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Jafri v. Signal Funding, LLC

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

October 1, 2019

Farva Jafri, Plaintiff,
v.
Signal Funding LLC; 777 Partners LLC; Signal Financial Holdings LLC; and Joshua Craig Wander, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas M. Durkin Judge

         Farva Jafri alleges that her former employer discriminated against her and sexually harassed her in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act, and paid her less than male employees in violation of the federal and Illinois Equal Pay Acts. Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 17. That motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Legal Standard

          A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the “sufficiency of the complaint.” Berger v. Nat. Collegiate Athletic Assoc., 843 F.3d 285, 289 (7th Cir. 2016). A complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to provide defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully- harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While “detailed factual allegations” are not required, “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “‘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.'” Boucher v. Fin. Sys. of Green Bay, Inc., 880 F.3d 362, 366 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard, the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Tobey v. Chibucos, 890 F.3d 634, 646 (7th Cir. 2018).

         Background

          Jafri alleges that “she was employed as Chief Operating Officer of [defendant] Signal Funding, Chief Operating Officer of [defendant] Signal Financial, and as an Associate at Defendant 777 Partners.” R. 1 ¶ 19. The fourth defendant, Joshua Wander, “is a Founder and Managing Partner of 777 Partners, the parent company of the other named corporate defendants.” Id. ¶ 6. Both Signal entities operated out of an office in Highland Park, Illinois. Id. ¶¶ 2-3. The 777 Partners office is in Miami, Florida. Id. ¶ 4. Jafri initially worked out of the Highland Park office. Id. ¶ 20.

         Jafri alleges that her salary was $105, 000 with a bonus of $25, 000. Id. ¶ 24. Signal's male CEO made $325, 000 plus $175, 000 in bonus. Id. ¶ 25. Jafri also alleges that five of her male subordinates received greater compensation than she did. Id. ¶¶ 28-30. Based on these allegations about her pay relative to male colleagues, Jafri brings claims for violation of the federal and Illinois Equal Pay Acts.

         In 2017, defendant Wander transferred Jafri to 777's office in Miami, R. 1 ¶ 33, where Jafri alleges male colleagues made a number of sexually demeaning comments to her, see Id. ¶¶ 46-60. Based on these allegations of conduct in the Miami office, Jafri brings claims for violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

         Analysis

         I. Illinois Human Rights Act Claims

         A. Administrative Exhaustion

         Defendants argue that Jafri failed to administratively exhaust her IHRA claims, because she failed to “submit a copy of the EEOC's determination [to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”)] within 30 days after service of the determination by the EEOC on complainant.” 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(A-1)(1)(iv); see also 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(A-1)(2) (providing that the IDHR will only take substantive action on the EEOC determination if it “is timely notified of the EEOC's findings by complainant”); 775 ILCS 5/7A-102(A-1)(3) (“if the Department is timely notified of the EEOC's determination by complainant”). Defendants attach to their motion the IDHR investigation report showing that Jafri submitted the EEOC's determination to the IDHR 119 days after the EEOC issued its determination, see R. 17-2 at 5, more than the 30 days permitted by the statute.

         Jafri argues that this document is outside the pleadings. Maybe so, although it is referenced in the IDHR's notice of dismissal, which Jafri attached to her complaint. See Harrison v. Deere & Co., 533 Fed. App'x 644, 647 n.3 (7th Cir. 2013) (“we have ruled that the district court may take into consideration documents incorporated by reference to the pleadings”). But in any case, whether Jafri complied with the Illinois statute is a question easily answered. If Jafri wants to challenge the authenticity or accuracy of the investigation report document Defendants attach to their motion, the Court will grant her that opportunity. Otherwise, the Court finds that Jafri failed to administratively exhaust her IHRA claims.

         Jafri also argues that even if she was late in informing the IDHR of the EEOC's determination, this failure of administrative process does not require dismissal. See R. 21 at 4-5 (citing Laurie v. BeDell, 2017 WL 1076940, at *4 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 22, 2017); and Goldberg v. Chi. Sch. for Piano Tech., NFP, 2015 WL 468792, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 3, 2015)). But the two cases she cites do not support this argument. In Laurie, the court mentioned in passing that the plaintiff had transmitted her EEOC charge to the IDHR late. But Laurie focused on the impact of the plaintiff's decision to file a federal action before receiving a right to sue letter from the IDHR. The court did not address the impact of the plaintiff's late delivery of the EEOC determination to the IDHR. Neither did Goldberg address the 30-day deadline at issue here. The court ...


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