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Jackson v. Village of University Park

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 1, 2017

MAXINE JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF UNIVERSITY PARK, ILLINOIS, an Illinois Home Rule Municipality, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sidney I. Schenkier Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Maxine Jackson ("Plaintiff or "Ms. Jackson") was the Director of Human Resources for defendant Village of University Park, Illinois ("Defendant" or "Village"). She filed this suit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), alleging discrimination and harassment on the basis of her sex and retaliation (doc. # 1: Complt). The Village has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (doc. # 12: Mot. to Dismiss). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I.

         A motion to dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). A complaint must contain enough information, in the form of "a short and plain statement of the claim, " to show that the pleader is entitled to relief, and must give the defendant "fair notice" of the claim and its basis. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), Bell Ad. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). We accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all possible inferences in the non-moving party's favor. Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 558 U.S. 1148 (2010). That said, in deciding a motion to dismiss, a court must determine whether the complaint includes "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bible v. United Student Aid Funds, Inc., 799 F.3d. 633, 639 (7th Cir. 2015), quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557. This "standard demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rather, "[a] claim has facial plausibility 'when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir.2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         A court may consider documents attached to the complaint without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Bible, 799 F.3d at 640. In this case, Plaintiff attached to her complaint (1) "An Employment Agreement For the Position of Director of Human Resources Between the Village of University Park and Maxine Jackson" ("Employment Agreement") (Complt., Ex. 1), (2) a termination letter dated January 12, 2016 from Johnna L. Townsend, the Acting Village Manager, to Maxine Jackson ("Termination Letter") (Complt., Ex. 2), (3) a charge of discrimination presented to EEOC ("Charge") (Complt., Ex. 3), and (4) a notice of right to sue letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division ("Right to Sue Letter") (Complt., Ex. 4). We therefore may consider these exhibits when deciding the motion to dismiss.

         II.

         For purposes of this motion, we accept as true the following factual allegations in the Complaint. Plaintiff is female (Complt., Ex. 3). Ms. Jackson and the Village entered into a written employment agreement dated May 18, 2015; on that date, she began her employment as the Director of Human Resources for the Village (Id. ¶¶ 2, 9, 11). While Ms. Jackson was employed by the Village, Johnna Townsend ("Ms. Townsend") was the Acting Village Manager and Plaintiffs supervisor, and Joseph E. Roudez, Oscar Brown, Jr., Keith J. Griffin, and Milton C. Payton were trustees of the Village ("Trustees") (Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff performed all of the duties of her position and met the Mayor's and the Village Manager's legitimate expectations as Director of Human Resources for the Village (Id. ¶ 10).

         In June 2015, Plaintiff accepted the resignation of a relative of Trustee Roudez (Complt. ¶ 14). Thereafter, Trustee Roudez stated to Plaintiff that "she should stay in her lane and she was to give his relative his job back immediately if she did not want a claim filed against her with the EEOC and not to rock the boat and she should know her place" (Id. ¶ 14), Plaintiff alleges that Trustee Roudez "continued to harass" her and "came to the Plaintiffs office to intimidate her" (Id. ¶ 14).[1]

         On October 22, 2015, Plaintiff was instructed to move her office to the police station (Complt. ¶ 15).[2] "At said time and place Trustee Griffin stated to the [C]hief of Police who was helping Plaintiff to move 'Fuck that bitch' and while moving her over to the police station Trustee Griffin then stated to the Chief of Police 'find a reason to arrest her ass'" (Id. ¶ 15). In Plaintiffs memorandum opposing the motion to dismiss (doc. # 23, Pl's Mem. at 10), Plaintiff states she was present when Trustee Griffin made the statements to the Chief of Police; however, her Complaint does not contain this allegation.

         In October 2015, the Village was in the process of selling the golf course it owned and operated (Complt. ¶ 16). Prior to the execution of a contract for sale of the golf course, the buyer took possession and control of the golf course (Id. ¶ 16). The Village did not give its existing golf course employees proper notice of termination and human resources protocol was not followed by the Village (Id. ¶ 16). Plaintiff advised the Mayor and Ms. Townsend of the situation, and requested a copy of the contract to ensure that employee matters were addressed (Id. ¶ 16). Plaintiff was concerned that the Village would not be able to meet a monthly financial commitment of $43, 000.00 while carrying a $3, 500, 000.00 deficit (Id. ¶ 16). In response to her request, Plaintiff received a document that was referred to as a contract; however, after review, the Plaintiff informed the Mayor and Ms. Townsend that the document was a rider and did not address the employee issues or concerns (Id. ¶ 16). The Plaintiff then e-mailed her recommendations to the Mayor and Ms. Townsend (Id. ¶ 16).

         After the October 22, 2015 statement by Trustee Griffin, Ms. Jackson e-mailed Ms. Townsend and the Mayor objecting to harassment by Trustee Griffin (Complt. ¶ 20). Nothing was done to alleviate the harassment issues, and when Ms. Jackson later reminded Ms. Townsend of this, Ms. Townsend responded by saying "I was told to terminate you by both Trustee Griffin and Trustee Roudez" (Id. ¶ 20). Ms. Jackson also alleges that in a follow-up meeting after the golf course issue arose, Ms. Townsend informed Plaintiff that she would have to terminate Plaintiffs employment because Trustees Roudez and Griffin "wanted her gone" (Id. ¶ 17). When Plaintiff inquired why, Ms. Townsend claimed Plaintiffs contract was illegal (Id. ¶ 17). The Complaint does not make clear whether the alleged comments by Ms. Townsend about termination occurred during one meeting or in two separate meetings. In November 2015, Ms. Jackson spoke with the Mayor and Trustees Wilson and Brown, all of whom denied knowledge of a decision to terminate Plaintiff and stated they were pleased with her job performance (Id. ¶ 20).

         On January 12, 2016, Plaintiff received a letter from Ms. Townsend terminating her employment (Complt. ¶ 12). The letter stated that the termination was due to the existing financial state of the Village (Id., Ex. 2). However, in the annual Village budget, Plaintiffs position of Director of Human Resources was identified as a priority (Id. ¶ 18). Additionally, Ms. Townsend, with the support of the Trustees, recruited a new Director of Public Works (whose gender is not alleged), a position previously held by a consultant at a lower cost and with no benefits (Id. ¶ 19).

         Plaintiff filed her Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on February 17, 2016 (Complt. ¶ 21 and, Ex. 3), and on January 4, 2017 a right to sue letter was issued by the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (Id., ...


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