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Taylor v. PSC Professional Security Consultants

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

October 20, 2017



          John Robert Blakey, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Richard Taylor filed this complaint against Professional Security Consultants (“PSC”) and Hawthorn Mall (“Hawthorn”) alleging race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42 U.S.C § 1981. The case is before the Court on Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint [40], [42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42]. For the reasons explained below, the motions are denied.

         I. Background & Procedural History

         PSC contracts with Hawthorn to provide security services to Hawthorn's locations. Amended Complaint [38], ¶ 8. Plaintiff is employed by PSC as a security guard, and worked at Hawthorn Mall from May 2015 to December 2015. Id., ¶ 21. He was the only black security guard employed by PSC and working at Hawthorne Mall during this time. Id. As a security guard, Plaintiff “ensured the safety and well-being of patrons and tenants of Hawthorn Mall.” Id. at ¶ 22.

         During the month of December 2015, Hawthorn Mall's fire alarm system was malfunctioning, though Plaintiff was not advised of this fact. Id. at ¶ 26; Hawthorn's Memorandum in Support [41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], p. 2');">p. 2. On December 13, 2015, the fire alarm activated, repeating the phrase “Fire! Please exit the mall.” Unsure of whether to instruct the tenants and patrons to exit Hawthorn Mall, Plaintiff attempted to contact Vionnia (last name unknown), a dispatch operator at PSC. [38], at ¶¶ 28-9. As a dispatch operator, Vionnia would have known whether the Hawthorn Mall alarm was false; however, Vionnia did not respond to Plaintiff's call. Id. at ¶¶ 30, 34; [41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], p. 2');">p. 2. Plaintiff then contacted Brian (last name unknown), a PSC supervisor, and asked how to properly respond to the fire alarm. [38], ¶ 30; [41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], p. 2');">p. 2. Brian directed Plaintiff to have the tenants and patrons exit the mall, and Plaintiff followed this direction. [38] ¶¶ 30-31; [41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], p. 2');">p. 2. This incident occurred during Hawthorn Mall's prime Christmas business hours. [38], ¶ 40; [41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], p. 3. The fire alarm turned out to be false. [41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], p. 2');">p. 2.

         The next day, December 14, 2015, Plaintiff was interrogated by Lucy Garcia, PSC's Assistant Director of Security, and Nick (last name unknown), also with PSC. [38], ¶ 32; [41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], p. 2');">p. 2-3. Plaintiff asserts that during this interrogation process, he was asked “impeding, intruding, dehumanizing, insulting questions” and informed that he should not have told the tenants and patrons to leave the mall's premises, despite the alarm's warnings. [38], ¶ 33. Despite the interrogation, Plaintiff was not provided with any written or verbal disciplinary actions, either when questioned or afterward. Id.

         On December 18, 2015, Plaintiff was interrogated a second time. Lucy Garcia and Nick asked Plaintiff the same kinds of questions they had asked during the first interrogation, and, once again, Plaintiff received no formal written or verbal disciplinary action. Id. at ¶ 35.

         On December 23, 2015, Lucy Garcia informed Plaintiff that tenants of the mall had complained about him to Hawthorn's Property Manager, Jeff Rutzen, for forcing the evacuation of the mall on a false alarm. Id. at ¶ 40. Rutzen advised that because of these complaints, he was “displeased with [Plaintiff] and did not want him to work with the general public.” Id. at ¶ 36. Plaintiff was told that Rutzen now wanted him “to work in isolation with minimum contact with the public and Hawthorn's tenants.” Id. Plaintiff was then informed that he was being given an ultimatum: he could either resign, or he could relocate to another mall. [38], ¶ 37. He opted to relocate. Plaintiff was never provided with documentation of either the disciplinary proceedings or the complaints against him by Hawthorn's tenants or personnel. [38], ¶ 39.

         During this time, Plaintiff also noticed that a new African-American male security guard was being trained at the Hawthorn Mall. Id. at ¶ 36.

         Plaintiff accepted “PSC's offer to relocate to another mall in Skokie, Illinois, but viewed this as punishment.” Id. at ¶ 41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41. Plaintiff represents that as a result of the transfer, his work commute is now 40-miles longer, and he is now required to work outdoors in the summer with continuous walking; he now has additional commuting expenses and at the same time, he has decreased work hours. Id. at ¶ 44. By accepting the transfer, Plaintiff asserts that he has given up “the opportunity to earn regular income, ” though he does not explain exactly what he means by this allegation. Id. at ¶ 43.

         Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants treated him differently from other similarly situated individuals. Plaintiff points to PSC's decision to interrogate him twice, which he claims deviates from PSC's standard practice of investigating employees only once after incidents. Id. at ¶ 56. Additionally, Plaintiff argues that PSC's failure to provide him with any formal written or verbal disciplinary actions deviates from the Discipline and Termination policies outlined in PSC's employee handbook. Id. at ¶¶ 58-9. Further, Plaintiff alleges that “[o]ther similarly situated individuals were given directions on how to respond to the fire alarm and not provided with an ultimatum to relocate or to resign, ” and that he, “the only African-American security guard, working at Hawthorn[, ] was the only guard not provided instructions on how to handle the alarm.” Id. at ¶ 67(d). Ultimately, Plaintiff believes he was treated differently from other similarly situated individuals because of his race and not his job performance. Id. at ¶ 42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42; [41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41], p. 3.

         On January 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed an EEOC Charge of Discrimination against PSC. Motion to Dismiss [42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42], p. 1. On February 17, 2016, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue letter. Id. Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on May 13, 2016, by submitting a complaint and an application seeking leave to proceed with the case in forma pauperis. See [1], [3]. On May 16, 2016, the Court denied Plaintiff's IFP application and gave Plaintiff until May 31, 2016 to pay the required filing fee. See [5]. On May 26, 2016, Plaintiff paid the filing fee, and the complaint was accepted by the Court. See [7], [8], [9]. Both Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss the complaint. See [15], [22]. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint [38], and Defendants renewed their motions to dismiss [40], [42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42');">42]. These latter motions are presently before the Court.

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) “challenges the sufficiency of the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997). A complaint must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must provide the defendant with “fair notice” of what the claim is “and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41');">41') ...

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