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Hannon v. City of Prospect Heights

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

July 2, 2019

STEPHANIE HANNON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PROSPECT HEIGHTS, an Illinois Municipal Corporation; JOE WADE, Individually; and SCOTT WILLIAMSON, Individually, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Harry D. Leinenweber, United States District Judge.

         For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 35) is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case concerns alleged gender-based employment discrimination and retaliation. Plaintiff Stephanie Hannon (“Hannon”) is a resident of Lake County, Illinois. Defendant City of Prospect Heights (“the City”) is an Illinois municipal corporation located in Cook County, Illinois. Defendant Scott Williamson (“Williamson”) is a resident of Prospect Heights, and for all times relevant to this lawsuit, has served as an Alderman for the City. Defendant Joe Wade (“Wade”) is a resident of Glenview, Illinois, and has served as the City Administrator for the City since 2015.

         In December 2011, the City hired Hannon as its Finance Director, a part-time position. The City permitted Hannon to hold other part-time positions in other municipalities while working for the City; accordingly, beginning in 2014, Hannon also began working part-time as the Finance Director for the Village of Fox Lake, Illinois.

         Hannon alleges that at some point in the course of her employment with the City, Williamson and Wade began to take steps to “freeze out” Hannon from her work in the City's government. Hannon alleges that the Defendants discriminated against her because of her gender in various ways, including: scheduling staff meetings at times they knew Hannon could not attend; not giving Hannon adequate notice of staff meetings; requiring Hannon to have her City Council presentations reviewed in advance by outside auditors; and generally holding Hannon to a different standard than her male counterparts. Additionally, Hannon alleges that Defendants retaliated against her for her whistleblowing activities (internal complaints about the City's contract attorney improperly inflating invoices) and her political affiliation (Hannon supported the City's Mayor, Nicholas Helmer, who was allegedly Williamson's rival).

         Hannon charges that Defendants took a series of retaliatory and discriminatory adverse employment actions against her, beginning in July 2016. Williamson and Wade apparently sought to reduce her pay while increasing her required hours in the office. Hannon alleges that Williamson and Wade told her that if she would not accept full time employment with the City, they would terminate her. On July 25, 2016, the City Council changed Hannon's job classification from part-time hourly to full-time salaried-a move Hannon alleges the City took to force her to give up her part-time work in Fox Lake. By May 2017, Defendants posted a job advertisement for Hannon's position. On June 5, 2017, Defendants terminated Hannon's employment.

         Hannon brings eight counts: (1) gender discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against all Defendants; (2) gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, against the City; (3) retaliation in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against all Defendants; (4) retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, against the City; (5) retaliation in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, against the City; (6) political retaliation against constitutionally protected speech in violation of the First Amendment, against all Defendants; (7) violation of the Illinois Whistleblower's Act, against the City; and (8) common law retaliatory discharge, against the City.

         Defendants now move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss Counts II and V as untimely and Count VI as failing to state a claim. The Court will analyze each count in turn.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of a complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). 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.” Id. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, or “mere conclusory statements, ” do not suffice to state a claim. Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Count II: Title VII Gender Discrimination

         Count II asserts that the City discriminated against Hannon on the basis of her gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). Defendants assert that Count II should be dismissed because Hannon failed to bring this claim ...


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