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Martin v. Cook County, Illinois

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

April 25, 2018




         Claudia Martin, a probation officer employed by the Cook County Adult Probation Department, sues Cook County, the Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and several Probation Department employees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and state law for allegedly discriminating against and harassing her due to her religious beliefs and union activities. Doc. 46. Cook County and the Probation Department employees move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for partial dismissal of the operative complaint. Doc. 50. Specifically, Cook County moves to dismiss all claims against it-save a state law indemnification claim-on the ground that it is not Martin's employer and thus not liable for the misconduct she alleges, while Probation Department employees Lavone Haywood, Matthew Sobieski, Darryl Gray, and Noreen Larson move to dismiss Martin's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim on the ground, among others, that it is preempted by the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), 775 ILCS 5/8-111(D). The motion is granted.


         In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court assumes the truth of the operative complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations, though not its legal conclusions. See Zahn v. N. Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must also consider “documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice, ” along with additional facts set forth in Martin's brief opposing dismissal, so long as those additional facts “are consistent with the pleadings.” Phillips v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 714 F.3d 1017, 1019-20 (7th Cir. 2013). The facts are set forth as favorably to Martin as those materials allow. See Pierce v. Zoetis, Inc., 818 F.3d 274, 277 (7th Cir. 2016). In setting forth those facts at the pleading stage, the court does not vouch for their accuracy. See Jay E. Hayden Found. v. First Neighbor Bank, N.A., 610 F.3d 382, 384 (7th Cir. 2010).

         Martin is a probation officer for the Cook County Adult Probation Department. Doc. 46 at ¶ 14. In 2006, she became a steward for Local 3468 of the American Federation of County, State, and Municipal Employees (“AFCSME”), the union that represents Probation Department employees, and she was promoted to chief steward in 2012. Id. at ¶¶ 17, 21, 29, 177-178. A practicing Muslim, Martin typically wears a hijab. Id. at ¶¶ 24-25. During the relevant time period, Martin's supervisors favorably reviewed her work. Id. at ¶¶ 32-36.

         At some point in 2013 or 2014, Martin filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that her then-supervisor had an “issue” with her hijab. Id. at ¶ 72. Larson, the Probation Department's director of human resources, pressured Martin to drop the charge. Id. at ¶¶ 73-74. The Probation Department otherwise took no action regarding Martin's complaint. Id. at ¶ 75.

         On January 20, 2015, Martin received an anonymous letter expressing anti-union sentiment. Id. at ¶ 20. The letter stated in relevant part: “The Union's tjme [sic] is up You don't work for ASFSCME [sic]! You work for the Adult Probation Department! You need to decide[] if you want to risk your children not eating, because you are defending people who don't do their work and lie about and justify their actions.” Ibid. (emphasis omitted). The president of Local 3468, James Dunaway, wrote to Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans, asking him to address the letter. Id. at ¶ 21. Chief Judge Evans did not respond. Id. at ¶ 22.

         Beginning in October 2015 and continuing for the next several months, Gray, a Deputy Chief Probation Officer, told Martin on several occasions that unidentified coworkers had complained about her wearing a hijab and cautioned her that wearing a “hat” in the workplace was against Probation Department policy. Id. at ¶¶ 23, 26, 28, 31, 37-38. Martin felt bullied by these interactions, and consulted with Dunaway, who contacted the Probation Department's human resources department on her behalf. Id. at ¶¶ 39-41.

         In mid-December 2015, after Martin came to work on several occasions without her hijab, Gray conveyed to her an anonymous complaint about her “apparent inconsistency” in wearing the hijab. Id. at ¶¶ 42-43. Martin explained that she had chosen not to wear her hijab at certain times due to a scalp condition. Id. at ¶ 44. Gray asked Martin to provide a doctor's note about her scalp condition, which prompted Martin to email Larson to ask why the documentation was necessary. Id. at ¶¶ 45-46. Larson responded: “The Office of Human Resources has approved your wearing of [a] head covering. Though it is against policy and procedure, this exemption will be allowed as it is for religious reasons. You are now, however, indicating that it will be intermittent due to medical reasons. Therefore, we are requesting medical documentation.” Id. at ¶ 48. Martin provided a doctor's note, and on the day that she received Larson's response, she filed a discrimination charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”). Id. at ¶¶ 47, 49.

         On December 18, Martin discovered an anonymous note on her desk chair, written in printed cutout letters and stating: “What R U an Isis Muslim no bombs allowed.” Id. at ¶ 50. Martin immediately sought out Dunaway. Id. at ¶ 51. Later that day, Gray intercepted Martin when she was on her way to speak with her direct supervisor about the note. Id. at ¶¶ 53-56. After leaving Gray's office, Martin stopped to talk with her supervisor. Id. at ¶¶ 57-59. Gray walked over to join the pair, and then “raised his voice, and embarrassed, insulted, humiliated, and berated” Martin in front of her supervisor. Id. at ¶ 60. Martin attempted to file a police report, but was instructed to instead report the incident to the IDHR. Id. at ¶¶ 62-64.

         On December 22, Martin emailed Chief Judge Evans as well as Haywood, the Chief Probation Officer, and Sobieski, a Deputy Chief Probation Officer, to inform them of the hijab-related incidents, including Gray's conduct after learning of the anonymous note. Id. at ¶¶ 65-66. Martin's email stated that after she received the “hateful and humiliating letter, Mr. Gray … publicly humiliated [her] by speaking to [her] in a very hostile and aggressive tone and in an unprofessional manner in front of other coworkers.” Id. at ¶ 66. Martin received no response. Id. at ¶ 67.

         Martin also prepared a formal incident report. Id. at ¶ 76. Sobieski later spoke with Martin, insisting that she remove references to Gray's harassment and promising that the Cook County Sheriff's Office would investigate. Id. at ¶¶ 76-77. At Sobieski's direction, Martin revised the incident report several times. Id. at ¶ 78. Neither the Sheriff's Office nor the Probation Department investigated the note. Id. at ¶¶ 79-82.

         Martin experienced additional harassment beginning on June 14, 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 84-85. Another probation officer, David Neeley, alleged that Martin had interfered with his official duties in the courtroom where the case of a probationer assigned to Neeley was scheduled to be heard. Id. at ¶¶ 86-91. On September 14, 2016, Martin was suspended based on Neeley's allegations. Id. at ¶ 97. The suspension letter was prepared before Martin received the opportunity to respond. Id. at ¶¶ 96, 103-104.

         After Chief Judge Evans authorized and approved the suspension, the union filed a grievance, charging that the suspension constituted retaliation for Martin's union activity and the agency charges she had filed. Id. at ¶¶ 107-108. The day of her suspension, Martin filed a second charge with the IDHR. Id. at ¶ 109. Martin's workstation was then reassigned, forcing her to sit next to a probation officer who had sought to have her removed as a union official. Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 111-112, 117. In addition, Gray shared with other Probation Department employees the details of a ...

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