United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge.
Andres Garza sued Defendant Illinois Institute of Technology
(“IIT”)-his former employer-alleging that IIT
discriminated against him due to his age and national origin
and that IIT retaliated against him when he discussed
discrimination in the workplace in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq.; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
(“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.;
and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. IIT moved to dismiss for failure
to state a claim. (Dkt. 10). For the reasons set forth below,
IIT's motion (Dkt. 10) is granted in part and denied in
part. Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint consistent
with this opinion to the extent he can do so on or before
January 18, 2018.
Andres Garza is a 63-year-old Latino man. Defendant Illinois
Institute of Technology hired Garza as an Executive Director
in its Career Management Center on February 25, 2013. (Dkt. 1
at ¶¶ 3, 10). During the time he worked at IIT,
Garza received a rating of “exceeds expectations”
on the only performance review he received from IIT and he
was awarded the highest possible salary for his position.
Id. at ¶ 12.
2015, Garza began to schedule monthly lunch meetings of
IIT's Latino faculty and staff in order to discuss
Latino-specific issues, including the lack of advancement
opportunities and unfair treatment at IIT. Id. at
¶ 13. In April 2016, IIT laid off 24 employees,
including Garza, in a reduction in force. IIT informed Garza
his position had been eliminated. Garza claims, however, that
he was terminated because he is Latino and over 40 years of
age. Id. at ¶¶ 14-16. Garza filed a charge
of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission on November 7, 2016. After receiving notice of his
Right to Sue on June 8, 2017, he filed this five-count
Complaint alleging: national-origin discrimination in
violation of Title VII (Count I); age discrimination in
violation of the ADEA (Count II); race discrimination in
violation of § 1981 (Count III); and retaliation in
violation of Title VII and § 1981 (Counts IV and V).
seeks dismissal of Garza's complaint under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). A complaint must contain factual
matter sufficient to state a claim that is plausible on its
face. Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To determine whether a complaint
meets this standard, the “reviewing court must draw on
its judicial experience and common sense.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When considering a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all
facts alleged in the complaint and construes all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Killingsworth v.
HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir.
2007). Conclusory statements and abstract recitations of the
elements of a cause of action, however, will not help a
complaint survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Swanson v.
Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 405 (7th Cir. 2010).
Title VII Discrimination (Count I)
VII makes it unlawful for an employer to “to fail or
refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise
to discriminate against any individual with respect to his
compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,
because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex,
or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).
IIT argues that Garza has failed to set forth a prima facie
case allege of national-origin discrimination under the
McDonell Douglas burden-shifting method and also that he
has failed to allege sufficient facts to support such a
claim. See (Dkt. 11 at 3-4). As an initial matter,
the McDonell Douglas burden-shifting method is
applied at the summary judgment stage, not at the pleading
stage. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506,
510-11 (2002); see also Williams v. Cty. of Cook,
969 F.Supp.2d 1068, 1079 (N.D. Ill. 2013). The Supreme Court
has explained that “[t]he prima facie case under
McDonnell Douglas . . . is an evidentiary standard,
not a pleading requirement, ” and that the “Court
has never indicated that the requirements for establishing a
prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas also apply
to the pleading standard that plaintiffs must satisfy in
order to survive a motion to dismiss.”
Swierkiewicz, 534 U.S. at 510; see also Simpson
v. Nickel, 450 F.3d 303, 305 (7th Cir. 2006).
Accordingly, IIT's first argument fails.
Garza's “complaint must contain something more than
a general recitation of the elements of the claim.”
Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1084 (7th Cir.
2008). For simple claims of race or sex discrimination,
however, this is a “minimal pleading standard.”
Id. (citing Concentra Health Servs., Inc.,
496 F.3d at 781-82)); see also id. (even after the
heightened pleading standard set forth in Twombly, a
complaint alleging employment discrimination “need only
aver that the employer instituted a (specified) adverse
employment action against the plaintiff on the basis of [his
national origin]”). Put differently, “[a]
plaintiff need only identify the type of discrimination, when
it occurred, and by whom.” Clark v. Law Office of
Terrence Kennedy, Jr., ___ Fed.Appx. ___, 2017 WL
4176285, at *2 (7th Cir. Sept. 21, 2017). Under this
standard, Garza has alleged enough in support of his Title
VII clam to give him the opportunity to see if he can find
the evidence that he will need to prove his claim of
national-origin discrimination. He asserts that he (1) is
Latino, (2) was employed by IIT and (3) was terminated in
April 2016 on account of his national origin. (Dkt. 1 at
¶¶ 6, 10, 14, 18, 20). The court's task on a
motion to dismiss is not to gauge the ultimate strength of
Garza's case; but rather, to determine whether the
complaint contains “enough fact to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” to
support liability for the wrongdoing alleged. Adams v.
City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 729 (7th Cir. 2014)
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Therefore,
IIT's motion to dismiss Count I is denied.
Age Discrimination (Count II)
same analysis applies to Garza's age-discrimination claim
under the ADEA. Again, IIT argues that Garza must plead a
prima facie case of age discrimination to state a claim,
that: (1) Garza was in the protected age group of 40 years or
older, (2) he was performing his job satisfactorily, (3) he
was discharged, and (4) a substantially younger employee
replaced him. See (Dkt. 11 at 4-5). And again, IIT
cites to the standard of proof on summary judgment, not at
the motion to dismiss stage. See id. (citing
Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 746 (7th
Cir. 1999) (summary judgment)). Seeing that Garza alleges
that he (1) is currently 63 years old, (2) was employed by
IIT, and (3) was terminated in April 2016 (when he presumably
was somewhere between 61-62 years old) “because of
[his] age” (Dkt. 1 at ¶¶ 6, 10, 14, 25, 27),
he has sufficiently pled his age-discrimination claim under
the minimal pleading standards applied here. See
Clark, ___ Fed.Appx. ___, 2017 WL 4176285, at *1-*2
(rejecting argument that plaintiff was required to plead that
the defendant replaced her with a younger person following
termination). IIT's motion to dismiss Count II is denied.
Notwithstanding this result, the Court reminds Garza that
ADEA a plaintiff ultimately must “prove by a
preponderance of the evidence (which may be direct or
circumstantial), that age was the ‘but-for' cause
of the challenged employer decision, ” not simply
“one motivating factor” in that action. Gross
v. FBI Fin. Servs., Inc., 557 U.S. 167, 177-78 (2009).
§ 1981 ...