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Rufus v. City of Chicago

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

April 23, 2018

JAMES RUFUS, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.


          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         Plaintiff James Rufus sued Defendants City of Chicago, Elizabeth Williams, and Robert May under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Illinois Whistleblower Act (IWA). Plaintiff alleges that Williams refused to promote him because of his race and that May failed to stop her from engaging in such conduct. Plaintiff alleges that the City discriminated against him on the basis of race and retaliated against him for complaining about discrimination and harassment. The City and May moved to dismiss. For the reasons explained below, this Court partially grants the City's motion and grants May's motion.

         I. The Complaint's Allegations

         A. This Case

         Plaintiff, an African-American man, previously worked for the City as a custodian at O'Hare International Airport. [50] at 2.[1] Around mid-2015, Plaintiff complained internally about sexual harassment after Williams, a Hispanic woman, inappropriately touched him in the hallway at work. Id. Williams then subjected Plaintiff to “derogatory and racial comments.” Id. Plaintiff complained again-to May-about Williams' behavior, but May failed to investigate Plaintiff's complaints or remedy the situation. Id. at 2-3.

         In June or July 2016, the City posted two job openings for “Foreman of Custodial Workers” at O'Hare. Id. at 3. Plaintiff applied for the promotion, but Williams told another employee that she would not promote Plaintiff and that she would hire at least one Hispanic individual. Id. In November 2016, the City announced that it would hire the foremen based solely upon two factors: scores on an exam and seniority. Id. Despite announcing that new process, the City scheduled Plaintiff for a job interview with Williams on December 13, 2016. Id. Williams asked Plaintiff questions that-in violation of City protocol-Human Resources did not approve in advance. Id. Plaintiff later learned that Williams gave the questions to another candidate, Andrea Dennis, before her interview. Id.

         From December 2016 to January 2017, Plaintiff contacted the City's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) multiple times to report potential hiring, testing, and application fraud. Id. at 4. Subsequently, management told custodial workers, including Plaintiff, to “stop calling the OIG and threatening the City with lawsuits.” Id. Plaintiff says that the City refused to promote him because he reported misconduct to the OIG. Id. at 9. Although Plaintiff had six years of seniority over Dennis, Dennis got one of the available job openings. Id. at 4. Saul Soto, a Hispanic man, got the second spot. Id.

         May knew about the promotion and interview process for custodians and knew that Williams, whom he supervised, made derogatory remarks to Plaintiff and “misused her position” to retaliate against Plaintiff by refusing to promote him. Id. at 6. May also knew that Williams treated Plaintiff differently because of Plaintiff's race, but May failed to prevent Williams from discriminating against Plaintiff. Id.

         B. EEOC Charge

         Plaintiff filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC on December 5, 2016- about a week before his job interview with Williams. Id. at 1, 3; see also [22-1].[2] He received a right-to-sue letter in March 2017 and filed this case in June 2017. [50] at 1-2. Plaintiff's EEOC charge stated:

I have been subjected to racial comments which have created a hostile work environment; I complained, to no avail. I also filed a prior EEOC Charge (EEOC Charge No. 440-2016-03621) alleging sexual harassment and, subsequently, I have been subjected to retaliation, including, but no [sic] limited to, harassment and passed up for promotion. I have been discriminated against because of my race, Black, and in retaliation for engaging in protected activity, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.


         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim” showing that the pleader merits relief, Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), so the defendant has “fair notice” of the claim “and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint must also contain “sufficient factual matter” to state a facially plausible claim to relief-one that “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference” that the defendant committed the alleged misconduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 ...

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