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White v. Fidelity Brokerage Services, LLC

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

November 15, 2019

SEAN WHITE, Plaintiff,

          Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole



         Defendant Fidelity Brokerage Services, LLC (“Fidelity”) moves to dismiss Counts I through III of Plaintiff Sean White's First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, Fidelity's motion to dismiss is denied [23].


         Plaintiff brings claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., after he allegedly endured racial, sexual, and religious discrimination while employed by Fidelity and was fired by Fidelity in retaliation for complaining about the same. (See Am. Compl. at ¶ 1, ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff is a white, Catholic male. (Id. at ¶ 16.) From February 2015 through September 2017, plaintiff worked for Fidelity at its branch in Orland Park, Illinois; plaintiff initially worked as a “financial representative” and then later as a “relationship manager.” (Id. at ¶¶ 17, 20, 39.) Plaintiff's job duties included providing “customer service and operational support” for Fidelity's clients. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

         Plaintiff alleges that, beginning in or around 2016 and lasting into 2017, he was “subjected to discrimination and harassment, based on his race, sex and religion, ” by his “non-White, non- Catholic female sales supervisor” Sandra Bennett (“Bennett”). (Id. at ¶¶ 21, 29.)[1] This harassment included, but was not limited to, the following incidents:

[1] repeated sexually explicit stories by Bennett of her and her husband being drunk and naked at home, engaged in sexual activity; [2] being asked by Bennett to look at her legs and asked if [plaintiff] found them ‘sexy'; [3] Bennett explaining that her son was having issues because her husband had ‘old sperm'; [4] offensive racial slurs by Bennett, including the repeated use of the word ‘cracker'; [5] unwelcome comments about Hispanic people who struggled with speaking English and how they all need to go back to Mexico and learn English before coming here; [6] repeated questions about how [plaintiff] could be Catholic as Bennett said all Catholic priests are child predators.

(Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that in February 2017, Bennett learned plaintiff was dating a “black physician” and told plaintiff that “he could not handle a strong, independent black woman and that [plaintiff's] girlfriend should meet Bennett's son when things don't work out.” (Id. at ¶ 30.)

         As early as January 2016, plaintiff complained about Bennett's behavior to his manager, Gary Fusz (“Fusz”), who “indicated [Plainitff] was in a hostile work environment” and directed plaintiff to speak with Amy Keene, who worked in Human Resources at Fidelity. (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.) Soon thereafter, Bennett was told about plaintiff's complaint and confronted plaintiff, telling him that “it was ridiculous he would stir up trouble like that for her” and that her son “wanted to find out who started all this trouble and beat their ass.” (Id. at ¶27.) Plaintiff again reported Bennett's behavior to Fidelity management, but Fusz told him nothing could be done. (Id. at ¶¶ 28, 34.)

         Thereafter, plaintiff was given the new job title of “Relationship Manager” at Fidelity but alleges that Fidelity “did not allow [him] to actually take on the new role of Relationship Manager presented as a promotion, ” and the more plaintiff complained, the more Fidelity diminished his duties and responsibilities. (Id. at ¶ 31-33.) Then, in September 2017, Fidelity fired plaintiff for allegedly violating company policy relating to a computer reimbursement program it offered its employees. (Id. at ¶¶ 36-39.) Plaintiff filed the instant suit in January 2019 and filed his First Amended Complaint in April 2019. The First Amended Complaint includes four claims brought under Title VII: (Count I) racial discrimination; (Count II) sexual discrimination; (Count III) religious discrimination; and (Count IV) retaliation. (See generally id.) Fidelity now moves to dismiss Counts I through III. (See generally Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 23.)


         “A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted.” Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under federal notice-pleading standards, a plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Stated differently, “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) (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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 556). A plaintiff must plead enough details “to present a story that holds together…[b]ut the proper question to ask is still ‘could these things have happened, not did they happen.'” Carlson v. CSX Transp., Inc., 758 F.3d 819, 827 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404-05 (7th Cir. 2010)) (citations omitted). The Court accepts “as true all of the well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Platt v. Brown, 872 F.3d 848, 851 (7th Cir. 2017).


         Fidelity argues that two independent reasons warrant dismissal of Counts I through III. First, Fidelity argues that the “vast majority” of plaintiff's allegations supporting his claims are time-barred, and thus, the claims must be dismissed. (See ECF No. 24 at 1.) Second, Fidelity argues that plaintiff fails to state claims because plaintiff fails to allege he was harassed because of his race, gender, or religion and also fails to plausibly allege that the ...

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