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Navarretee v. Madison County

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 17, 2018




         Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 22). Plaintiff filed a response (Doc. 24). For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.


         This case arises out of Plaintiff Gustavo Navarrete's employment by Madison County, Illinois as a “Jailer” from April 2008 until February 1, 2016. (Amended Complaint, Doc. 20 at ¶¶ 3, 6 and 11). In his Amended Complaint, Navarrete asserts that he is Hispanic and therefore a member of a protected class. (Id. at ¶ 3). He alleges that although he had not disclosed his ability to speak Spanish prior to his hiring and was not hired for that purpose, he was expected and required to translate for the Spanish-speaking inmates in the Madison County Jail. (Id. at ¶¶12-13). He also alleges he was “required to translate Spanish for other Madison County entities in dangerous situations without the protection of a bullet proof vest or a weapon” (Id. at ¶ 14), and that his co-workers and supervisors called him “Speedy Gonzalez.”[1] (Id. at ¶12).

         On January 29, 2016, Navarrete filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Illinois Commission on Human Rights (“First EEOC Complaint”), alleging discrimination based on national origin. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5). He was terminated from his employment three days later, on February 1, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 6). Navarrete filed another complaint in January 2017 (“Second EEOC Complaint”), alleging that he was terminated due to his national origin and in retaliation for filing the First EEOC Complaint. (Id.).[2] He received right-to-sue letters from the EEOC on both matters. (Doc. 1 at pp. 6-7), [3] and subsequently filed this action.


         Defendant attacks the Amended Complaint on two grounds: first, that Navarrete has not exhausted his administrative remedies because the EEOC complaints were made against “Madison County Sheriff” instead of “Madison County, Illinois”; and second, that Navarrete has failed to adequately plead a national-origin discrimination claim.[4] To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a Complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Lodholtz v. York Risk Servs. Group, Inc., 778 F.3d 635, 639 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The Court also draws all reasonable inferences and construes all facts in favor of the nonmovant. See Vesely v. Armslist LLC, 762 F.3d 661, 664 (7th Cir. 2014).[5]

         Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, and courts “usually refrain from granting Rule 12(b)(6) motions on affirmative defenses. Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim for relief, and a plaintiff may state a claim even though there is a defense to that claim. The mere presence of a potential affirmative defense does not render the claim for relief invalid.” Brownmark Films, LLC v. Comedy Partners, 682 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Courts may, however, grant a Rule12(b)(6) motion based on an affirmative defense if the complaint contains all of the elements of the defense. Indep. Tr. Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012).

         “Ordinarily, a party not named as the respondent in an EEOC charge may not be sued under Title VII.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1089 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing Olsen v. Marshall & Ilsley Corp., 267 F.3d 597, 604 (7th Cir. 2001) and Schnellbaecher v. Baskin Clothing Co., 887 F.2d 124, 126 (7th Cir. 1989)). There is an exception, however, “where an unnamed party has been provided with adequate notice of the charge, under circumstances where the party has been given the opportunity to participate in conciliation proceedings.” Id. (quoting Schnellbaecher, 887 F.2d at 126).

         Here, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is inappropriate. There is nothing on the face of the Amended Complaint to suggest that Navarette failed to exhaust his EEOC remedies, so he has not pled himself out of court. Thus, determining the merits of Defendant's affirmative defense requires the evaluation of evidence outside the pleadings; the assertion that Navarette filed his EEOC Complaints against the Sheriff's Office and not Defendant is supported solely by the exhibits attached to Defendant's motion. While Rule 12(d) permits a court to consider such evidence as long as it then treats the motion as one for summary judgment, this Court declines to do so.

         Defendant also contends that Navarrete has failed to state a claim on his national origin discrimination charge. “The pleading requirement for employment-discrimination claims is minimal. A plaintiff need only identify the type of discrimination, when it occurred, and by whom.” Clark v. Law Office of Terrence Kennedy, Jr., 709 Fed.Appx. 826, 828 (7th Cir. 2017) (citations omitted). Navarette has sufficiently done so. He alleges that he was required to undertake additional duties, was placed in dangerous environments without adequate protection, and was referred to by an offensive nickname. These allegations state a plausible claim. Whether this conduct actually occurred and whether Navarette can establish a link between the objectionable conduct and his status as a Hispanic are issues of proof, not pleading.

         Finally, although Navarette does not name the specific coworkers, supervisors or dates, the Amended Complaint meets the bare requirements to place Defendant on notice. Therefore, dismissal of the national-origins claim is not warranted, and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied.

         IT ...

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