to her race and age (id.
¶ 11), required that she take lunch at 10:00 am, when no
Caucasian teacher at the school was directed to take lunch
that early (id. at ¶¶ 17-18), and put a
copy of Time Magazine with the headline “Rotten Apples:
It's Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher”
inside Gaston's mailbox, an act that Gaston interpreted
as intimidating and harassing. (Id. ¶¶
12-13.) At a meeting with other school personnel present,
Panagakis told Gaston she “failed” a student and
refused to engage in the Response to Intervention Process for
the student. (Id. ¶ 19.) Panagakis also
allegedly harassed Gaston due to her age and race when she
sent her an email about her jury duty summons, (id.
at ¶ 20), and emailed Gaston requesting a meeting
regarding a verbal confrontation with another employee, and
then provided Gaston with a Pre-Meeting Notice regarding
“VERBAL ABUSE.” (Id. at ¶¶
21-23.) Gaston has also incorporated various IDHR complaints
into her complaint, one of which alleged that Panagakis
directed Gaston to lead literacy classes, for which she was
not qualified. (Dkt. 1-1 at 2.)
on January 26, 2016, one of Gaston's students closed his
finger in a door and had to be taken to the hospital.
(Id. ¶ 37.) The following day, Gaston filed an
incident report per school policy. Three days later,
Panagakis issued Gaston a pre-meeting notice regarding
“failure to file an incident report.”
(Id. ¶ 39.) Upon receiving the notice, Gaston
did not feel well and took a moment to collect herself in the
classroom's closet. (Id. ¶ 40.) Panagakis
followed her into the closet and demanded the pre-meeting
notice back. (Id. ¶ 41.) After the incident,
Gaston went to the doctor and was told that she might have
had a small stroke, which resulted in constant ringing in her
ear. (Id. ¶ 43.)
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court accepts as true all facts alleged in the complaint and
construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. Firestone Fin. Corp., 796 F.3d at 826. To
properly state a valid claim, the complaint 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). A plaintiff need not allege all facts involved in
the claim and certainly does not need to include evidence.
Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir.
2008). However, in order to survive a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, the claim must be supported by
facts that, if taken as true, at least plausibly suggest that
the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974
(2007). To determine whether a complaint meets this standard,
the “reviewing court must draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009).
Conclusory statements and abstract recitations of the
elements of a cause of action, however, will not help a
complaint survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Swanson v.
Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 405 (7th Cir. 2010).
Title VII and ADEA Claims
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful to
discriminate against an employee based on race, color,
religion, sex or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2.
Similarly, the ADEA generally protects workers over the age
of forty from age-based discrimination. 29 U.S.C. § 623.
their substantive similarities, when examining ADEA claims
for discrimination and hostile work environment, courts
frequently look to the law interpreting similar claims under
Title VII. See Levin v. Madigan, 692 F.3d 607, 620
n.5 (7th Cir. 2012) (“Title VII is certainly useful in
interpreting substantive provisions of the ADEA”);
see, e.g., Bader v. Air Line Pilots
Ass'n, 113 F.Supp.3d 990, 994 (N.D. Ill. 2015).
Board argues that Gaston's hostile work environment and
discrimination claim related to being forced to eat lunch at
10 a.m. should be dismissed because they are conclusory and
deficient, primarily because Plaintiff engaged in
“shotgun pleading” by asserting forty factual
allegations and then incorporating those facts into her
various counts, without specifically identifying which facts
relate to each count. (Dkt. 19 at 3.) The Board also argues
that Gaston has failed to allege any adverse actions in
relation to all of her non-retaliation discrimination claims.
courts discourage shotgun pleading, if “there is
“enough clarity to determine what Plaintiffs seek to
hold, ” the court may decide the motion to dismiss on
the basis of whether Plaintiffs have adequately stated a
valid claim, rather than requiring them to re-plead their
claims again. See, e.g., Chriswell v. Vill of Oak
Lawn, No. 11 C 00547, 2013 WL 5903417, at ...