United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
April 9, 2003
VERNICE R. STEVENS, PLAINTIFF,
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, Chief United States District Judge
This matter is before the court on Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc.'s ("UPS") partial motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below we grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.
Plaintiff Vernice Stevens ("Stevens") claims to have injured her back, neck, and head while working for UPS as a package handler in January 1998. She alleges that, because of the work-related injury, she is permanently restricted to lifting no more than twenty pounds. After her injury Stevens was allegedly unable to perform the tasks required of a package handler and she requested that she be assigned to a light duty position. UPS refused to reassign Stevens and terminated her employment in January 2001. Stevens claims that she was not notified of her termination and did not realize that she was terminated by UPS until January 2002. In her complaint Stevens alleges that UPS discriminated against her because of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). She also alleges that UPS terminated her employment and failed to accommodate her alleged disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.
The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must draw all reasonable inferences that favor the plaintiff, construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; and accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the complaint Bontkowski v. First Nat'l Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). The allegations of a complaint "should not be dismissed for a failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Nonetheless, in order to withstand a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege the "operative facts" upon which each claim is based. Kyle v. Morton High School, 144 F.3d 448, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998). The plaintiff need not allege all of the facts involved in the claim and can plead conclusions. Higgs v. Carter, 286 F.3d 437, 439 (7th Cir. 2002); Kyle, 144 F.3d at 455. However, any conclusions pled must "provide the defendant with at least minimal notice of the claim," id., and the plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading requirements merely "by attaching bare legal conclusions to narrated facts which fail to outline the bases" of his claim. Perkins, 939 F.2d at 466-67.
I. Title VII Accommodation Claim
In her complaint Stevens alleges that UPS did not accommodate her alleged disability because of her race and terminated her employment because of her race. In Illinois, if an employee has not filed an EEOC charge within 300 days of alleged discriminatory conduct, a Title VII claim based on that conduct will be time-barred. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (e)(1); Sharp v. United Airlines, 236 F.3d 368, 372 (7th Cir. 2001). The limitations period begins to run when: 1) there is an adverse personnel action taken against the plaintiff employee, Davidson v. Indiana-American Water Works, 953 F.2d 1058, 1059 (7th Cir. 1992), and 2) the plaintiff employee is aware of the adverse employment action. Sharp, 236 F.3d at 372 (stating that the "discovery rule" applies to the accrual of the limitations period). The limitations period can also be equitably tolled under the doctrines of equitable estoppel and equitable tolling if there are extenuating circumstances. Jackson v. Rockford Hous. Auth., 213 F.3d 389, 394, 396 (7th Cir. 2000); Cada v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 920 F.2d 446, 450-52 (7th Cir. 1990).
UPS argues that Stevens' Title VII claim based on the failure to accommodate Stevens' alleged disability is time-barred because she was denied accommodations for her alleged disability in July 1999 and filed her EEOC charge in May 2002 which is well beyond the 300 day limitations period. We agree. Stevens states in her EEOC charge: "Since on or in July 1999, I have been on medical leave and have requested a reasonable accommodation for light duty to no avail." In her complaint she states that she was put on the inactive list because UPS would not provide her with accommodations, which also indicates that she was denied accommodations beginning in July 1999. Stevens' claim that UPS did not accommodate her alleged disability because of her race is time-barred.
II. ADA Claims
Stevens claims that UPS terminated her employment because of her alleged disability and that UPS failed to provided her with reasonable accommodations. UPS argues that the failure to accommodate claim is time-barred and that Stevens does not have a disability that is protected by the ADA.
A. ADA Accommodation Claim
In Illinois, if an employee has not filed an EEOC charge within 300 days of alleged discriminatory conduct, an ADA claim based on that conduct will be time-barred. 42 U.S.C. § 12117 (a); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (e); Sharp, 236 F.3d at 372; Fairchild v. Forma Scientific, Inc., 147 F.3d 567, 574 (7th Cir. 1998) (stating that ADA adopts enforcement procedures of Title VII). Stevens was denied accommodations for her alleged disability in July 1999 and Stevens filed the EEOC charge on May 30, 2002 which is well beyond the 300 day limitations period. We grant the motion to dismiss the ADA accommodation claim.
B. ADA Termination Claim
UPS also argues that all of Stevens' ADA claims should be dismissed because she does not have a "disability" that is protected by the ADA. The scope of the ADA does not encompass every physical and mental discomfort or ailment. See, e.g., Toyota Motor Mfg., Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184, 184 (2002). The ADA only protects individuals that have an impairment that falls within the meaning of the term "disability" as it is defined in the ADA and interpreted by the courts. 42 U.S.C. § 12112 (a), 12102(2)(A); Toyota Motor Mfg., Kentucky, Inc., 534 U.S. at 184-185. The ADA defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual." 42 U.S.C. § 12102 (2)(A). For an impairment to fall within the scope of the ADA definition of a disability, the impairment must be "permanent or long term" and the "individual must have an impairment that prevents or severely restricts the individual from doing activities that are of central importance to most people's daily lives." Toyota Motor Mfg., Kentucky, Inc., 534 U.S. at 185. In determining whether an impairment falls within the ADA definition of a disability, the focus must remain on the issue of whether the claimant is "unable to perform the variety of tasks central to most people's daily lives," not whether the claimant is unable to perform the tasks required for the claimant's specific job. Id. at 185-86; Mack v. Great Dane Trailers, 308 F.3d 776, 780 (7th Cir. 2002). Although there is no exhaustive list of what tasks are central to most people's daily lives, the courts have provided some examples. See Toyota Motor Mfg., Kentucky, Inc., 534 U.S. at 197, 202 (listing as examples: walking, seeing, hearing, doing household chores, bathing, and brushing teeth); Mack, 308 F.3d at 781 (listing as examples taking care of one's self and lifting a pencil or toothbrush); Mays v. Principi, 301 F.3d 866, 869 (7th Cir. 2002) (suggesting that walking, seeing, reproduction, and the use of an arm would be tasks that are central to most people's daily lives).
In her complaint Stevens asserts that she is permanently unable to lift more than twenty pounds. Stevens is acting pro se and used the standard form for employment discrimination complaints that is provided to pro se plaintiffs to assist them in organizing their complaints. Since ADA employment discrimination litigation stems from a plaintiff's inability to perform her job, it is not surprising that a lay person will presume that the relevant information regarding her alleged disability is whether she can perform her job functions. There is no space on the form used by Stevens asking whether or not the plaintiff can do tasks central to most people's daily lives such as brushing her teeth. Stevens is not required to include every relevant fact regarding her case in her complaint, Higgs, 286 F.3d at 439, and she indicated in her complaint that she injured her back, neck, and head. Those types of injuries could conceivably affect tasks that are central to most people's daily lives and, since for purposes of this motion we must make all reasonable inferences in her favor, we deny the motion to dismiss the ADA termination claim. We also note that the only Seventh Circuit case cited by UPS in support of its assertion that Stevens is not disabled is Mays v. Principi, 301 F.3d 866 (7th Cir. 2002), which involved an appeal of a district court's ruling regarding a motion for summary judgment rather than a motion to dismiss.
III. Section 1981 and Section 1983 Claims
Stevens also alleges that UPS violated Section 1981 and Section 1983. A private actor is not liable under Section 1983 unless the actor acts under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Proffitt v. Ridgway, 279 F.3d 503, 507 (7th Cir. 2002). UPS is not a governmental entity and Stevens does not allege that UPS was acting under color of state law. Therefore, we grant the motion to dismiss the Section 1983 claim.
UPS argues that the Section 1981 accommodation claim is time-barred. The statute of limitations for Stevens' Section 1981 claim is two years. 735 ILCS 5/13-202; Sanders v. Venture Stores, Inc., 56 F.3d 771, 775 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1995) (stating that "federal civil rights actions are governed by the personal injury statute of limitations in the state where the alleged injury occurred."). Stevens was denied accommodations for her alleged disability in July 1999 and Stevens filed her complaint in October 2002. The motion to dismiss is limited to the Section 1981 accommodation claim and we grant the motion to dismiss on that limited basis.
Based on the foregoing analysis, we grant the motion to dismiss the ADA accommodation claim, the Title VII accommodation claim, the Section 1981 accommodation claim, and the Section 1983 claim. We deny the motion to dismiss the ADA termination claim.
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