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Little v. Illinois Department of Public Health

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

November 30, 2017

CARLA LITTLE, Plaintiff,



         On June 13, 2017, Plaintiff Carla Little (“Little”) brought the present Complaint against Defendant, Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 612 et seq. (“ADEA”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“1981”). Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a), 12(b)(1), and 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's motion.


         Plaintiff, Carla Little, is a 54-year-old African-American female who resides in Lake County, Illinois. (R. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 4, 11.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's employees harassed and retaliated against her on the bases of her race, sex, and age. (Id. ¶ 7.)

         In February 2004, Defendant hired Plaintiff as a Laboratory Research Scientist, and she currently is a Public Service Administrator Option 6F with IDPH. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Plaintiff claims that her job performance meets Defendant's expectations based on evaluations. (Id. ¶ 14.) Starting in January 2015, Plaintiff made several reports “regarding being harassed by her Supervisors and those in superior positions than her.” (Id. ¶ 15.) Specifically, between February 2015 and the present, Plaintiff alleges that she complained internally to Mark Edminston, Win Rawls, Erik Rayman, Allan Abinoja, and other managers and directors at IDPH. (Id. ¶ 37.) Plaintiff also alleges that she complained externally to Governor Rauner. (Id. ¶ 38.) Regardless of these complaints, Defendant failed to take any corrective action. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant increased surveillance on Plaintiff, intentionally withheld necessary information, tools, and documents Plaintiff needed to perform her job effectively, purposely set Plaintiff up to fail, intimidated and abused Plaintiff, and isolated Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that IDPH employees have accused her of running up excessive miles on rental cars and falsifying reimbursement and travel documents. (Id. ¶ 19.) Additionally, Plaintiff complained that Deborah Usherwood intentionally delayed submitting Plaintiff's travel vouchers in June 2015, and Michelle Gentry-Wiseman suggested and approved multiple allegedly unjustified disciplinary actions for Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 20.) Plaintiff also alleges that, as the result of Gentry-Wiseman's orders, Defendant subjected her to an unjustified disciplinary action resulting in a two-day suspension. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22, 27.) Plaintiff claims that Erik Rayman changed her reporting structure so that she reported to Gina Swehla, a Caucasian, instead of her previous African American supervisor. (Id. ¶ 40.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's employees have subjected her to ongoing harassment under the Swehla's supervision. (Id. ¶ 41.) Swehla, for example, gave several of Plaintiff's job duties and assignments to Jennifer Reid and several other inexperienced interns. (Id. ¶ 46.) After Plaintiff expressed concern about the importance of the assignments and the preparedness of the interns, Swehla left the interns in control of the assignments, causing embarrassment to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48.) Further, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant did not equally enforce its policies, terms and conditions, job duties, travel voucher requests, and travel reimbursement policies across employees of all races. (Id. ¶ 57.) Finally, Plaintiff alleges that her age, sex, and race motivated Defendant's actions. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 49, 57.)

         On October 5, 2015, Plaintiff filed a charge against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. ¶ 6.) Before March 8, 2017, Plaintiff signed a voluntary withdrawal request form with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and requested a right to sue letter. (Id. ¶ 8.) On April 17, 2017, Plaintiff received a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. (Id. ¶ 9.)


         I. 12(b)(6) and 8(a)

         “A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the viability of a complaint by arguing that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Camasta v. Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc., 761 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2014). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The short and plain statement under Rule 8(a)(2) must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. Put differently, 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In determining the sufficiency of a complaint under the plausibility standard, courts must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true and draw reasonable inferences in the plaintiffs' favor.” Roberts v. City of Chicago, 817 F.3d 561, 564 (7th Cir. 2016).

         II. 12(b)(1)

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges federal jurisdiction, and the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the elements necessary for jurisdiction, including standing, have been met. Scanlan v. Eisenberg, 669 F.3d 838, 841-42 (7th Cir. 2012). For purposes of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construes all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Id. at 841. In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the Court may look outside of the complaint's allegations and consider the parties' evidence on the issue of jurisdiction. Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 444 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).


         In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant argues that the Court should dismiss (1) Counts I and III due to Plaintiff's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies; (2) Counts I, II, and III for failure to state a claim; and (3) Count IV because the Eleventh Amendment bars claims under §§ 1981 and 1983. The Court addresses each argument in turn.

         I. Exhaustion

         In Counts I and III, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and race in violation of Title VII and age in violation of the ADEA. Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Complaint does not specify when various alleged acts of discrimination occurred, and to the extent those acts occurred after October 5, 2015, when Plaintiff filed her EEOC charge, those acts may not support her claims because a plaintiff cannot bring federal claims that she did not include in her EEOC charge. Because Plaintiff failed to specify whether the acts underlying her claims occurred before or after she filed her EEOC charge, Defendant argues that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's claims for failure to exhaust her administrative remedies.[1]Plaintiff responds that because ...

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