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Trujillo v. Rockledge Furniture LLC

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

January 22, 2018

HUMBERTO TRUJILLO, KATARZYNA NOGA, MARY BOYLE, AND ARTHUR BALDUCCI, Plaintiffs,
v.
ROCKLEDGE FURNITURE LLC d/b/a ASHLEY FURNITURE HOMESTORE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Hon. Virginia M. Kendall United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Humberto Trujillo (“Trujillo”), Katarzyna Noga, Mary Boyle and Arthur Balducci filed a two-count complaint against Defendant Rockledge Furniture LLC d/b/a Ashley Furniture Homestore (“Rockledge”), alleging they were discriminated due to their age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 to 624 (Count I) and the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), 775 ILCS 5/2-102 (Count II). (Dkt. No. 24.) Pursuant to the Court's participation in the Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot Project, Rockledge answered and also filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim against Trujillo pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 26.) The motion to dismiss is granted and Plaintiff is given leave to file an amended complaint if possible. [26.]

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts derive from the complaint and are accepted as true for the purposes of this motion. See Olson v. Champaign County, Ill., 784 F.3d 1093, 1095 (7th Cir. 2015). Also accepted are facts and documents provided in the opposition to the motion to dismiss that are consistent with the pleadings. See Geinosky v. City of Chicago, 675 F.3d 743, 745 n.1 (7th Cir. 2012).

         I. Trujillo's Employment History with Rockledge

         Trujillo worked for Rockledge in some form of management between 2007 and 2016.[1](Dkt. No. 24, ¶¶ 13, 14.) The Defendant is registered with the Illinois Secretary of State as “Rockledge Furniture LLC, ” and is a subsidiary of Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., both of which are located in Wisconsin. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) Rockledge is also registered in Illinois under the following assumed names: “Ashley Furniture Outlet, ” “Ashley Sleep, ” and “Ashley Furniture HomeStore - Rockledge.” (Id. ¶ 5.) In 2015, Rockledge underwent a corporate reorganization that involved the hiring of new employees and reassigning or removing some of its existing employees at the management level. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11.)

         As a part of this reorganization, Trujillo alleges that Rockledge wanted to hire millennials and younger individuals for management-level positions “at the expense of older managers - regardless of how successful the older managers had been during their tenure at Ashley.” (Id. ¶ 10.) Trujillo also alleges that he was improperly turned down for a promotion to Regional Manager within Rockledge as ineligible despite meeting the prerequisites listed in the job-posting and that Rockledge later removed the job description from its computer system. (Id. ¶ 33.) Trujillo learned of Rockledge's desire to hire younger managers at a December 2015 corporate meeting. (Id. ¶ 16.) The meeting included presentations by the President in charge of the Midwest market, the Executive Vice President of Retail Operations for the entire U.S. market, a hiring recruiter - with every one of their presentations emphasizing the need to hire younger people, (Id. ¶¶ 17, 18, 19.)

         Around the same time, Rockledge transferred a young sales manager (“Sales Manager”) to the same store where Trujillo served as the Store Manager. (Id. ¶ 23.) Trujillo alleges that from the onset of his supervision over the Sales Manager she routinely failed to perform her job responsibilities and failed to show up for work shifts. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 25, 28.) He also alleges that the Sales Manager communicated that “she didn't care if she lost her job, ” and that on at least one occasion she did not report to a meeting because she was drinking the night before. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 26.) Trujillo raised these issues with Rockledge's corporate management both verbally and in writing on more than one occasion. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 29.) Instead of a reprimand, the Sales Manager received a promotion from Rockledge and then resigned a few days later. (Id. ¶¶ 27, 28.) Then, in March 2016, Rockledge's Human Resources office conducted a store audit of Trujillo's location resulting in his termination by Rockledge. (Id. ¶ 30.)

         II. Trujillo's Employment Discrimination Charge with EEOC

         On March 16, 2016, Trujillo filed a charged of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), which his counsel filed jointly with the Illinois Human Rights Commission (“IHRC”), and he received a Notice of a Right to Sue. (Id. ¶ 34.) The EEOC charge identified Trujillo's employer as “Ashley Furniture HomeStore, ” and listed the store address and phone number where Trujillo worked. (Id., ¶ 34; Dkt. No. 30, at 2.) Instead of investigating the address or the number listed on the form provided by Trujillo, the EEOC forwarded the charge to a Texas-based company that is also a licensed franchisee of the Ashley Furniture HomeStore brand and, in June 2016, the Texas company responded saying that Trujillo was never an employee. (Dkt. No. 30, at 3.) Then, in April 2017, the EEOC contacted Trujillo's attorney and asked for more information about his employer, which resulted in the attorney sending in a copy of Trujillo's paystub and his mentioning to the EEOC that the employer was actually Rockledge. (Id.) In the interim, the other three Plaintiffs in this case properly filed employment discrimination charges with the EEOC and the IHRC against Rockledge. (Id.) Regardless of the new information, the EEOC dismissed Trujillo's charge on April 21, 2017; indicating that the reason for doing so was that he was never an employee of the Texas-based Ashley Furniture HomeStore. (Id. at 3-4.)

         Trujillo filed this suit asserting claims of employment discrimination and retaliation based on his age in violation of federal and state law. (Dkt. No. 24, ¶¶ 74, 85-86.) He seeks declaratory relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at 16.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 12 (b)(6) requires dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court must accept as true all of the well-pled allegations in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank, 507 F.3d 614, 619 (7th Cir. 2007). To state a claim upon which relief may be granted, 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). “Detailed factual allegations” are not required, but the plaintiff must allege facts that, when “accepted as true … state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) (internal quotations omitted). In analyzing whether a complaint meets this standard, the “reviewing court [must] draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 678. When the factual allegations are well pled, the Court assumes their veracity and then determines if they plausibly ...


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