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Naqvi v. Illinois Health And Science

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

June 7, 2018

ALI NAQVI, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS HEALTH AND SCIENCE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          RICHARD MILLS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Ali Naqvi asserts a number of claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, in addition to various state law claims.

         Pending is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         Motion allowed in part, denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         At all times relevant to this case, Plaintiff Ali Naqvi was the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Defendant Illinois Health and Science (“IHS”), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation; Decatur Memorial Hospital (“DMH”), an Illinois not-for-profit corporation; and Zevacor Pharma, Inc., n/k/a Zevacor (“Zevacor Pharma”), a Virginia corporation registered as a foreign corporation in Illinois. Zevacor Molecular n/k/a Global Isotopes, LLC, is an Illinois limited liability company.

         Naqvi is of South Asian descent and is non-white. Naqvi believes he was the first non-white executive hired in the 100-year history of DMH. According to the amended complaint, Naqvi was exposed to a work place environment that was tainted by overtly discriminatory animus and hostilities toward non-white employees, including Naqvi.

         IHS and DMH are governed by various boards of directors and committees. The Boards of Directors of IHS and DMH proscribed rules, regulations, policies, directives and procedures to govern the operations of IHS, DMH and Zevacor.

         Defendant Timothy D. Stone, Jr. served as Executive Vice President and administrator of DMH until approximately November 5, 2015. On or about November 6, 2015, Stone was named President and Chief Executive Officer of DMH. Additionally, Stone served as ex-officio member of the Board of Directors of DMH.

         Defendant Roy Mosser is Chairman of the Boards of Directors of IHS and DMH. Mosser is also a supplier to DMH.

         Defendant Ron Drane is a Director on the Board of Directors of Zevacor. Additionally, the financial institution that primarily employed Drane provided financing to DMH.

         Defendant Robin King is a Director on the Boards of Directors of IHS and DMH.

         Former Defendant John Funk is a Director on the Boards of Directors of IHS and DMH. Former Defendant Scott Fredericksen is a Director on the Board of Directors of IHS. Former Defendant Ken Smithmier is the President and CEO of DMH, IHS and Zevacor. Additionally, Smithmier was an ex-officio member of the Boards of Directors of IHS and DMH.[1]

         Naqvi further alleges that DMH has a Board of Directors who oversaw operations of DMH and the aforementioned directors also served on the Boards of Directors of IHS, DMH and Zevacor.

         Naqvi claims he has complied with all administrative requirements and timely filed his complaint.

         The Defendants allege there are a number of deficiencies with Naqvi's amended complaint, including the failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

         The Defendants also assert Naqvi fails to state a claim and the action is barred under the statute of frauds.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         At this stage, the Court accepts as true all of the facts alleged in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences therefrom. See Virnich v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011). “[A] complaint must provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, which is sufficient to provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim and its basis.” Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). Courts must consider whether the complaint states a “plausible” claim for relief. See Id. The complaint must do more than assert a right to relief that is “speculative.” See Id. However, the claim need not be probable: “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.” See Independent Trust Corp. v. Stewart Information Services Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). “To meet this plausibility standard, the complaint must supply ‘enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' supporting the plaintiff's allegations.” Id.

         III. CLAIMS

         A. Count I

         In Count I, Naqvi asserts claims of racial discrimination, disparate treatment and hostile work environment against Defendants IHS, DMH and Zevacor. Naqvi was hired on November 18, 2013 and remained employed with IHS, DMH and Zevacor until November 5, 2015, when those entities terminated his employment.

         The Defendants allege Count I should be dismissed as to certain Defendants for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. They note that the Plaintiff defines Zevacor to include Zevacor Molecular and Zevacor Pharma, Inc., now known as Global Isotopes, LLC. Paragraph 34 of the Complaint states that Naqvi “has complied with all administrative prerequisites by timely filing Charges of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) against Defendants, IHS, DMH and Zevacor.” It further provides that Naqvi has received right to sue letters as to each filing.

         The Defendants assert, however, that the actual EEOC charge does not even reference all entities that the Complaint now defines as “Zevacor.” Moreover, the “Particulars” of the charge contain no reference to any Zevacor entity at all. There is no allegation in the charge that Zevacor engaged in any discriminatory conduct and even no allegation that Naqvi was ever employed by Zevacor. Accordingly, the Defendants assert Zevacor should be dismissed as a Defendant in Count I because Naqvi failed to exhaust administrative remedies as to Zevacor.

         A Title VII plaintiff is not permitted to raise a claim that has not been raised in his EEOC charge, “unless the claim is reasonably related to one of the EEOC charges and can be expected to develop from an investigation into the charges actually raised.” Whitaker v. Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, 772 F.3d 802, 812 (7th Cir. 2014). There must be a factual relationship between the claims in order for them to be “reasonably related to one another.” See id. “This means that the EEOC charge and the complaint must, at minimum, describe the same conduct and implicate the same individuals.” Id. at 812-13 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Attached to Naqvi's complaint are three right-to-sue letters from the EEOC referencing each administrative filing. As reflected in Exhibit C, one of these right-to-sue letters pertains to Zevacor Molecular aka Zevacor Pharma.

         Attached as Exhibit A to Naqvi's response to the Defendants' motion to dismiss is a copy of his submission letter sent to the EEOC with Naqvi's charge of discrimination as well as correspondence from counsel for the Defendants, acknowledging the three charges of discrimination filed by Naqvi, including the charge filed against Zevacor, and a copy of the notice of filing of an EEOC charge of discrimination sent to Kevin Horvath, Chief Financial Officer of Zevacor.

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court generally does not look outside the pleadings. “[H]owever, the court may take into consideration documents incorporated by reference to the pleadings and may also take judicial notice of matters of public record.” Milwaukee Police Assoc. v. Flynn, 863 F.3d 636, 640 (7th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court hereby takes judicial notice of the EEOC charge and right-to-sue letters that have been incorporated by reference to the pleadings.

         The Plaintiff alleges that to the extent the allegations of the charge of discrimination filed against Zevacor mirrored the allegations of the charges of discrimination filed against IHS and DMH, the actions arise out of the same set of facts and circumstances giving rise to the actionable conduct alleged in Naqvi's charges of discrimination, thereby meeting the requirement that a plaintiff exhaust administrative remedies prior to instituting a Title VII action.

         Because the record establishes that Naqvi filed an administrative action against Zevacor and it is alleged that the allegations of the charge mirror the allegations of the charges of discrimination against IHS and DMH, the Court concludes that Naqvi has exhausted administrative remedies as to the Zevacor entities as well.

         The motion to dismiss Count I will be denied.

         B. Sta ...


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