Constructive Discharge Sufficiently Alleged; Court Cites Groping, Sexual Comment, and Threat at Gunpoint

In Aleasta Callahan v. Xayah Enterprises, LLC, No. 23 CV 3265, 2024 WL 2113092 (N.D.Ill. May 10, 2024), the court, inter alia, denied defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s constructive discharge/sexual harassment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

From the decision:

Defendant argues that plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim is implausible because it involves, “at most, a personal interaction with an individual, Jerry, whose conduct, while disgusting and repulsive, was not intentionally discriminatory.” This argument, just like defendant’s earlier argument, simply fails to accept the allegations of the complaint as true and asks the Court to make a factual finding about Jerry’s “real” reasons for grabbing plaintiff’s buttocks and making a sexually suggestive comment to her. The Court finds that plaintiff’s sex discrimination is plausible because it alleges that plaintiff was constructively discharged by defendant, and that the constructive discharge[] occurred only after plaintiff was groped and subjected to sexually suggestive comments by Jerry, threatened at gunpoint by Jerry after she reported his behavior to the store owner, and had complained about the harassment, both physical and sexual, and defendant took no action to remedy the situation.

Finally, the Court rejects defendant’s argument that “Plaintiff left her job voluntarily” and that no constructive discharge occurred because plaintiff has not “demonstrated a discriminatory work environment even more egregious than the high standard for hostile work environment” claims. It is obvious from the complaint that plaintiff is alleging that she quit her job involuntarily due to the harassment she experienced and defendant’s failure to take appropriate remedial action. And with respect to plaintiff’s claim that she was constructively discharged, it is premature at the pleadings stage to conclude just how abusive a plaintiff’s work environment was. When presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the question is simply whether plaintiff’s allegations establish that her treatment could plausibly be abusive. Plaintiff’s allegations that she was groped and subjected to a sexually suggestive comment, and that her harasser later threatened her at gunpoint after she reported the harassment, is sufficient at this stage of the case to support her claim that she was effectively forced to quit.

[Citations, quotation marks, and bracketing omitted.]

This decision illustrates that the crucial issue in a Title VII constructive discharge case – whether the workplace is “intolerable” – is a factual issue best addressed upon a fully-developed factual record.

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