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Moore v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

February 23, 2018

KEIRAND R. MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JONATHAN E. HAWLEY U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Now before the Court are the Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Moore's So-Called “EEOC Violation” & State Law Wrongful Termination Claims (Doc. 65) and its Motion for Summary Judgment on Moore's Breach of Contract Claim (Doc 67). The Motions are fully briefed and for the reasons set forth below, the Defendant's Motions are GRANTED.[1]

         On February 3, 2015, Plaintiff Keirand R. Moore (Moore) filed his Complaint (Doc. 1) against Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm) raising various potential claims as identified by the Court in its previous orders. See, e.g., 2/2/2016 Order (Doc. 27); 5/22/2017 Order (Doc. 57). The general thrust of his Complaint was that he was discriminated against because he is black and he was subjected to retaliation for complaining about racism within the company. The Court previously identified as potential claims, among others, an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) violation, wrongful termination, and a violation of State Farm's internal policies. State Farm moves for judgment on the pleadings as to the claims of an EEOC violation and wrongful termination. State Farm moves for summary judgment as to Moore's state law breach of contract claim based upon a violation of State Farm's internal policies. The Court will address each Motion in turn.

         I

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment after the parties have filed the complaint and answer. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) (“After the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial - a party may move for judgment on the pleadings); N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of South Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998). Rule 12(c) motions are reviewed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014). Thus, the question is whether the complaint states a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 728. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief about the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In other words, “[T]he plaintiff must allege ‘more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.'” McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 694 F.3d 873, 885 (7th Cir. 2012), quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         A

         Here, State Farm first essentially argues that Moore does not state a plausible claim for relief where there is no such recognized claim for EEOC violations in the first instance. State Farm argues that there is no right of action for an EEOC violation because the Commission enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and does not impose obligations independent of Title VII on State Farm as concerns Moore's employment. State Farm is entitled to judgment on the pleadings as to Moore's EEOC violation claim.

         First, Moore does not offer any argument relevant to the question of whether there is a right of action for an EEOC violation. Instead, Moore offers a continued narrative on the circumstances underlying his lawsuit. In the “Conclusion” section of his Response to the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, Moore states, “The big question in this case is: Can an employer fire someone “at will”, [sic] even when it is in violation of EEOC laws regarding retaliation and discrimination?” Plf's Resp (Doc. 75 at pg. 28). He basically concedes he claims violations of Title VII rather than violations of the procedures implemented for the enforcement of Title VII. Second, long ago the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals explained that “[i]t is settled law, in this and other circuits, that Title VII does not provide an express or implied cause of action against the EEOC to challenge its investigation and processing of a charge.” McCottrell v. E.E.O.C., 726 F.2d 350, 351 (7th Cir. 1984). Moore's claim for an EEOC violation is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         B

         Moore's state law wrongful termination claim must also be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. State Farm argues that Moore's wrongful termination claim is preempted by the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) and Title VII which are the exclusive means by which claims of racial discrimination and retaliation for opposing such discrimination are adjudicated. Moore does not argue otherwise but only asserts that “[t]his is a clear case of wrongful termination” where he has been subjected to “racial bigotry” and retaliation.

         “The IHRA preempts court claims where the basis for the claim arises from a matter covered under the Act, unless the plaintiff can establish a basis for imposing liability on defendants independent of the Act.” Nelson v. Realty Consulting Servs., Inc., 431 F. App'x 502, 506 (7th Cir. 2011). Here, Moore's Complaint makes clear that he rests his allegations of wrongful termination upon State Farm's alleged racial bigotry and its retaliation against him for filing charges of racial discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR). Thus, none of his allegations or argument in opposition to State Farm's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings suggest that he can establish a basis for imposing liability on State Farm independent of the IHRA. See More v. Roadway Express, Inc., No. 97 C 6661, 1998 WL 292417, at *7 (N.D. Ill. May 19, 1998) (“Where . . . Illinois provides a statutory remedy for the particular type of misconduct that violates public policy, no independent common law tort is recognized; the person instead must proceed under the statute”). Stated more simply, “Allegations of retaliation for opposing race-based discrimination are not only covered by the IHRA, but are also covered by Title VII.” Jones v. Sabis Educ. Sys., Inc., No. 98 C 4252, 1999 WL 1206955, at *10 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 13, 1999). Moore's wrongful termination claim is, as State Farm puts it, an unnecessary addition to his claim that State Farm violated the IHRA and Title VII when his employment was terminated.

         II

         In its Motion for Summary Judgment, State Farm argues two points: 1) Moore's state law breach of contract claim based upon a violation of State Farm's internal policies fails as a matter of law because the home page of those policies contains a disclaimer that employees are employed at-will and that State Farm's internal policies do not constitute a contract; and 2) State Farm's non-retaliation and equal employment opportunity policies reiterate pre-existing legal duties and do not constitute an independent basis for an award of contract damages if violated.

         The single undisputed fact is that at the end of Moore's employment on or about April 5, 2014 (per his Complaint), State Farm's Human Resources Policy Manual contained ...


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