Bates v. Envision Unlimited, Inc. et al
ORDER. The Court grants Envision's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. # 30 ). The SAC is dismissed without prejudice. Bates may file an amended complaint by 6/21/2023 It is so ordered. Signed by the Honorable Charles P. Kocoras on 5/19/2023. Mailed notice(vcf, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
ENVISION UNLIMITED, INC.,
21 C 6099
Judge Charles P. Kocoras
Before the Court is Defendant Envision Unlimited, Inc.’s (“Envision”) Motion
to Dismiss Plaintiff Marshall Bates’s Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. # 30. For the following reasons, the
Court grants Envision’s Motion.
Bates brings this action against his former employer, Envision, for
discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on his color and religion in violation
of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq. and
the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. He also alleges a violation of his due process
rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The following facts come from the SAC and are assumed true for the purpose of
this Motion. Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665–66 (7th Cir. 2013). All
reasonable inferences are drawn in Bates’s favor. League of Women Voters of Chi. v.
City of Chi., 757 F.3d 722, 724 (7th Cir. 2014).
Bates was previously employed by Envision. Envision contracts with the Illinois
Department of Humans Services.
Bates was “falsely fired” by his supervisor, Jasmine Jones, who accused him of
abandoning a resident at a care facility for the mentally challenged (“Facility”). This
occurred after Bates witnessed the house manager, named Latrice, stealing food from
the Facility while she was supposed to be on vacation. Bates informed another
employee on his shift at the time about the incident and alleges that it “should have been
recorded in the incident manual.” Dkt. # 9, ¶ 21. According to Bates, Envision “has a
silent policy of keeping everything in house and punishing employees for reporting
misconduct of staff members.” Id., ¶ 25. On October 13, 2020, Jones informed Bates
that he was being terminated and that “her orders had come from the Administration
department.” Id., ¶ 32. Bates alleges that he “was investigated by the Illinois attorney
general office which investigated the misconduct and a finding of no cause to discipline
the plaintiff was found and the case was dismissed.” Id., ¶ 33.1 After the investigation,
Bates was fired and never called back to work. Bates alleges that he “hasn’t been paid
by Envision  and he should have been put back on the schedule.” Id., ¶ 38.
The Court notes that Bates attaches the investigation report to his response to the Motion to
Dismiss, which indicates that it was conducted by the Illinois Office of the Inspector General, and
found that the claims of neglect against Bates were “substantiated.” Dkt. # 33, at 7.
Bates initiated this action on November 15, 2021, Dkt. # 1, and filed his first
amended complaint (“FAC”) on January 3, 2022, Dkt. # 6. The FAC alleged claims for
discrimination based on Bates’s color and religion against Envision and several
individual employee defendants. Id. On March 8, 2022, the Court dismissed the FAC.
Dkt. # 8. The Court dismissed Bates’ claims against the individual defendants with
prejudice and dismissed his Title VII claim without prejudice, noting that “Bates’[s]
Complaint does not state his race, color, or religion, so the Court cannot infer whether
it is plausible that he was discriminated against based on these protected classes.” Id.
Bates filed his second amended complaint (“SAC”) on March 21, 2022. Dkt. # 9.
The SAC is nearly identical to the FAC, and alleges Envision violated Title VII by
discriminating against Bates based on his color and religion and also violated Bates’
Fourteenth Amendment rights. The only addition to the FAC in the SAC is three
paragraphs, alleging that: (1) Envision’s “policies of hiring and firing” violate the
Fourteenth Amendment because they don’t “afford employees the right to petition to
administration for a hearing”; (2) Bates “was fired and after being found not guilty by
the Attorney General office he was never called back to work”; and (3) “As of today
[Bates] hasn’t been paid by Envision  and he should have been put back on the
schedule.” Id., ¶¶ 36–38. Envision moves to dismiss the SAC with prejudice for failure
to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “tests the sufficiency of the complaint,
not the merits of the case.” McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 694 F.3d 873, 878 (7th
Cir. 2012). The Court accepts as true well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all
reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d
610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). The allegations in the complaint must set forth a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
A plaintiff need not provide detailed factual allegations, but it must provide
enough factual support to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The claim must be described “in
sufficient detail to give the defendant ‘fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.’” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773,
776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,” are
insufficient to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009). A claim is facially plausible if the complaint contains sufficient
alleged facts that allow the Court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
The Court first notes that Bates, proceeding pro se, is entitled to have his SAC
liberally construed by the Court. See Taylor v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 958 F.3d
556, 562 (7th Cir. 2020); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (“[a]
document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted
by lawyers.”). However, even pro se litigants “must expect to file a legal argument and
some supporting authority” in responding to a motion to dismiss because “[a] litigant
who fails to press a point by supporting it with pertinent authority or by showing why
it is sound despite a lack of supporting authority forfeits the point.” Mathis v. New York
Life Ins. Co., 133 F.3d 546, 548 (7th Cir. 1998) (cleaned up); see Jones v. Phipps, 39
F.3d 158, 163 (7th Cir. 1994) (“[P]ro se litigants are not entitled to a general
dispensation from the rules of procedure or court imposed deadlines.”).
“If [a court] is given plausible reasons for dismissing a complaint, [the court is]
not going to do the plaintiff’s research and try to discover whether there might be
something to say against the defendants’ reasoning.” Kirksey v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco
Co., 168 F.3d 1039, 1041 (7th Cir. 1999). “It follows that a plaintiff’s failure to respond
to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion giving plausible reasons for dismissal provides adequate
grounds for granting the motion.” Garza v. Cervantes, 2015 WL 468748, at *1 (N.D.
Ill. 2015) (granting dismissal where a pro se plaintiff failed to respond to plausible
arguments raised by defendants in a 12(b)(6) motion); see Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651
F.3d 715, 719 (7th Cir. 2011) (“As to the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint,
Alioto waived his right to contest the dismissal by failing to oppose the motions.”);
Lekas v. Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 614–15 (7th Cir. 2005) (“While Lekas alleged in his
complaint that his segregation was in retaliation for his filing of grievances, he did not
present legal arguments or cite relevant authority to substantiate that claim in
responding to defendants’ motion to dismiss,” and “[a]ccordingly, [his] retaliation
claim has been waived.”); Kirksey, 168 F.3d at 1041 (“In effect the plaintiff was
defaulted for refusing to respond to the motion to dismiss. And rightly so.”).
The Court agrees with Envision that Bates has failed to sufficiently state his
discrimination and due process claims.
The same standards apply to Title VII and Section 1981 claims of race
discrimination. Mintz v. Caterpillar Inc., 788 F.3d 673, 679 (7th Cir. 2015). “[A]
plaintiff alleging employment discrimination under Title VII may allege these claims
quite generally.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008).
However, a complaint must allege the type of discrimination that occurred, by whom,
and when. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 405 (7th Cir. 2010); see also
Kaminski v. Elite Staffing, Inc., 23 F.4th 774, 777 (7th Cir. 2022) (“A litigant’s best
shot at stating a plausible employment discrimination claim is to explain, in a few
sentences, how she was aggrieved and what facts or circumstances lead her to believe
her treatment was because of her membership in a protected class.”) (emphasis in
original). Furthermore, there must be enough facts to establish a plausible connection
between the adverse employment action and the plaintiff’s protected class. Shah v.
Walmart Stores, Inc., 2022 WL 1746850, at *3 (N.D. Ill. 2022).
In dismissing the FAC, the Court noted that Bates’s discrimination claim was
deficient because it did not “state his race, color, or religion, so the Court cannot infer
whether it is plausible that he was discriminated against based on these protected
classes.” Dkt. # 8, at 3. The three paragraphs Bates added to the SAC do nothing to
address that deficiency. The SAC indicates only that Bates is suing under Title VII and
Section 1981 based on “[r]eligion” and “color” but does not state what Bates’s religion
or color is. Dkt. # 9, ¶¶ 8–9. Furthermore, the SAC in no way explains how Bates’s
firing was tied to his religion or color.
In Bates’s response to the Motion to Dismiss, he makes no argument as to why
his discrimination claim should not be dismissed, stating only that the Court should
allow him to amend his complaint again. Bates’s discrimination claim is therefore
dismissed. See Garza, 2015 WL 468748, at *1; Lekas, 405 F.3d at 614–15.
The Court will, however, give Bates one final chance to amend his complaint.
Bates attached several exhibits to his response that at least indicate Bates’s religion
(“Hebrew Israelite”), that he requested certain days off from work to observe the
Sabbath, that he requested to not have to assist the women showering because it is
against his religion, and his suggestion that he was “getting discriminated against.”
Dkt. # 9, at 31. But exhibits to a Motion to Dismiss response do not amend the
complaint, and Bates is advised that a third amended complaint will completely replace
Bates should include those documents and any corresponding factual
allegations if he files a third amended complaint. See Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor
Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1107 (7th Cir. 1984) (“[I]t is axiomatic that the complaint may not
be amended by the briefs in opposition to a motion to dismiss.”); see also Catalina
Nominees Proprietary, Ltd. v. Stericycle, Inc., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58100, at *20–
21 (N.D. Ill. 2021) (allowing plaintiffs opportunity to amend complaint when “the
inclusion of additional detail in their response brief suggest[ed] to this Court that
Plaintiffs may be able to remedy the deficiencies of their pleading.”). The Court has
now laid out for a second time what Bates needs to plead to state a sufficient
discrimination claim.2 Failure to do so will result in dismissal with prejudice.
As to Bates’s due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, Envision
argues that it must be dismissed because Bates “does not allege any facts that would
permit an inference that Envision, a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit, acted under color of
state law.” Dkt. # 31, at 3. It asserts that although Bates alleges Envision had a contract
with the Illinois Department of Human Services, a “private entity does not become a
state actor merely because it performs services for the government under a public
contract.” Id. (citing Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 841 (1982)).
Again, Bates waives this claim by failing to address Envision’s argument. He
seems to agree that he cannot bring a due process claim against Envision and asks to
amend his complaint. Bates’s Fourteenth Amendment claim is dismissed.
The Court also notes that Bates does not sufficiently allege his exhaustion of administrative
remedies, i.e., whether and when he filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and received a Notice of Right to Sue prior to filing this
action. The SAC states: “The United States [EEOC], on or about September 9, 2020.” Dkt. # 9,
¶ 6. “Plaintiff would like the courts to take judicial notice that the exhaustion was completed with
the EEOC.” Id., ¶ 7. Paragraph 6 is an incomplete sentence and does not explain what happened
regarding the EEOC. Bates should clarify if and when he filed a charge with the EEOC and/or
received a Notice of Right to Sue and attach those documents to his amended complaint.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court grants Envision’s Motion to Dismiss
(Dkt. # 30). The SAC is dismissed without prejudice. Bates may file an amended
complaint by 6/21/2023 It is so ordered.
Charles P. Kocoras
United States District Judge
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