Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Rosebud Rests., Inc.

Decision Date07 April 2015
Docket NumberNo. 13–cv–06656,13–cv–06656
Citation85 F.Supp.3d 1002
PartiesEqual Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff, v. Rosebud Restaurants, Inc., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Diane Ilene Smason, Justin Mulaire, United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, John C. Hendrickson, Ann M. Henry, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Jennifer Anne Naber, Antonio Caldarone, Joseph Michael Gagliardo, Laner, Mutchin, Dombrow, Becker, Levin, and Tominberg, Ltd., Chicago, IL, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Andrea R. Wood, United States District Judge

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges that Defendant Rosebud Restaurants Inc. and thirteen of its related corporate entities (collectively, Defendants)1 had a practice of refusing to hire African–Americans because of their race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 17.) For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

The EEOC's complaint alleges that Rosebud Restaurants Inc. manages the operations of the other Defendants, and that together Defendants are joint employers or, collectively, a single employer of the individuals working at each Defendant restaurant. (Compl.¶¶ 24–25, Dkt. No. 1.) The complaint further alleges that from November 2009 to the present, Defendants have failed or refused to hire African–Americans because of their race. (Id. ¶ 27.) According to the complaint, Alex Dana, the individual who owns or controls Defendants, “has expressed a preference not to hire black job applicants.” (Id. ) As a result of this preference, few African–Americans are employed at Defendants' restaurants and most of the restaurants had no African–American employees at the time of the filing of the administrative charge that preceded this action. (Id. ) The EEOC claims that Defendants' discrimination was intentional and done with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally-protected rights of a class of African–Americans in violation of § 703(a)(1) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–2(a).

In addition to the discrimination claim, the EEOC also alleges that from November 2009 to the present, Defendants have failed to make and preserve records relevant to the determination of whether unlawful employment practices have been committed in a violation of § 709(c) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–8(c). The complaint specifies that Defendants failed to preserve employment applications for one year and failed to file required EEO–1 employer information reports before 2009.

With the present motion, Defendants contend that the complaint fails to state a claim for relief and seek its dismissal. Specifically, Defendants argue that § 706 of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–5, the provision cited by the EEOC as authority for its claims, requires a complaint to name an individual aggrieved by the alleged discrimination and that no such individual has been named here. Defendants also argue that the complaint, in specifying that they failed to file EEO–1 reports before 2009, concedes Defendants' current compliance with their record-keeping obligations and forecloses any claim for further relief.

DISCUSSION

For purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are taken as true and all inferences are drawn in favor of the non-moving party. In re marchFIRST Inc., 589 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir.2009). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must provide enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, and to show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir.2008). The amount of detail required to meet this threshold varies with the complexity of the issues raised by the complaint. Id. In the Title VII context, the Seventh Circuit has described the necessary pleading detail as “minimal.” Id. at 1084.

Defendants here contend that a complaint under § 706 must name a specific individual aggrieved by the alleged discrimination and that the EEOC's complaint in this case is insufficient because it fails to identify such a person. Their contention is based in part on the contrast between the language of § 706 and its neighboring provision, § 707 of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–6. Section 707 allows for the filing of a civil action against an employer “engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of any of the rights secured by this subchapter.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–6(a). Section 706, in contrast, does not contain the “pattern or practice” phrase. Thus, according to Defendants, the EEOC is authorized to bring actions under § 706 to assert the rights of aggrieved individuals and that at least one injured individual must be named in a complaint brought under that provision.

This argument is not supported by the language of Title VII, however. Section 706's authorization of EEOC actions contains no provision limiting such actions to matters brought on behalf of individuals. Instead, the EEOC is authorized under § 706 to prevent “any person from engaging in any unlawful employment practice” prohibited by Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–5(a). It is undisputed that the failure to hire an individual because of his race is a practice made unlawful by § 703(a)(1) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–2(a)(1). When performed on a regular, purposeful, and widespread basis, such actions remain a subset of the discrimination prohibited by Title VII. Puffer v. Allstate Ins. Co., 675 F.3d 709, 716 (7th Cir.2012). Because widespread discriminatory actions are within the category of discrimination prohibited by Title VII, they are also within the authority granted to the EEOC by § 706. See Serrano v. Cintas Corp., 699 F.3d 884, 896 (6th Cir.2012).

The Supreme Court has confirmed that the EEOC has the authority to bring actions under § 706 in its own name. Gen. Tel. of the Nw., Inc. v. EEOC, 446 U.S. 318, 324–25, 100 S.Ct. 1698, 64 L.Ed.2d 319 (1980). In such actions, the EEOC “is not merely a proxy for the victims of discrimination,” but is acting “to vindicate the public interest in preventing employment discrimination.” Id. at 326, 100 S.Ct. 1698 ; see also EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc., 534 U.S. 279, 297–98, 122 S.Ct. 754, 151 L.Ed.2d 755 (2002). The conclusion that the EEOC may pursue widespread discrimination through an action under § 706 combined with the conclusion that it may pursue § 706 actions in its own name dictates the further conclusion that the EEOC may use that section to bring a civil action “in its own name to challenge a practice or policy that represents ongoing discrimination.” EEOC v. Harvey L. Walner & Assoc., 91 F.3d 963, 968 (7th Cir.1996). These conclusions weigh in opposition to Defendants' argument that the EEOC must name an aggrieved individual to state a sufficient claim for relief in the present case.

Defendants cite a single precedent in support of the pleading requirement they advocate, EEOC v. Bass Pro Outdoor World, LLC, 884 F.Supp.2d 499 (S.D.Tex.2012), reconsidered on other grounds, 35 F.Supp.3d 836 (2014). But the Bass Pro court did not find the EEOC's complaint insufficient solely on the basis of a failure to name aggrieved individuals. Rather, the court found the small number of racial incidents alleged to be too few and isolated to raise a plausible inference of a nationwide pattern or practice under § 707. 884 F.Supp.2d at 517. The allegations of the complaint in the present action are readily distinguishable. Here, the EEOC alleges that a single person who either owns or controls each of the Defendant entities possessed the intent to discriminate on the basis of race and...

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    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • September 11, 2015
    ...in § 706 or § 707, however, does not restrict the EEOC's ability to assert a pattern-or-practice claim."); EEOC v. Rosebud Restaurants, Inc.,85 F.Supp.3d 1002, 1005 (N.D.Ill.2015) ("Because widespread discriminatory actions are within the category of discrimination prohibited by Title VII, ......
  • Lawton v. Weil Foot & Ankle Inst., LLC
    • United States
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    • November 6, 2018
    ...VII context, the Seventh Circuit has described the necessary pleading detail as "minimal." Id. at 1084.EEOC v. Rosebud Restaurants, Inc., 85 F. Supp. 3d 1002, 1004-05 (N.D. Ill. 2015). Defendant argues that plaintiff's complaint does not contain sufficient details as to the causal link betw......

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