United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CYNTHIA M. PRICE, Plaintiff,
NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, GINA KENYON, in her official and individual capacity, and BARBARA WILLERT, in her official and individual capacity, Defendants.
H. LEFKOW, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
reasons stated below, defendants' motion to dismiss is
granted as to all claims for damages and back pay against
NIU. All official capacity claims against Kenyon and Willert
are dismissed. Price may proceed against NIU on her claim for
reinstatement and against Kenyon and Willert on her claims
for compensatory damages. The case will be called for status
hearing on January 16, 2018. The parties shall discuss in
advance of that hearing the potential for early resolution,
the scope of needed discovery, and a date for Rule 26(a)
disclosures. See Statement.
October 17, 2016, Cynthia M. Price filed this civil rights
suit for damages and injunctive relief against Northern
Illinois University (NIU) and two of its employees, Gina
Kenyon and Barbara Willert in their individual and official
capacities, alleging race discrimination which resulted in
her constructive termination from her employment at NIU. In
her amended complaint, Price labels her claims as § 1983
claims, although she appears to rely on substantive rights
granted by 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Dkt. 22.) Defendants have
moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction based on sovereign
immunity and for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted. (Dkt. 34.)
is an African-American woman who was employed by NIU from
March 2004 to May 29, 2014, first as a Building Service
Worker and later as a Food Service Supervisor. In March 2014,
Price reported an incident of hostile work environment
regarding a non-African-American employee. (Id.
¶ 11.) Kenyon and Willert subsequently reprimanded,
suspended, and demoted Price, made false allegations of
stealing, and required her to report when she was going on
breaks when no one else was required to do so, all with
intent to retaliate against her for making the hostile work
environment report and to harass her because of her race.
Price, despite performing satisfactorily, could not continue
working in that environment and was constructively terminated
on May 24, 2014. She also alleges a pattern and practice by
NIU of discrimination against African-Americans.
12(b)(1) provides that a case will be dismissed if the court
lacks the authority to hear and decide the dispute.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). If subject matter jurisdiction is not
evident from the face of the complaint, the court analyzes
the motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) as any other motion
to dismiss by assuming the allegations of the complaint are
true. United Phosphorous, Ltd. v. Angus Chem.
Co., 322 F.3d 942, 946 (7th Cir. 2003) (en banc),
overruled on other grounds by Minn-Chem, Inc. v. Agrium
Inc., 683 F.3d 845 (7th Cir. 2012).
12(b)(6) motion challenges a complaint for failure to state a
claim on which relief may be granted. To survive a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must provide the defendant
with fair notice of a claim's basis and must also
establish that the requested relief is plausible on its face.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
929 (2007) (holding that a plaintiff's obligation to
provide the “grounds” of her “entitle[ment]
to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions,
and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do; also, factual allegations must be enough
to raise a right of relief above the speculative level, on
the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are
Jurisdiction - Eleventh Amendment
the Eleventh Amendment, states, state agencies, and state
officials generally “may claim immunity from suit in
federal court.” Kroll v. Bd. of Tr. of the Univ. of
Ill., 934 F.2d 904, 907 (7th Cir. 1991). The Seventh
Circuit has previously determined that NIU is an arm of the
State of Illinois and consequently receives the protection of
the Eleventh Amendment. Osteen v. Henley, 13 F.3d
221, 223-24 (7th Cir. 1993); see also Winters v. Iowa
State Univ., No. 91-2717, 1992 WL 101625, at *2 (7th
Cir. May 13, 1992) (holding that Eleventh Amendment immunity
extends to state universities for claims under § 1981).
Therefore, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
the claims for damages brought against NIU as well as against
Kenyon and Willert in their official capacities.
does seek injunctive relief, however, in the form of
reinstatement. Claims for injunctive relief are not barred by
the Amendment. Osteen, 13 F.3d at 223, citing
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 n.18, 205
S.Ct. 3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985). Any such claim, however,
could only be asserted against NIU because Willert and Kenyon
could not provide this relief outside their official
capacities. See Woulfe v. Cty. of Cook Dept. of Adult
Probation, No. 95 C 7435, 1997 WL 136265, *4 (N.D. Ill.
March 20, 1997), citing Lenea v. Lane, 882 F.2d
1171, 1178 (7th Cir. 1989) (also holding award of back pay
from the state is barred by Eleventh Amendment).
such, all claims against NIU for back pay and damages must be
dismissed with prejudice. All official capacity claims
against Kenyon and Willert must be dismissed with prejudice.
NIU is subject to Price's claim for reinstatement. Kenyon
and Willert are ...