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Blochh v. Clalist

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 27, 2018

MOLLY BLOCH, Plaintiff,
v.
ALTON MULTISPE CIALIST, LTD and SHERRI HENSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint filed by Defendants Alton Multispecialists, LTD and Sherri Henson (Doc. 17). Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 23). For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         Background

         Plaintiff Molly Bloch filed a seven-count First Amended Complaint against her former employer Alton Multispecialist ("AMS") and her former supervisor Sherri Henson, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Illinois Human Rights Act, and common law tort claims. In Counts I, II, VI, and VII, Bloch alleges that she was qualified for her position and was able to perform all essential functions of her job, but was subjected to discrimination, harassment and a hostile work environment and was treated differently than similarly situated employees because of her pregnancy. Bloch further alleges that AMS knew or reasonably should have known about the discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment and failed to take any steps to stop the illegal behavior.

         In Counts III and IV, Bloch asserts that AMS violated the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and retaliated against her after she reported AMS's illegal activities. Specifically, she alleges among other things, that AMS failed to provide her with information about her FMLA benefits, information from the employer's handbook regarding pregnancy leave and policies for breast feeding in the work place, and failed to responsively answer her questions. She also alleges that she was terminated after reporting and complaining to AMS. In Count V, Bloch alleges that Henson was involved in AMS's investigation leading up to her termination, and that she provided AMS with the information it utilized in its termination decision. Bloch further alleges that Henson intentionally and wrongfully interfered with Bloch's economic relationship that she had through her employment with AMS by providing incomplete and inaccurate information to AMS and by failing to perform an adequate investigation. Defendants move to dismiss Bloch's Amended Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim.

         DISCUSSION

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Complaint need only 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 facts are unnecessary, but the Complaint must give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Olson v. Champaign Cnty., 784 F.3d 1093, 1098 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, (2007) (per curiam), and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         A plaintiff's responsibility is to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. at 404. Plausibility does not mean probability; a court reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion must ask itself could these things have happened, not did they happen. Id. (emphasis in original). The standard simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence supporting the allegations. Olson, 784 F.3d at 1099. When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court takes all facts alleged by the plaintiff as true and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 662, 663.

         Counts I, II, VI, and VII

         AMS and Henson move to dismiss Bloch's discrimination, hostile work environment, and retaliation claims, asserting that her allegations are conclusory. To prevent dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a Complaint alleging discrimination need only allege that the employer instituted an adverse employment action against the plaintiff on the basis of her race, sex, pregnancy, etc. “In these types of cases, the complaint merely needs to give the defendant sufficient notice to enable him to begin to investigate and prepare a defense.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1085 (7th Cir. 2008) (plaintiff sufficiently pled violation of Title VII where she alleged salary discrepancy and that “she ha[d] been subjected to adverse employment actions by Defendants on account of her gender”).

         Here, Bloch alleges that, although she was qualified and was able to perform her job duties, she was terminated from her employment with AMS due to her pregnancy and after requesting pregnancy-related benefits from AMS. Nothing more is required to plead a discrimination claim under Rule 8's liberal pleading standard.

         To assert a retaliation claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must allege that she engaged in statutorily protected activity and was subjected to an adverse employment action as a result of that activity (though she need not use those terms). Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1029 (7th Cir. 2013). In this case, the statutorily protected activity was complaining to AMS regarding its failure to provide Plaintiff FMLA information. The materially adverse action was her termination. These allegations are sufficient to meet the first two requirements of a prima facie claim, which is all Bloch is required to do at this stage in the litigation. See Luevano, 722 F.3d at 1029.

         In order to state a claim under Title VII for a hostile work environment, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege that: (1) she was subject to unwelcome harassment; (2) the harassment was based on her sex/pregnancy; (3) the harassment was severe [or] pervasive so as to alter the conditions of the employee's environment and create a hostile or abusive working environment; and (4) there is basis for employer liability.” Cooper-Schut v. Visteon Auto. Sys., 361 F.3d 421, 426 (7th Cir. 2004). Here, the Court agrees with Defendants that Bloch has failed to allege any facts that would support a hostile work environment claim. She merely states that she was harassed and subjected to a "hostile work environment". Even under the liberal federal pleading requirements, Bloch's allegations are insufficient to put Defendants on notice regarding the conduct or actions she believes rise to the level of harassment or a "hostile work environment. Accordingly, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED as to Bloch's claims of hostile work environment and harassment. The motion is DENIED as to Bloch's retaliation and discrimination claims.

         Count ...


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