Lohrasbi v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill., No. 13-3105

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Central District of Illinois
Writing for the CourtSUE E. MYERSCOUGH
PartiesARDESHIR LOHRASBI, Plaintiff v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS and THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS and THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT SPRINGFIELD and BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT SPRINGFIELD Defendant.
Decision Date05 February 2014
Docket NumberNo. 13-3105

ARDESHIR LOHRASBI, Plaintiff
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
and THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
and THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT SPRINGFIELD
and BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF
ILLINOIS AT SPRINGFIELD Defendant.

No. 13-3105

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS SPRINGFIELD DIVISION

ENTER: February 5, 2014


OPINION

SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, U.S. District Judge:

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois's Motion to Dismiss (d/e 7) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The MOTION is GRANTED as to Counts Two and Three because Plaintiff Ardeshir Lohrasbi correctly concedes that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims. The MOTION is DENIED as to Count

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One because the Complaint does not establish Defendant's affirmative defense that Plaintiff's claim is time-barred.

I. BACKGROUND

On June 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court against the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois ("Defendant"), as well as the University of Illinois, the University of Illinois at Springfield, and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Springfield. His Complaint is based on Defendant's decisions to serve him with a notice of trespass, which banned him from campus in the last weeks of his final semester, and deny him the esteemed title of Professor Emeritus after his retirement. These decisions, Plaintiff alleges, were discriminatory actions motivated by Plaintiff's race and national origin.

Plaintiff is a citizen of the United States who was born in Iran. In 1980, he began working at the University of Illinois at Springfield and in 1986, he was made a tenured professor. According to the Complaint, his last position at the University of Illinois at Springfield was Associate Professor of Business Administration in the College of Business. The Springfield campus is part of the University of Illinois system, 110 ILCS

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327/40-5, which is governed by Defendant, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 110 ILCS 327/40-5.

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he intended to retire in December of 2011, after he completed the term. Sometime before December of 2011, Plaintiff was discussing the death of a friend and colleague, Dennis Camp, with a person or people neither party identifies. During the conversation about his friend, Plaintiff alleges he said that people sometimes react to situations with "guns and machine guns." Plaintiff maintains he was referring to people using guns to commit suicide. However, according to Plaintiff, the University construed Plaintiff's comment as a terrorist threat because of Plaintiff's race and national origin and began an investigation. The University then asked Plaintiff to meet with the Director of Human Resources, Robert Lael. Defendant contends he was unaware why the University asked him to meet with Mr. Lael.

At this meeting, which occurred on December 1, 2011, Plaintiff was given a "Notice of Trespass," which banned Plaintiff from Defendant's buildings or property for one year, "unless rescinded or extended upon

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administrative review." The Notice was issued by Donald W. Mitchell, Chief of Police of the University of Illinois at Springfield. Plaintiff refused to sign the Notice. He alleges he was then escorted from campus and forbidden from teaching his classes for the remaining weeks of the term. Choosing to follow through on his original intention, Plaintiff retired at the end of the term. In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims that unlike his white retired colleagues, he was denied the title of Professor Emeritus and the associated benefits upon his retirement. These benefits include an office on campus, access to campus resources, and the privilege of annually teaching three classes for pay.

Plaintiff alleges that he received an email from the University on March 21, 2012, inviting him to a Retirement and Recognition Ceremony on April 27, 2012. Knowing the Notice of Trespass was still enforceable, Plaintiff was unable to attend the ceremony.

On January 2, 2013, Plaintiff signed a charge of discrimination, which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") received on January 8, 2013. The charge requests that it be filed with both the EEOC and the Illinois Department of Human Rights, the

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applicable state agency. The EEOC issued a Right to Sue letter on January 28, 2013 and Plaintiff subsequently filed a Complaint in this Court. In Count One of the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., by discriminating against him because of his race and national origin when Defendant forcibly removed him from campus, declined to grant him the title of Professor Emeritus, and banished him from campus. Plaintiff alleges in Count Two that Defendant deprived him of his right to enjoy the benefits, privileges, and terms and conditions of his employment contract and his right to make and enforce contracts, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Count Three states that Defendant breached its contact with Plaintiff, violating Illinois law.

On June 24, 2013, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. Defendant argues that Counts Two and Three must be dismissed because the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims. Defendant also contends that the Court should dismiss Count

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One because Plaintiff failed to file an EEOC charge within the 300-day limitation period.

II. STANDARD

Defendant moved to dismiss Count One of Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) (6). Counts Two and Three, both parties agree, should be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

In the face of the motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), Plaintiff bears the burden of persuading the Court that subject-matter jurisdiction exists. See, e.g., Kontos v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, 826 F.2d 573, 576 (7th Cir. 1987). If the Court finds that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, it "must dismiss the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3)(emphasis added).

A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. Christensen v. Cnty. of Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007). To state a claim for relief, Plaintiff's Complaint need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing he is entitled to relief and giving Defendant fair notice of the claims. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). When considering a

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motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, accepting all well-pleaded allegations as true and construing all reasonable inferences in his favor. Id. However, the Complaint must set forth facts that plausibly demonstrate a claim for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007). Plausibility means alleging factual content that allows the Court to reasonably infer that Defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Merely reciting the elements of a cause of action or supporting claims with conclusory statements is insufficient. Id.

III. ANALYSIS

1. The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois is the Only Correct Defendant in this Case

Before addressing the merits of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, the Court notes Defendant's correction that the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois is the only proper defendant in this suit. See Memorandum of Law, d/e 8 at 1 n.1; see also 110 ILCS 305/1 (designating the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois as the governing body of the University of Illinois system). There is no separate

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Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Springfield. See 110 ILCS 327/40-5 (providing that the University of Illinois at Springfield is "under the governance and control of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois"). Therefore, the Court will consider the issues only as to the proper defendant, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. See Peirick v. Ind. Univ.-Purdue Univ. Indianapolis Ath. Dep't, 510 F.3d 681, 694 (7th Cir.2007) (noting that the athletics department of a university was not a separate legal entity that could be sued and considering the issue of immunity only as to the correct defendant).

2. Counts Two and Three Must Be Dismissed Because the Court Lacks Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

Defendant asserts that this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's § 1981 claim (Count Two) and breach of contract claim (Count Three) because Defendant, as a public university, has sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Plaintiff concedes this point and declines to put forth evidence to establish that Counts Two and Three meet the jurisdictional requirements. See Kontos, 826 F.3d at 576 (stating that plaintiff has burden of proving jurisdiction).

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The Court agrees with the parties. The Eleventh Amendment bars federal jurisdiction over suits against a state...

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