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Chapman v. Yellow Cab Cooperative

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

February 24, 2016



HON. RUDOLPH T. RANDA U.S. District Judge

Pro se Plaintiff Thomas Edward Chapman filed a wage complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division (ERD) alleging that he was not being paid minimum wage as a cab driver. Chapman claims that Defendants Yellow Cab Cooperative, [2] Ali Mohamad, and Parshua Giri retaliated against him for filing the ERD Complaint by terminating his employment. He maintains that Defendant Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) deprived him of his civil rights. Chapman also states “state action: contract to franchise with Yellow Cab charter.” (Compl. 6, ECF No. 1.) Chapman seeks damages, injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and damages under Title VII, as amended.

The Defendants filed motions (ECF Nos. 16, 30) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) asserting this action should be dismissed on the following grounds: (1) failure to effect proper service; (2) failure to state a cause of action; (3) the Title VII claim is untimely and Chapman has failed to exhaust administrative remedies; (4) lack of subject matter jurisdiction over any Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) claims; and (5) the action is barred by res judicata.

Chapman opposes dismissal in multiple filings and has filed a motion to amend/correct claim seeking to add a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (ECF No. 35.) This Decision and Order addresses the pending motions.

Failure to State a Cause of Action

The Defendants assert that Chapman has failed to state a cause of action for retaliation under Title VII, because filing a wage claim is not activity protected by Title VII. Further, they assert that § 1983 claims are only appropriate against state actors who are acting under color of law, and Chapman has not alleged that Yellow Cab, Mohamed, and Giri were acting under the color of law. They also oppose Chapman’s proposed amendment of the complaint to add a § 1981 claim, contending it fails to state a cause of action.

The Defendants proffer six exhibits in support of their motions. In general, when extraneous materials are presented in support of a motion to dismiss, the Court has discretion either to exclude the materials and handle the case as a straightforward motion to dismiss, or to consider the materials and convert the motion to one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d); See Levenstein v. Salafsky, 164 F.3d 345, 347 (7th Cir. 1998). There are, however, limited exceptions.

One of those exceptions, afforded by Rule 10(c), arises because “[a] copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.” See Cole v. Milwaukee Area Technical Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011) Exhibits one and three, Chapman’s Labor Standards Complaint and his ERD Complaint (ECF Nos. 17-1, 17-3, 31-1, 31-3), are also exhibits to Chapman’s Complaint. Therefore, they may be considered without converting the motion to a motion for summary judgment.

Exhibits two, five, and six (an administrative decision dismissing Chapman’s wage and hour complaint, an order dismissing the administrative retaliation action against Yellow Cab, and a letter relating to the retaliation case from Yellow Cab’s attorney to Chapman (ECF Nos. 17-2, 17-5, 17-6, 31-2, 31-5, 31-6), are matters within the public record and, for that reason, may be considered by the Court without converting the motions to motions for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d); Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Am. Nat'l Ins. Co., 417 F.3d 727, 731 n.3 (7th Cir. 2005).

However, there is no indication that exhibit four, a settlement agreement between Chapman and Yellow Cab regarding the retaliation complaint, is part of the administrative record or falls into some other exception. (ECF Nos. 17-4, 31-4.) Therefore, that document is excluded from consideration.

“[T]he pleading standards for pro se plaintiffs are considerably relaxed, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam), even in the wake of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, (2009).” Luevano v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013) (parallel citations omitted). To state a claim, a complaint need only contain a short and plain statement showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). All well-pleaded allegations are presumed to be true, and all inferences are read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lavalais v. Vill. of Melrose Park, 734 F.3d 629, 632 (7th Cir. 2013). A complaint survives a Rule 12(b)(6) motion if it contains sufficient factual allegations to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

Factual Background[3]

Chapman drove a licensed cab owned by Dennis Edwards. He paid rent on the cab to Giri, who leased it from Edwards. On January 30, 2013, Chapman filed a wage complaint with the ERD against Yellow Cab, a cooperative organization of taxicab drivers. In February, the ERD informed Yellow Cab of the administrative complaint. On March 4, 2013, Giri informed Chapman that Mohamed, ...

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