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Sheaffer v. Glendale Nissan, Inc.

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

January 6, 2020

ROBERT SHEAFFER, Plaintiff,
v.
GLENDALE NISSAN, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Following his termination from Glendale Nissan, Inc., Plaintiff Robert Sheaffer filed this action claiming that Glendale Nissan: violated the Illinois Whistleblower Act, 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 174/1 et seq. (Count I); improperly discharged Sheaffer in retaliation for reporting instances of fraud, violating Illinois common law (Count II) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000-e3(a) (Count IV); subjected Sheaffer to a hostile work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000-e2 (Count III); violated the Illinois Gender Violence Act (“IGVA”), 740 Ill. Comp. Stat. 82/1 et seq. (Count V); discriminated against Sheaffer based on his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (Count VI); and violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (“IWPCA”), 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 115/1 et seq. (Count VII). Glendale Nissan now moves to dismiss Sheaffer's IGVA and IWPCA claims (Counts V and VII). Because Sheaffer does not adequately state a claim under the IGVA, the Court dismisses Count V without prejudice. But because Sheaffer does adequately state a claim under the IWPCA, the Court denies in part Glendale Nissan's motion to dismiss.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Sheaffer began working for Glendale Nissan as its Director of Finance in April 2016. When he joined, each financing deal that Glendale Nissan made was under a detailed review because of past questionable practices with its car loan documents. As a result, Sheaffer's responsibilities included rebuilding a rapport with banks and ensuring that Glendale Nissan eliminated all questionable practices.

         Shortly after he began working at Glendale Nissan, Sheaffer learned that many of the questionable practices were still ongoing, including that the Finance Manager was calling in potential car sales to banks to obtain financing on a customers' behalf, but was knowingly giving the bank false information about the amount needed to finance the sale. Sheaffer demanded that the Finance Manager cease the fraud and reported the fraud to the Acting General Manager. Sheaffer also learned that new and used car sales employees were regularly engaged in a practice called “power booking.” “Power booking” is the practice of falsely and fraudulently telling financing banks that the car at issue had added features, such as a sunroof or navigation system, when the employee knew that the car did not possess those features. By implementing this practice, employees could obtain higher financing for the car and increase the revenue gained by the sale at the expense of the financing bank. Sheaffer continually reported this fraud to the Acting General Manager.

         On March 10, 2018, the Used Car Manager presented Sheaffer with a contract for him to submit for financing. However, when Sheaffer reviewed the contract and compared it against other documents, he determined that the customer's listed social security number did not match the customer's date of birth and was likely fraudulent. When Sheaffer reported the fraud to the General Sales Manager, the General Sales Manager asked him to change the customer's date of birth to match the listed social security number and submit it to the bank for financing. After Sheaffer refused to participate, the General Sales Manager created a fake social security number, called a bank with which Sheaffer had a close relationship, and used Sheaffer's name to complete the financing deal using the false and fraudulent information. Sheaffer reported this to the Acting General Manager. Three days later, on March 13, 2018, Glendale Nissan terminated Sheaffer.

         While he worked at Glendale Nissan, Sheaffer regularly saw explicit drawings and cartoons that the General Sales Manager had posted around the office. The General Sales Manager also told Sheaffer that he would perform sexual acts on Sheaffer if he closed a deal or got the Manager a good rate on financing for a customer. The Director of Used Cars also regularly made explicit sexual comments to Sheaffer. Similarly, one of Glendale Nissan's employees regularly asked if he could perform sexual acts on Sheaffer. This employee grabbed Sheaffer in a sexual way by sneaking up behind him, grabbing and squeezing him so hard that Sheaffer suffered a rib injury. In December 2017, Sheaffer complained to the Acting General Manager about these incidents. Rather than investigate or correct incidents of this nature, the Acting General Manager told Sheaffer to “man the **** up, ” to have “thicker skin, ” and that they were only joking. Doc. 1 ¶ 39.

         While Sheaffer worked at Glendale Nissan, he received comments about his age. The Operations Manager regularly called Sheaffer an “old man” and a “dinosaur.” Id. ¶ 47. One of Glendale Nissan's employees regularly asked Sheaffer “what it was like to know Moses, ” if he understood “what a computer is, ” and “why don't you retire, old man.” Id. ¶ 48. Several other employees informed Sheaffer that the management team did not like him because of his age and he personally witnessed a manager state that he wanted to “get rid of all the old timers.” Id. ¶ 50. Finally, when Sheaffer raised a pay disparity issue between what Glendale Nissan agreed to pay him during the hiring process and his actual payment, the former General Manager informed Sheaffer that his pay was lower “because of his age, ” and because he “was not young blood.” Id. ¶ 51. After Glendale Nissan terminated Sheaffer, it replaced him with a man in his mid-30's. Sheaffer filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on May 24, 2018 regarding the age discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation he experienced. On March 22, 2019, the EEOC issued Sheaffer a “Notice of Right to Sue;” after which, Sheaffer filed the present action.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         ANALYSIS

         I. IGVA Claim (Count V)

         The IGVA states, in pertinent part:

Any person who has been subjected to gender-related violence . . . may bring a civil action for damages, injunctive relief, or other appropriate relief against a person or persons perpetrating that gender-related violence. For purposes of this section, “perpetrating” means either personally committing the gender-related violence ...

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