United States District Court, C.D. Illinois
ORDER AND OPINION
E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge
matter is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. (D. 2). For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's Motion (D. 2) is DENIED.
October 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action against
Defendant OSF Healthcare System (hereinafter
“OSF”) in the Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial
Circuit in Peoria, Illinois alleging a cause of action for
gender discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work
environment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. On
November 2, 2017, Defendants removed this action to this
Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1446. This
Court has original jurisdiction over this action through
federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, because
Plaintiff asserts a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
November 9, 2017, Defendant submitted a Motion to Dismiss.
(D. 2) However, because Plaintiff submitted additional,
conflicting evidence, this Court after review, informed the
parties that it would treat Defendant's Motion (D. 2) and
its accompanying replies (D. 7, 8, 14) as a motion for
summary judgment on the issue of timeliness under Rule 56 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(d). OSF alleges that Plaintiff's charge was
untimely, Plaintiff's exhibit does not make for a
sufficient pleading, there are no authenticated documents to
support Plaintiff's position, and that Plaintiff failed
to sign his initial letter to the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (D. 7, 8, 14).
These were in reply to Plaintiff's most recent Response.
Antawn Souffrant (hereinafter “Souffrant”) had
his employment terminated on January 27, 2016 for the stated
reason of failing to abide by OSF's standards of conduct.
(D. 13, at p. 9). Souffrant sent a complaint to the EEOC via
fax on November 21, 2016, in which he alleged OSF had
discriminated against him based on his gender after he
reported hostile work conditions to the OSF compliance
office. (D. 13, at p. 3). The fax was received by the
EEOC's Chicago District Office that same day and was
timestamped “Nov 21 2016.” (D. 13, at p. 3). This
initial complaint was considered by the EEOC to be
Souffrant's intake questionnaire and contained his
type-written name in the signature box. Evidence that
Souffrant's intake questionnaire was received and
accepted by the EEOC is offered in their response to
Souffrant, dated December 6, 2016. (D. 13, at p. 4). In it,
the EEOC requested that Souffrant fill out EEOC Form 5,
Charge of Discrimination, sign and date the charge form, and
return it within 30 days. (D. 13, at p. 4). The EEOC response
further states, “[b]ecause the document that you
submitted to us constitutes a charge of employment
discrimination, we have complied with the law and notified
the employer that you filed a charge.” (D. 13, at p.
4). Souffrant followed these instructions as the charge form
was signed, dated, and returned to the EEOC on December 14,
2016. (D. 13, at p. 6). After receiving Souffrant's
formal Charge of Discrimination form, the EEOC gave Souffrant
a right-to-sue letter on December 28, 2016. The EEOC further
provided notice to Plaintiff in that same letter that they
were closing this file due to the untimely nature of the
charge but gave no further reasoning. (D. 13, at p. 7).
judgment is appropriate where one party shows, through
“materials in the record, including depositions,
documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations … admissions, interrogatory
answers, or other materials” that “there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56. A party seeking summary judgment has the “initial
responsibility” to show that there is no genuine issue
of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 334 (1986). To do so, the movant must establish that the
non-movant's evidence would not affect the suit's
outcome under the governing law, given a reasonable jury.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-49 (1986). Conversely, the non-movant does not have to
“prove” or “establish” anything, but
merely create a genuine issue as to the substantive areas of
her claims. Cecilio v. Allstate Inc., 908 F.Supp.
519, 528-29 (N.D. Ill. 1995). Courts in this Circuit apply
the standard of Rule 56 “with added rigor in employment
discrimination cases, where intent and credibility
dominate.” Flenaugh v. Airborne Express, Inc.,
2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3155, 13 (N.D. Ill. 2004). Accordingly,
it views “all facts and draws all reasonable inferences
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.”
O'Regan v. Arbitration Forums, Inc., 246 F.3d
975, 983 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing Allen v. City of
Chicago, 351 F.3d 306, 311 (7th Cir. 2003)). A party
will be successful in opposing summary judgment only if it
presents “definite, competent evidence” to rebut
the motion. EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 233
F.3d 432, 437 (7th Cir. 2000).
EEOC Statute of Limitations and Filing Requirements
are several prerequisites for bringing a Title VII claim.
“A Plaintiff must [first] file a charge with the EEOC
detailing the alleged discriminatory conduct within the time
allowed by statute, and the EEOC must issue a right-to-sue
letter.” Conner v. Illinois Dep't of Natural
Res., 413 F.3d 675, 680 (7th Cir. 2005). EEOC
regulations require a charge to be in writing and signed. 29
C.F.R. § 1601.09. Furthermore, Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 9(c) requires that a plaintiff plead “all
conditions precedent have been performed or occurred.”
Conversely, the EEOC charge-filing requirement is not
intended to erect “elaborate pleading
requirements” or “let the form of the purported
charge prevail over its substance.” Downes v.
Volkswagen of America, Inc., 41 F.3d 1132, 1138 (7th
Cir. 1994). “This Court is also bound to give
substantial weight to the EEOC's interpretation of the
statute that it administers.” Gilardi v.
Schroeder, 833 F.2d 1226, 1232 (7th Cir. 1987).
Plaintiff Meets Prerequisites to Bring Title VII
Plaintiff must prove that he met certain requirements under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rush v.
McDonald's Corp., 966 F.2d 1104, 1110 (7th Cir.
1992). First, the Plaintiff must file a charge with the EEOC
within 300 days from the date of the alleged discrimination.
Souffrant's employment was terminated on January 27,
2016. (D. 13, at pp. 8-9). Souffrant submitted on November
21, 2016 - 299 days after the last discriminatory conduct
occurred - a written complaint or “intake
questionnaire” (“Exhibit B”) to the EEOC
via fax, sufficiently detailing how he was the victim of
discriminatory conduct while employed at OSF. (D. 13, at p.
3). It was received by the EEOC Chicago District Office and
timestamped to show that it had been received on November 21,
2016. (D. 13, at p. 3). The EEOC then proceeded to treat
Plaintiff's charge as active by sending a confirmation
letter (“Exhibit C”) to Plaintiff along with a
formal charge of discrimination form (“Exhibit
D”) which Souffrant filled out and returned. (D. 13, at
pp. 4-5). Specifically, the confirmation letter from the EEOC
(“Exhibit C”) to Souffrant, dated December 6,
2016, states: “Because the document that you submitted
to us constitutes a charge of employment
discrimination, we have complied with the law and
notified the employer that you filed a charge.” (D. 13,
at p. 4) (emphasis added). The EEOC sent notice to Plaintiff
on December 28, 2016 of his right to sue. (D. 13, at p. 7).
In an apparent contradiction from the December 6, 2016
confirmation letter, that notice (“Exhibit E”)
informed Plaintiff that the EEOC was closing its file on his
charge because “[y]our charge was not timely filed with
EEOC, in other words, you waited too long after the date(s)
of the alleged discrimination to file your charge.” (D.
13, at p. 7).
EEOC's treatment of the claim is relevant in determining
whether a statement constitutes a charge. In applying this
principle, the 7th Circuit in Philbin v. General Electric
Capital Auto Lease Inc. held that the EEOC's
regulation allowing a “subsequent verification to
relate back to the date of the initial filing must be upheld
if it constitutes a reasonable interpretation of the
statute.” Philbin v. General Electric Capital Auto
Lease Inc., 929 F.2d 321, 324 (7th Cir. 1991). While the
statute does require that a complainant verify a charge, the
statute does not require that the verification take place
prior to the expiration of the 300-day time period.
Id. Thus, the EEOC's interpretation of the
statute as allowing technical amendments to relate back to