195 F.3d 950 (7th Cir. 1999), 99-1317, Scott v. City of Chicago

Docket Nº:99-1317
Citation:195 F.3d 950
Party Name:Alice Scott, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. City of Chicago, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:November 01, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 950

195 F.3d 950 (7th Cir. 1999)

Alice Scott, Plaintiff-Appellant,


City of Chicago, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 99-1317

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

November 1, 1999

Argued October 6, 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 98 C 3381--Wayne R. Andersen, Judge.

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Before Eschbach, Flaum, and Kanne, Circuit Judges.

Flaum, Circuit Judge.

Alice Scott, an Assistant Commissioner of Systemwide Services at the Chicago Public Library, sued the City of Chicago ("City") under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") for taking actions that "lessen[ed her] job responsibilities" on account of her race and age. The district court dismissed her complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because it failed to specify what adverse employment actions were taken against her. Because Scott's complaint, taken as a whole, provided the City with sufficient notice of the nature of her claim, we reverse and remand.


From 1963 until 1998, Scott was employed by the City at the Chicago Public Library as Assistant Commissioner of Systemwide Services. She alleged that in 1997, when she was the highest ranking African-American employed by the Library, the City "undertook a variety of actions to lessen [her] job responsibilities". Scott also alleged that her age and race were significant factors that motivated the City to lessen her job responsibilities. As a result, Scott alleged that she suffered embarrassment and humiliation.

Scott filed her complaint under 42 U.S.C. sec.2000e-2(a)(1) ("Title VII") and 29 U.S.C. sec.623(a)(1), the ADEA. The City moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Scott's complaint was insufficient as a matter of law because it did not allege an adverse employment action. Scott responded on the basis of Bennett v. Schmidt, 153 F.3d 516 (7th Cir. 1998), that her complaint met liberal notice pleading requirements.

The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss. The district court, granting Scott leave to amend her complaint, noted that she needed to "identify with greater particularity" the adverse employment actions taken by the City to meet the liberal notice pleading standards of Rule 12(b)(6). Scott declined to amend, and appealed.


We review a motion to dismiss de novo. See Fischer v. First Chicago Capital Markets, Inc., (7th Cir. Sep. 20, 1999). A complaint will not be dismissed unless it is clear that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts consistent with her allegations that would entitle her to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)).

Federal notice pleading requires the plaintiff to set out in her complaint a short and plain statement of the claim that will provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim. See Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993). However, a "complaint need not spell out every element of a legal theory" to provide notice. See Hemenway v. Peabody Coal Co., 159 F.3d 255, 261 (7th Cir. 1998) (contrasting notice pleading with heightened pleading, i.e., "the who, what, when, where and how" required for fraud claims); see also Jackson v. Marion County, 66 F.3d 151, 154 (7th Cir. 1995) (stating that a plaintiff can plead conclusions as long as those conclusions provide the defendant with minimal

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notice of the claim). Similarly, in Payton v....

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