United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Robert Blakey United States District Judge.
Richard McGinnis sued his former employer Defendant United
States Cold Storage for permitting a hostile work environment
and engaging in race discrimination in violation of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et
seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. . Defendant moved
to dismiss. . As explained below, this Court partially
grants and partially denies the motion.
The Complaint's Allegations
provides temperature-controlled warehousing and
transportation services nationwide.  ¶ 10.
Plaintiff, an African-American man, began working for
Defendant in April 2011 as part of a “transportation
team, ” eventually becoming a transportation
coordinator. Id. ¶¶ 8-9, 12. Plaintiff was
the only black employee on his transportation team and his
supervisor, Richard Beghy, was white. Id. ¶ 12.
Plaintiff started with Defendant, his team worked
“together in one small room, ” where everyone
could “hear everyone else's conversations.”
Id. ¶13. Plaintiff claims that throughout his
employment his coworkers and supervisors intentionally and
regularly “embarrassed, ridiculed, insulted, and
demeaned” him. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff
alleges that when the team learned of his hiring, his
coworker Annie commented-in front of Beghy-that there would
be “chicken bones and watermelon rinds” in the
parking lot. Id. ¶ 15. During “the first six
to nine months” after Plaintiff started work, another
coworker, Pam, responded angrily whenever Plaintiff asked her
to complete “overshortage damage reports” (OSD
reports), which Pam was responsible for filling out if any
driver came up with overages, shortages, or damage to any
goods. Id. ¶ 18. Pam did not react negatively
when white members of the team asked for OSD reports; Beghy
observed Pam's hostility to Plaintiff and never
reprimanded her. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Ultimately,
Plaintiff learned to complete OSD reports to avoid
interacting with Pam. Id. ¶ 21.
early 2012, Plaintiff's coworker John yelled at Plaintiff
to “keep his cotton picking hands off his fucking
orders.” Id. ¶ 22. When Plaintiff told
John not to speak to him that way, Beghy told Plaintiff to
“settle down, ” but failed to reprimand John.
Id. ¶ 23. That same year, Beghy began answering
emails directed to Plaintiff on which he was copied.
Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Beghy did not answer other
team member's emails, and told Plaintiff he stepped in on
his emails because Plaintiff did not have “enough
intelligence or tact to respond professionally, ” and
took too long to do so. Id. ¶¶ 25-26.
Meanwhile, Plaintiff's coworkers often discussed the
ongoing 2012 presidential campaign, making derogatory
comments about President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle
Obama, and African-Americans generally. Id. ¶
28. Beghy knew about these comments and never addressed them.
Id. ¶ 29.
end of 2012, Defendant moved to a new office where Plaintiff
and his coworkers no longer worked in such close quarters.
Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiff asked Defendant's
transportation manager, Don Romniak, to seat him away from
Pam or Annie. Id. ¶ 31. Romniak, who is white,
granted Plaintiff's request but also asked Defendant
“to install a window in his office” so he could
“keep an eye on Plaintiff.” Id. ¶
32. Plaintiff does not allege that Romniak got the window.
2013, an employee of one of Defendant's carrier companies
asked Plaintiff why Defendant had not given the carrier more
assignments. Id. ¶ 33. Plaintiff told the
employee that Defendant's other carriers had better track
records, and the employee responded with an email calling
Plaintiff an “asshole.” Id. ¶¶
33-34. Plaintiff responded-by email-calling the employee a
“cry baby.” Id. ¶ 34. One of
Plaintiff's coworkers then sent Plaintiff's email to
Defendant's human resources representative, Nicole,
omitting the initial insult from the carrier employee.
Id. ¶ 37. Nicole sent the email to
Defendant's General Manager, Gregg, and Plaintiff
received a two-day suspension as a result. Id.
¶¶ 35-36. Both Nicole and Gregg are white.
Id. ¶¶ 35, 36. Plaintiff became noticeably
depressed following this suspension. Id.
¶¶ 38-40. Later that year, Plaintiff told Gregg he
was upset about the suspension; Gregg told him to stop moping
and be a good “boy.” Id. ¶ 40.
point in 2014, Plaintiff put a sign in the break room asking
employees to wash and refill the communal coffee pot when
they finished the previous pot. Id. ¶ 42. For
several months, Plaintiff would put up the sign and Annie
would rip it down. Id. ¶¶ 42-43. Plaintiff
reported this to Beghy and Romniak, who took no action until
Plaintiff appealed to the Regional Manager, at which point
Romniak announced to the team that the sign should stay up.
Id. ¶¶ 43-46. Defendant never reprimanded
Annie for her conduct, though Plaintiff
“interpreted” her behavior as “predicated
upon” his race. Id. ¶ 47.
April 2015, a carrier called Beghy to complain that Plaintiff
failed to include the carrier in a certain email.
Id. ¶ 48. Plaintiff had, in fact, included the
carrier on the email, and, frustrated that the carrier waited
to the end of the work day to raise the issue, exclaimed:
“Why the fuck did he wait until the last minute to say
something!” Id. ¶ 49. According to
Plaintiff, Defendant's employees commonly used that
profanity and no employee had ever been “severely
disciplined” for it. Id. ¶¶ 50-52.
Plaintiff's coworker John once used the term in an
argument with a carrier and was suspended, but not fired.
Id. ¶ 53. Annie complained about
Plaintiff's language to Nicole, after which Romniak and
Beghy gave Plaintiff a one-day suspension. Id.
¶¶ 54-55. During Plaintiff's suspension,
Nicole called and told him he was fired effective
immediately. Id. ¶ 56. Before his termination,
Plaintiff had never been disciplined for using inappropriate
language, or subjected to “progressive
discipline.” Id. ¶ 60-61.
filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on May 24, 2016. Id.
¶ 5; [34-1] at 2. Plaintiff's EEOC charge alleged
that Defendant discriminated against him because of his race,
stating: “During my employment, I was subjected to
different terms and conditions than non-black employees
including, but not limited to, being suspended for foul
language. On or about November 11, 2015, I was
discharged.” [34-1] at 2.
received his right-to-sue notice from the EEOC on June 13,
2016.  ¶ 5; [34-1] at 3. Plaintiff timely filed this
suit on September 12, 2016.  ¶ 5; . He amended
his complaint in November 2017, , and Defendant moved to
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) “challenges the sufficiency of the complaint
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” Gen. Elec. Capital Corp. v. Lease
Resolution Corp., 128 F.3d 1074, 1080 (7th Cir. 1997).
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must provide a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2), giving the defendant “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 claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at