Eggers v. Saturn Freight Systems, Inc.
ORDER Signed by the Honorable Joan H. Lefkow on 9/29/2017: Defendant's partial motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint (dkt. 11) is granted. Counts III and IV of the complaint are dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiff may, by October 16, 2017, amend her complaint to include a retaliation claim under Title VII or the ADEA if she can do so consistently with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. See Statement.Mailed notice(mad, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
SATURN FREIGHT SYSTEMS, INC.,
an Illinois corporation,
Case No. 16 C 09554
Judge Joan H. Lefkow
Defendant’s partial motion to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint (dkt. 11) is granted. Counts III
and IV of the complaint are dismissed with prejudice. Plaintiff may, by October 16, 2017, amend
her complaint to include a retaliation claim under Title VII or the ADEA if she can do so
consistently with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. See Statement.
Eggers alleges that she was wrongfully discharged and retaliated against in violation of
Illinois common law. Count III is labeled “wrongful discharge” and Count IV is labeled
In Illinois, absent a contract providing otherwise, employees are at will and can be
terminated with or without cause. See Turner v. Mem’l Med. Ctr., 911 N.E.2d 369, 374, 233 Ill.
2d 494, 331 Ill. Dec. 548 (2009) (“[A] noncontracted employee is one who serves at the
employer's will, and the employer may discharge such an employee for any reason or no reason.”
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). The narrowly proscribed tort of retaliatory
discharge requires an employee to allege that the discharge occurred in retaliation for the
employee's activities and that the discharge “violates a clear mandate of public policy.” Id. at
374. To violate public policy, “the matter must strike at the heart of a citizen’s social rights,
duties, and responsibilities.” Id. at 378 (internal quotation marks omitted). Illinois has recognized
the tort only where the discharge was in retaliation for an employee’s exercising rights under the
Workers Compensation Act, where the discharge was in response to an employee’s supplying
information to law enforcement to prevent the employee from doing so, or where the discharge
was in response to the employee’s refusing to work in conditions that violated safety laws.
See Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc., 384 N.E.2d 353, 74 Ill. 2d 172, 23 Ill. Dec. 559 (1978); Palmateer
v. Int’l Harvester Co., 421 N.E.2d 876, 85 Ill. 2d 124, 52 Ill. Dec. 13 (1981); Sherman v. Kraft
General Foods, Inc., 651 N.E.2d 706, 272 Ill. App. 3d 833, 209 Ill. Dec. 528 (Ill. App. 1995);
Wheeler v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 485 N.E.2d 372, 108 Ill. 2d 502, 92 Ill. Dec. 561 (1985);
see also Sutherland v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., 826 N.E.2d 1021, 356 Ill. App. 3d 620, 292 Ill.
Dec. 585 (Ill. App. 2005); Hernandez v. Kustom Seating Unlimited, Inc., No. 15 C 9118, 2016
WL 2866129 (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2016). Concepts of fairness and justice are not within the public
policy exception. See Turner, 911 N.E.2d at 376 (“Any effort to evaluate the public policy
exception with generalized concepts of fairness and justice will result in an elimination of the atwill doctrine itself.” (quotation marks and citation omitted)).
Eggers has not alleged that an employment contract (other than an at-will relationship)
existed between her and Saturn Freight. The public policy she identifies in her complaint is
termination of employment “without cause and in retaliation against her.” (Dkt. 1, ¶ 52.) Her
memorandum refers to retaliation for voicing complaints to Saturn Freight’s human resources
department. (See dkt. 1, ¶¶ 13-29.) There is no authority in Illinois law that would prohibit
termination in retaliation for complaining to human resources unless the complaint concerned
exercise of a protected right such as is claimed in Counts I and II. The allegations of wrongful
discharge at Count III, paragraph 50, of the complaint focus on arbitrary and unfair treatment. 1
Arbitrariness and unfairness are not against public policy, as is clear from Turner. Indeed,
Illinois’ public policy is to the contrary: absent a contract providing otherwise, employees are
employed at will and can be terminated for any reason or no reason.
Rees v. Bank Bldg. & Equip. Corp. of Am., 332 F.2d 548 (7th Cir. 1964), which Eggers
cites, is not relevant. It dealt with Missouri law and concerned whether an employer discharged
the employee in order to deprive him of commissions reasonably certain to accrue, in violation of
the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in his written compensation agreement.
Klinkner v. County of DuPage, 770 N.E.2d 734, 331 Ill. App. 3d 48, 264 Ill. Dec. 429 (2002), is
likewise not persuasive. In that case the plaintiff alleged a statutory violation and the court
merely indicated that any common law claims of wrongful or retaliatory discharge (which had
not been pleaded) would have been time-barred.
In sum, plaintiff has failed to plead facts that, if proved, would establish wrongful
termination or retaliatory discharge under Illinois common law. In light of the absence of any
allegation in the fairly detailed complaint that Eggers was discharged in retaliation for
whistleblowing or for asserting rights under the Workers Compensation Act, these claims will be
dismissed with prejudice. As Saturn Freight points out, if Eggers is attempting to state a claim of
retaliation for contacting the EEOC in April 2016, she must allege that Saturn Freight knew of
the contact for there to be a possible link to the termination. See Lugo v. IBEW Local #134, 175
F. Supp. 3d 1026, 1038 (N.D. Ill. 2016) (citing Tomanovich v. City of Indianapolis, 457 F.3d
656, 668 (7th Cir. 2006) ("It is not sufficient that [an employer] could or even should have
known about [an employee's] complaint; [the employer] must have had actual knowledge of the
complaints for [its] decisions to be retaliatory") (alteration in original)) (granting motion to
dismiss retaliation claim).
The allegation that she was treated less favorably than male employees because she was
required to stamp a time clock may be relevant to her Title VII claim but is not within the retaliatory
For these reasons, the motion to dismiss must be granted with prejudice as to the claims
asserted in Counts II and III.
Date: September 29, 2017
U.S. District Judge Joan H. Lefkow
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