United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
G. REINHARD, JUDGE
reasons stated below, defendant's motion for partial
judgment on the pleadings  is denied.
Dominic Washington, brings this action against defendant,
Nascote Industries, Inc., his former employer, alleging race
discrimination (Count I) and retaliation (Count II) in
violation of 42 U.S.C § 1981, race discrimination (Count
III) and retaliation (Count IV) in violation of Title VII
(“Title VII”) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
breach of contract (Count V), promissory estoppel (Count VI),
negligent retention (Count VII), violation of ERISA (Count
VIII) and violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act, 740
ILCS 174/15 (Count IX). The court has jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. §§ 1331and 1367(a). Defendant moves  for
judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) on
all but the Count VIII ERISA claim.
facts are taken from plaintiff's amended complaint.
Plaintiff is an African-American man who worked for defendant
from December 12, 2016 until September 28, 2017 when his
employment was terminated. Plaintiff was hired by defendant
for a position as an assembly process engineering manager.
All plaintiff's pre-employment interviews were by phone.
Defendant was not aware plaintiff was African-American until
he started work. Plaintiff was the only African-American
employee in his department. In May 2017, plaintiff's
direct supervisor, Martin Tremonti, demoted plaintiff to an
inferior non-degree position as a production manager. The
demotion substantially reduced plaintiff's job
responsibilities. In his original position he supervised five
to eight engineers and was involved in implementing new
processes and Professionally-fulfilling technical
discussions. After his demotion, he was required to perform
demeaning tasks for long periods of time. Prior to his
demotion he worked approximately 50 hours per week. After his
demotion, he was forced to work for more than 80 hours per
week and for several weeks without a day off.
his employment with defendant, plaintiff was subjected to
racial discrimination, alienation, and humiliation. Tremonti,
his supervisor, consistently used racial slurs in reference
to plaintiff. On one occasion he referred to plaintiff as
“Tiger Woods” in a demeaning manner. At other
times he asked plaintiff if he wore a “do-rag”.
Plaintiff was treated differently than his white
counterparts. He was denied access to professional training
opportunities that similarly situated white employees had
access to, even after plaintiff requested such access.
Tremonti offered plaintiff's white counterparts five to
seven days to relocate their families but plaintiff was only
given one day to relocate his family from Indiana to
Illinois. Plaintiff was subjected to humiliation when he was
instructed by Tremonti to wipe down the facility, mop floors,
paint bins and carts in his professional attire. Tremonti did
not subject plaintiff's similarly situated white
counterparts to this humiliation. Plaintiff was subjected to
unequal, discriminatory treatment and a hostile work
environment based on his race.
August 25, 2017, plaintiff filed an EEOC charge of race
discrimination. After receiving notice of the charge,
defendant fired plaintiff in September 2017. Plaintiff
asserts his termination was in retaliation for filing the
EEOC discrimination charge.
motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is governed by the same
standards as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Rule 12(b)(6)." Adams v. City of
Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2014)
(citation omitted). All of the factual allegations of the
complaint are taken as true and the complaint “must
describe the claim in sufficient detail to give defendant
fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds on which it
rests.” Guzman v. Target Corp., No. 18 CV
4508, 2018 WL 5977924, * 2 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 14, 2018). [I]ts
allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a
right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative
level.” Id. "In addition, a Rule 12(c)
motion is appropriate only when 'it is clear that the
merits of the controversy can be fairly and fully decided in
this summary manner.' Wright & Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure, § 1369 (3d ed.)."
Birch|Rea Partners, Inc. v. Regent Bank, No.
18-CV-30, 2019 WL 2067358 * 1 (N.D. Ind. May 10, 2019).
elements and proof for Section 1981 claims are essentially
identical to Title VII claims and do not need to be
separately analyzed. Brown v. Advocate South Suburban
Hosp., 700 F.3d 1101, 1104 n.1 (7th Cir.
2012). Looking to the race discrimination claims of Counts I
and III, plaintiff need only plead that his employer
instituted a specified adverse employment action against him
based on his race. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d
1074, 1084 (7th Cir. 2008). Plaintiff alleges he
was demoted because of his race. This is sufficient to give
defendant “notice to enable [it] to begin to
investigate and prepare a defense, ” which is all that
is required of plaintiff. Id., at 1085.
plead a hostile work environment claim, plaintiff need only
allege the type of discrimination, the whom, and the when.
Huri v. Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of
Cook County, 804 F.3d 826, 834 (7th Cir.
2015). Plaintiff alleges he was harassed on account of his
race, by his supervisor, throughout the course of his
employment. He does not at this point have to plead facts to
show “just how abusive [his] work environment
the retaliation claims of Counts II and IV, plaintiff need
only allege that he engaged in statutorily protected activity
and was subjected to an adverse employment action.
Id., at 833. Plaintiff alleges he filed an EEOC race
discrimination charge and was fired because of it. Plaintiff
has met his pleading requirement for retaliation claims.
argues plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies for the Title VII retaliation claim (Count IV)
because he did not file a timely EEOC charge claiming
retaliation.However, when the plaintiff's claim is
that he was retaliated against for filing the original charge
of discrimination a second charge charging retaliation for
filing the first charge is not a prerequisite to suing for
retaliation under Title VII. Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1030 (7th Cir. 2013);
Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, No. 3:14-CV-
1791, 2018 WL 3198888, * 7-8 (N.D. Ind. May 4, 2018).
also seeks judgment on the pleadings for the state law claims
asserted in Counts V, VI, VII, and IX. Count V claims breach
of contract. “Under Illinois law, a plaintiff looking
to state a colorable breach of contract claim must allege
four elements: (1) the existence of a valid and enforceable
contract; (2) substantial performance by the plaintiff; (3) a
breach by the defendant; and (4) resultant damages.”
Sevugan v. Direct Energy Services, LLC, 931 F.3d
610, 614 (7th Cir. 2019) (quotation marks and
complaint alleges plaintiff received a written offer of
employment on behalf of defendant from its agent Josh Gasaway
effective December 12, 2016. “Under the terms of the
offer: a. Plaintiff would be entitled to an annual salary of
$94, 000 and other benefits, including a profit sharing plan,
an annual bonus and professional training opportunities; b.
Plaintiff would perform the duties assigned to him by the
Assembly Department Manager for each project until complete;
c. Defendant could only terminate Plaintiff's employment
under limited circumstances, including for cause, with
appropriate notice.” (Dkt # 10, ¶ 13) Plaintiff
was assigned a project that was projected to last at least 6
years. “At relevant times, there existed a valid and
enforceable employment contract between Plaintiff and
Defendant, in which Plaintiff agreed to work for defendant
until his assigned projects were completed, or for at least 6
years, in exchange for an annual salary and other
benefits.” (Id., ¶ 72) The complaint
alleges “[o]n or about December 2, 2016, Plaintiff
accepted a written offer of employment from Defendant,
effective December 12, 2016, by executing a series of
documents that were also signed by Defendant's authorized
agents, and subsequently supplemented with other written
terms.” (Id., ¶ 77) “The documents
that Plaintiff signed incorporated other writings that formed
a promise of employment unambiguous in terms by Defendant
that: a. guaranteed Plaintiff a reasonable expectation of
continued employment for at least 6 years; b. entitled
Plaintiff to an annual base salary, bonus pay and other
benefits, including severance, profits, retirement and health
care benefits.” (Id., ¶ 78) Plaintiff