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Quarles v. Merrillville Community School Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

December 22, 2017




         This matter comes before the court on defendant Merrillville Community School Corporation's motion for partial judgment on the pleadings. (DE # 36.) For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Williams Quarles was employed by defendant Merrillville Community School Corporation (the “School”) as a custodian from 1992 until his resignation on July 7, 2016. (DE # 31 at 3-5.) Plaintiff is African-American. (DE # 31 at 3.) He claims that the School, through its agents and employees, first discriminated against him on the basis of his race in 1989, when his application for a position at the School was denied. (Id.) He subsequently filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Plaintiff alleges that the School continued to retaliate and discriminate against him from that point forward. (Id.)

         According to plaintiff, he has been denied promotion opportunities based on his age, race, and in retaliation for filing EEOC charges against the School. (Id. at 3-4.) He alleges that less senior white employees were favored for promotions, and claims that the School ultimately forced him to resign. (Id. at 3-4.) On July 7, 2016, he was called into a meeting with administrators from the School and union, who were all white. (Id.) During the meeting, School administrators allegedly told plaintiff that if he did not voluntarily resign, he would be fired. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff claims that he chose to resign in order to preserve his right to retirement benefits. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges six counts of discrimination and retaliation. (DE # 31.) In Count I, plaintiff argues that defendant, through its agents, engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. In Counts II and III, plaintiff argues that defendant intentionally discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (Id. at 6-9.) In Count IV, plaintiff alleges that defendant constructively discharged him in violation of State law. (Id. at 9.) In Count V, plaintiff argues that defendant is liable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his right to equal protection and due process of the law. (Id. at 10-11.) Finally, in Count VI, plaintiff claims that defendant is liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Id. at 11-12.) Defendant has filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, arguing that many of the claims in the amended complaint must be dismissed. (DE # 36.)


         In reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), the court applies the same standard that is applied when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp., 499 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007). That means that the court “take[s] the facts alleged in the complaint as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Id. The complaint must contain only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While there is no need for detailed factual allegations, the complaint must “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Pisciotta, 499 F.3d at 633 (citation omitted). Factual allegations must also be sufficient to raise a right to relief above the “speculative level” to the level of “plausible.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). 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, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Failure to Exhaust

         Defendant argues that many of the claims in plaintiff's amended complaint were not identified in plaintiff's relevant EEOC charges, and thus must be dismissed for failure to exhaust. “A Title VII plaintiff may bring only those claims that were included in her EEOC charge, or that are ‘like or reasonably related to' the allegations of the charge.” Kuhn v. United Airlines, Inc., 640 F. App'x 534, 537 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal citation omitted). “Courts review the scope of an EEOC charge liberally.” Huri v. Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook Cty., 804 F.3d 826, 831 (7th Cir. 2015). There must be a reasonable relationship between the allegations in the EEOC charge and the claims alleged in the complaint. Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1030 (7th Cir. 2013). This includes claims that could reasonably be expected to grow out of an EEOC investigation of the allegations in the charge. Id. “The relevant claim and the EEOC charge must, at a minimum, describe the same conduct and implicate the same individuals.” Huri, 804 F.3d at 831-32. Moreover, claims are only deemed to be “reasonably related” if there is a factual relationship between the claims. Whitaker v. Milwaukee Cty., Wisconsin, 772 F.3d 802, 812-13 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge on May 16, 2016.[1] This charge stated:

I am an African American who is 55 yrs old, who was hired in 1992 by the Respondent. I have been denied the same equal treatment afforded to Respondent's white employees who are younger than me (under 55/yrs), by the Respondent's White Principal, Lisa Patrick. On May 6, 2016, I was given a letter and requested to attend a meeting on May 9, 2016, that could result in disciplinary actions, by the Respondent's white Director of Operations, Joe Bardeson. On that date, I was given a reprimand for bringing a student to the Principal's office following a mandate to report students who had cell phones. However Joe Bardeson, Director of Operations has reported students in violation of the same cell phone policy and it did not result in any disciplinary actions against him as it has me. I believe that had I been a white adult employee, like Mr. Bardeson, I would not have been disciplined with a reprimand for reporting a student in violation of school policy as instructed by the white Principal.
I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my race/African American in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended and my age 55/yrs old in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

(DE # 37.)

         Plaintiff filed an additional EEOC charge on July 13, ...

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