United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
Charles P. Kocoras United States District Judge.
the Court is Defendant Jewel Food Stores, Inc.'s
(“Jewel”) motion to dismiss Plaintiff Billy
Earl's (“Earl”) amended complaint pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Also before the
Court is Defendant Highway Drivers, Dockmen, Spotters,
Rampmen, Meat, Packing House, and Allied Products Drivers and
Helpers, Officer Workers and Miscellaneous Employees Local
Union No. 710's (“Local 710”) (collectively,
“Defendants”) motion for judgment on the
pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).
For the following reasons, the Court grants both motions.
purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true the
following facts from the amended complaint. Murphy v.
Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717 (7th Cir. 1995). All reasonable
inferences are drawn in Earl's favor. Tamayo v.
Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).
Earl is an African American male who resides in Cook County,
Illinois. From September 1988 until July 7, 2017, Earl was
employed by Defendant Jewel, a supermarket chain with its
principal place of business in Boise, Idaho. As part of his
employment, Earl belonged to Local 710, the sole and
exclusive bargaining agent of Jewel employees engaged in
warehousing operations at Jewel's warehouses in Melrose
Park, Illinois. At all relevant times, Earl's employment
was governed by a collective bargaining agreement between
Local 710 and Jewel.
most recent role at Jewel, Earl worked in the Maintenance and
Sanitation Department as a Recoup Worker in Melrose Park,
Illinois. Stephen Cohen (“Cohen”), William
Knedler (“Knedler”), and Fred Casey
(“Casey”), all Caucasian men, were among
2016 and 2017, Earl alleges that “Cohen regularly
falsely accused Earl of sleeping on the job, being lazy, and
not doing any work, and eating while working.” Earl
noted that Cohen did not direct similar comments to
non-African American employees.
to the amended complaint, Jewel employees were allowed to
briefly leave the warehouse during winter months to heat up
their cars before the end of their shift. Earl alleges that
Cohen and Casey would admonish him for leaving to heat up his
car but would not admonish non-African American employees
that did so.
2016 or 2017, Earl's union representatives warned him
that Knedler, Cohen, Casey, and other Jewel supervisors
“were determined to force him out of his employment at
Jewel.” Casey would allegedly ask Jewel managers during
meetings when they intended to dismiss Earl. These collective
activities led Earl to report racial discrimination to Local
710. However, according to the amended complaint, Local 710
did not investigate or take any further action regarding
his concerns, Earl remained in Jewel's employ and subject
to the collective bargaining agreement. According to the
agreement, “union members had the right to take an
extra day off if a holiday fell within the employee's
vacation period, and the employee properly notified Jewel in
advance of his intention to take the day off.” Earl
regularly selected vacation and personal holidays that he
wished to take off and would submit those dates to his
supervisor for approval using the standard vacation request
form. Earl indicated his intent to take an extra day off
during a holiday period by indicating “Ex. Day”
next to each relevant vacation week that he requested.
2016, Earl attempted to utilize this policy to request off
July 5, 2016, however, Jewel denied Earl's request.
Unaware that his time off was not approved, Earl took off on
July 5, 2016. Jewel issued Earl a warning for this incident
because he did not call the company prior to his unapproved
absence, which they considered a “No Call/No
February 1, 2017, Earl selected his vacation days for the
year, including the week ending on June 2, 2017. As May 29,
2017 was a holiday, Earl elected to take off June 5, 2017 by
marking “Ex. Day” on his vacation request form.
According to the amended complaint, Knedler approved
Earl's request on February 6, 2017. Jewel manager Dan
Carol (“Carol”) gave Earl three photocopies of
his approved vacation request form, signed by Knedler.
did not show up for work on June 5, 2017, believing that his
requested time off was approved. The following day at work,
Earl was called into a meeting with Jewel employees Gary
Michelini (“Michelini”) and Chuck Blanton
(“Blanton”) and Local 710 representative Al
Wiegel (“Wiegel”) to discuss his absence, which
they characterized as his second “No Call/No
16, 2017, Earl attended another meeting with Local 710
representative Jimmy Bradford (“Bradford”),
Knedler, and Jewel employee Chris Herrick
(“Herrick”). At the meeting, Knedler claimed that
he did not authorize Earl's time off on June 5, 2017. In
response, Earl produced a copy of the approved vacation
request form that Casey handed to him in February. Knedler
claimed that the original document in his office did not
match Earl's copy. Bradford viewed the document in
Knedler's office and “informed Earl that parts of
it appeared to have been erased using a correction fluid or
29, 2017, Jewel suspended Earl without pay and accused him of
falsifying a company record. On July 7, 2017, Jewel
terminated Earl's employment, causing Local 710 to file a
grievance on Earl's behalf. The grievance proceeded to
arbitration on July 13, 2018, during which attorney Laurence
Goodman (“Goodman”) represented Local 710.
September 26, 2018, arbitrator Brian Clauss
(“Clauss”) issued a decision denying Local
710's grievance of Earl's termination. Clauss
concluded that the accurate copy of the approved vacation
request form was that produced by Knedler, not the copy
produced by Earl. On November 28, 2018, Local 710 mailed a
copy of the arbitration decision to Earl. Earl asked to
return to his job at Jewel or a substantially similar
position in February 2019, but he has not been re-hired.
the grievance process progressed, Earl filed a charged
against Jewel and Local 710 with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on April 3, 2018,
claiming race discrimination. On September 24, 2018, the EEOC
issued Earl a right to sue letter regarding his charges
against Jewel. On February 5, 2019, the EEOC did the same
regarding Earl's charges against Local 710. Earl filed a
second charge with the EEOC on December 18, 2018, alleging
continued retaliation and age discrimination. The EEOC issued
Earl a third right to sue letter for the claims in his second
charge on February 14, 2019.
on these events, Earl filed his initial complaint on December
18, 2018, alleging various counts of racial discrimination,
retaliation, breach of duty of fair representation, and
breach of collective bargaining agreement, among others. Earl
amended his complaint on April 12, 2019 to include additional
claims of race and age discrimination. On May 2, 2019, Jewel
filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). The following day, Local 710 filed a
motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(c).