Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Henderson v. Parks Aviation Holdings, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 7, 2017

EVELYN K. HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PARKS AVIATION HOLDINGS LLC d/b/a Ideal Aviation, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of defendant Parks Aviation Holdings LLC d/b/a Ideal Aviation (“Ideal”) to dismiss this case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and for judgment on the pleading pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) (Doc. 10). Plaintiff Evelyn K. Henderson has responded to the motion (Doc. 15), and Ideal has replied to that response (Doc. 16).

         In this case, Henderson alleges that she was an employee of Ideal and that Ideal terminated her because of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq. She alleges she was given notice on February 24, 2015, that she would be terminated and would be replaced by a computer that would be operated by a much younger employee. She was terminated on March 6, 2015. She filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on August 31, 2015. After receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, she filed this lawsuit alleging one cause of action under the ADEA (Count I) and one under the IHRA (Count II).

         I. Number of Employees

          Ideal asks the Court to dismiss both counts under Rule 12(b)(6) because Henderson has not alleged that Ideal has enough employees to subject it to either statute - 20 for the ADEA and 15 for the IHRA. Henderson asserts that the statement in her EEOC charge that Ideal employed “15-100” employees is sufficient.[1]

         When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all allegations in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, a 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). This requirement is satisfied if the complaint (1) describes the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests and (2) plausibly suggests that the plaintiff has a right to relief above a speculative level. Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 556). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         In Bell Atlantic, the Supreme Court rejected the more expansive interpretation of Rule 8(a)(2) that “a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief, ” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 561-63; Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 777. Now “it is not enough for a complaint to avoid foreclosing possible bases for relief; it must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief . . . by providing allegations that ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 777 (quoting Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555).

         Nevertheless, Bell Atlantic did not do away with the liberal federal notice pleading standard. Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007). A complaint still need not contain detailed factual allegations, Bell Atl., 550 U.S. at 555, and it remains true that “[a]ny district judge (for that matter, any defendant) tempted to write ‘this complaint is deficient because it does not contain . . .' should stop and think: What rule of law requires a complaint to contain that allegation?” Doe v. Smith, 429 F.3d 706, 708 (7th Cir. 2005) (emphasis in original).

         It remains remarkably easy to plead an employment discrimination cause of action even after Bell Atlantic. To plead a simple discrimination claim, a plaintiff need only allege the specific adverse employment action and that it was on the basis of an impermissible factor. See Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1082-84 (7th Cir. 2008); Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 782; see also Clark v. Law Office of Terrence Kennedy, Jr., No. 16-4277, 2017 WL 4176285, at *2 (7th Cir. Sept. 21, 2017) (“The pleading requirement for employment-discrimination claims is minimal. A plaintiff need only identify the type of discrimination, when it occurred, and by whom.”). “[T]here is no further information that is both easy to provide and of clear critical importance to the claim.” Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 782. Thus, it remains true that “in order to prevent dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint alleging sex discrimination need only aver that the employer instituted a (specified) adverse employment action against the plaintiff on the basis of her sex.” Tamayo, 526 F.3d at 1084 (citing Concentra, 496 F.3d at 781-82). This principle is true for age discrimination pleading as well.

         Henderson has adequately pled her claims. It is true that the ADEA applies only to employers with at least 20 employees, 29 U.S.C. § 630(b), and that the IHRA applies only to employers with at least 15 employees, 775 ILCS 5/2-101(B)(1)(a). It is also true that Henderson did not allege in her pleading any facts showing Ideal qualifies as an employer covered by the ADEA or the IHRA. However, under liberal federal notice pleading rules, she need not make any such allegations. The threshold issue of whether the defendant qualifies as an employer for the purposes of the ADEA and the IHRA is a non-jurisdictional defense to liability. See Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 504 (2006). Thus, as long as Henderson's complaint identifies “the type of discrimination, when it occurred, and by whom, ” Clark, 2017 WL 4176285, at *2, she has adequately pled her causes of action regardless of whether a “tiny employer” defense may exist. Henderson has pled the essentials, so the Court cannot dismiss her claims on the basis of inadequate pleading. That being said, if Ideal did not, in fact, employ a sufficient number of individuals to subject it to the ADEA and the IHRA at the time of Henderson's termination, the Court encourages it to file a motion for summary judgment on the issue as soon as possible.

         II. Timeliness of Charge

          Ideal also asks the Court for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) on Henderson's IHRA claim because Henderson failed to file a timely charge of discrimination. She filed her charge 188 days after she received notice of her termination on February 24, 2015. Henderson argues she had 300 days to file a charge or, in the alternative, that her charge was timely because she filed less than 180 days after her March 6, 2015, termination.

         As a preliminary matter, Rule 12(c) is not the appropriate vehicle for Ideal's request. By its very terms, Rule 12(c) provides motions may be filed “[a]fter the pleadings are closed, ” that is, after an answer to the complaint is filed (if there are not counterclaim, cross-claims, etc.), see Fed. R. Civ. P. 7(a), but Ideal has not yet filed an answer in this case. Under Rule 12(c), the Court considers the complaint, answer and any written instruments attached to those pleadings, accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draws all inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp, 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007); Forseth v. Village of Sussex, 199 F.3d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 2000). However, where there is no answer, the Court only has the complaint to consider, the motion is really just a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss based on the sufficiency of the complaint, and the Court will consider it as such. See 5C Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1367 (3d ed.) (“The mere fact that [Rule 12(b)(6)] procedural defects are raised in the guise of a Rule 12(c) motion should not affect the manner by which the court determines what essentially are Rule 12(b) matters.”). Ideal's failure to identify the proper subsection of Rule 12 is not fatal to its motion because the standards applied are essentially the same, Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)), so its arguments remain appropriate.

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion is proper even where the defendant relies on a defense in its motion, for under Rule 12(b)(6) the defendant is entitled to dismissal if the plaintiff pleads facts establishing that the defendant is entitled to prevail on that defense. Bennett v. Schmidt, 153 F.3d 516, 519 (7th Cir. 1998); Soo Line R.R. Co. v. St. Louis S.W. Ry. Co., 125 F.3d 481, 483 (7th Cir. 1997); see Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 588 (7th Cir. 2009) (dismissal appropriate ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.