Van et al v. Ford Motor Company
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by the Honorable Sharon Johnson Coleman on 10/12/2016:Mailed notice(rth, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
CHRISTIE VAN, CHARMELLA LEVIEGE,
MARIA PRICE, HELEN ALLEN, JACQUELINE )
BARRON, THERESA BOSAN, SHRANDA
CAMPBELL, KETURAH CARTER, MICHELLE )
DAHN, TONYA EXUM, JEANNETTE
GARDNER, ARLENE GOFORTH, CHRISTINE )
HARRIS, ORISSA HENRY, LAWANDA JORDAN,)
DANIELLE KUDIRKA, TERRI LEWIS)
BLEDSOE, CONSTANCE MADISON, CEPHANI )
MILLER, MYOSHI MORRIS, STEPHANIE SZOT,)
SHIRLEY THOMAS-MOORE, ROSE THOMAS, )
TONI WILLIAMS, BERNADETTE CLYBURN, )
MARTHA CORBIN, ANGELA GLENN,
LADWYNA HOOVER, OGERY LEDBETTER, )
LATRICIA SHANKLIN, ANTOINETTE
SULLIVAN, DERRICKA THOMAS, AND
NICHEA WALLS, individually and on behalf of all )
similarly situated persons,
FORD MOTOR COMPANY,
Case No. 14 cv 8708
Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs filed a 123-Count Second Amended Complaint on behalf of themselves and all
similarly situated persons, alleging sexual harassment and hostile work environment, gender/sex
discrimination, race discrimination, retaliation, national origin discrimination, failure to
accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act, battery, and assault. 1 Defendant, Ford
Motor Company (“Ford”), moves for dismissal of Counts 39-92 of the Second Amended Complaint
. For the reasons set forth herein, the motion is denied.
The Second Amended Complaint realleges for appeal purposes only the previously dismissed Counts 93-123, which
claim intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Dkt. 59 at ¶¶ 815-969).
The following is a summary of the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint.
Defendant, Ford, manufactures vehicles. Ford employs more than 4,000 employees at its Chicago
Assembly Plant and more than 800 employees at its Chicago Stamping Plant. All the named
plaintiffs were employed at one of the Chicago plants between January 1, 2012, and the present.
The complaint alleges that male employees and supervisors routinely make discriminatory
and harassing remarks and gestures based on race and gender towards female Ford employees and
the company takes no action. Plaintiffs allege that Ford maintains a pattern and practice of
harassment and inferior treatment of female employees with respect to the terms and conditions of
employment, including job assignments, training, promotions, and overtime assignments. This
pattern and practice of harassment and discrimination created a hostile work environment that has
continued at the Chicago plants since the 1980s. In addition to the allegations of a sexually and
racially charged hostile work environment contributing to gender and race discrimination and
retaliation, the plaintiffs allege battery and assault.
To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain sufficient factual allegations to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 62, 678 (2009). The plaintiff does not need to provide detailed factual
allegations, but must provide enough factual support to raise his right to relief above a speculative
level. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements” are insufficient to withstand a motion to
dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all wellpleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor. Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Pisciota v. Old Nat. Bancorp, 449 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2007).
Ford moves to dismiss Counts 39-92 of the Second Amended Complaint, which allege
Illinois intentional torts of assault and battery. Ford argues the Illinois Workers Compensation Act
(“IWCA”), 820 ILCS 305/5, 305/11, preempts plaintiffs’ state-law tort claims. The Court dismissed
these claims from plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint without prejudice after finding plaintiffs had
failed to sufficiently allege that the perpetrators of the assault and battery claims had “the authority
to make decisions and set policy on behalf of” Ford. See Dkt. 53 at 13 (quoting Daulo v.
Commonwealth Edison, 938 F. Supp. 1388, 1406 (N.D. Ill. 1996)).
The IWCA is the exclusive state law remedy against an employer for accidental injuries
sustained by an employee arising out of and in the course of her employment. See 820 ILCS 305/5,
305/11; Meerbrey v. Marshall Field & Co., 139 Ill. 2d 455, 151 Ill.Dec. 560, 564 N.E.2d 1222, 1225-26
(1990). To avoid preemption plaintiffs must show that Ford committed, commanded, or expressly
authorized a supervisor to commit an intentional tort. Meerbrey, 139 Ill.2d at 464. “A claim that
management ignored evidence that the conduct was taking place is not sufficient; what is required is
‘actual direction, encouragement, or participation’ by management. Temores v. SG Cowen, 289 F. Supp.
2d 996, 1007 (N.D. Ill. 2003); Collier v. Wagner Castings Co., 81 Ill. 2d 229, 239, 408 N.E. 2d 198, 203,
41 Ill. Dec. 776 (1980).
In their Second Amended Complaint, plaintiffs allege that Ford was aware of and received
numerous complaints regarding the unwelcome, unwanted, harmful or offensive touching or
threatened touching of female employees by supervisors since 2012. Dkt. 59 at ¶522. Plaintiffs
further allege that the conduct was committed by management or in the presence of management.
Id. at ¶523. Additionally, plaintiffs assert that Ford actively and effectively encouraged the behavior
by allowing it to occur without repercussion. Id. at ¶530. Plaintiffs identify numerous
superintendents, supervisors, and a Union chairperson as the perpetrators of the alleged conduct,
and allege that these managers had authority to establish working conditions, make employment
decisions, and to set policy within their departments and on behalf of Ford. Id. at ¶532. Moreover,
plaintiffs allege that Ford has established a policy by which it actively has interfered with plaintiffs
obtaining Orders of Protection from the police for batteries, assaults and other acts of workplace
violence they have suffered at Ford. Id. at ¶536. The complaint then sets forth specific examples. Id.
While a claim that management ignored evidence that the conduct was taking place would
not be sufficient to avoid preemption, allegations of “actual direction, encouragement, or
participation” by management may be sufficient to avoid the preemption bar. See Temores, 289 F.
Supp. 2d at 1007 (citing Jaskowski v. Rodman & Renshaw, Inc., 813 F.Supp. 1359, 1362 (N.D. Ill.
1993)). The managerial role of the identified perpetrators alone does not make their conduct that of
Ford for purposes of the preemption analysis. See Daulo v. Commonwealth Edison, 938 F. Supp. 1388,
1406 (N.D. Ill. 1996). However, at the dismissal stage this Court must view the allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiffs and plaintiffs have alleged that these individuals had policy
making authority and exerted control over the workplace. This Court therefore finds that it is
premature to dismiss plaintiffs’ assault and battery claims based on preemption by the IWCA. See
e.g., Fondrliak v. Commonwealth Edison, No. 98 C 5985, 1999 WL 51804, *5, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
1000 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 29, 1999); Bruce v. S. Stickney Sanitary Dist., No. 01 C 3578, 2001 WL 789225, at
*5 (N.D. Ill. July 12, 2001).
Accordingly, based on the foregoing, Ford’s partial motion to dismiss  is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Date: October 12, 2016
SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN
United States District Judge
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