United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
March 31, 2004.
JAMES DAVIS and WILLIAM B. GADDY, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF CHICAGO, et al, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
James Davis and William B. Gaddy (collectively, "plaintiffs") sue
their employer, the City of Chicago ("the city"), and their supervisors
James Haran, Steven Batinich, Irma Rodriguez, Charles Killman, William
Rooney, and Norma Reyes (collectively, "defendants"), in both their
individual and official capacities, for violations of the Family and
Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq.
(Counts I and II), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") (Count
III). Plaintiffs also allege two state law claims: intentional infliction
of emotional distress (Count IV) and common law conspiracy to inflict
emotional distress (Count V). Essentially, plaintiffs contend they were
targeted for unfair and discriminatory treatment because they were
disabled and sought to exercise their rights to intermittent FMLA leave.
Defendants' first motion to dismiss was rendered moot by plaintiffs'
amended complaint. Defendants now move to dismiss both of plaintiffs'
state law claims and plaintiffs' claims under the ADA pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In addition, defendants move to strike plaintiffs'
prayer for punitive damages in Counts IV and V.
For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court accepts all well-pleaded
allegations of the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences
in the plaintiffs' favor. Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l
Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). The complaint will be
dismissed only if it appears beyond a doubt that plaintiffs can prove no
set of facts in support of their claims entitling them to relief.
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102 (1957);
Hernandez v. City of Goshen, 324 F.3d 535, 537 (7th Cir. 2003).
Davis is sixty-one years old. For the past fourteen years, Davis has
met defendants' reasonable employment expectations as a city building
inspector supervisor. Am. Compl. at ¶ 19. He suffers from chronic
health problems. He has undergone triple-bypass surgery and suffers from
diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and caudation of his left
leg. Id. at ¶ 17. In 2002, his health problems forced him to
seek intermittent FMLA leave. Id. His request was granted, and
then re-certified in March 2003. Id. at ¶ 22. On November 7,
2003, Davis asked to leave work early in accordance with his intermittent
leave arrangement. Id. at ¶ 24. Defendants denied the
request for accommodation and initiated disciplinary proceedings after
Davis left work without permission. Id. at ¶¶ 24-27.
Defendants suspended Davis without pay for fifteen days on November 17,
2003. Id. at ¶ 27. Davis filed this lawsuit on December 2,
2003. Id. at ¶ 28. On January 16, 2004, Davis was denied a
salary step increase because of the November suspension. Id. at
Gaddy is also a building inspector supervisor. He is fifty-five years
old and has been a city employee for the last ten years. Id. at
¶ 34. Gaddy suffers from gout, rhinitis and diabetes. Id. at
¶¶ 35-36. He notified the city of his disability in 1992, and the city
certified his eligibility
for intermittent FMLA leave. Id. at ¶ 40-42. The city
re-certified Gaddy in 2003. Id. On November 7, 2003, Gaddy asked
to leave work early because of his FMLA certified illness. Id.
Although defendants denied his request, Gaddy left work. Id. at
¶ 42. Shortly thereafter, Haran, Rodriguez, and Killman held a
pre-disciplinary meeting about Gaddy's conduct. Id. at ¶¶
42-45. After further consultation involving Rooney and Reyes, defendants
suspended Gaddy for five days without pay for leaving work without
permission. Id. at ¶ 45.
Count III alleges each individual defendant violated the ADA by failing
to reasonably accommodate plaintiffs' requests for intermittent leave.
However, as defendants correctly point out, and plaintiff's concede, the
ADA does not provide individual liability. EEOC v. AIC Security
Investigations, Inc., 55 F.3d 1276, 1279-82 (7th Cir. 1995).
Count IV alleges defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress
upon plaintiffs by placing them on disciplinary suspension. Defendants
argue Count IV is barred by the Local Government and Governmental
Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/1-101,et seq., and
because plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently allege defendants' conduct
was objectively outrageous. Before considering whether defendants are
entitled to immunity, the court will determine whether plaintiffs have
stated a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
To recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a
plaintiff must show that defendants' extreme and outrageous conduct
caused plaintiffs severe emotional distress, and that defendants knew
their actions would lead to such a result. Crudup v. Barton, No.
98 C 1498, 2002 WL 276285, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 27, 2002). Imposing
disciplinary suspensions is not per se outrageous, even if done
"recklessly, willfully and wantonly." Am. Compl. at ¶ 70; see
Lewis v. Cotton, 932 F. Supp. 1116, 1118 (N.D. Ill. 1996)
(dismissing for failure to state a claim); Herion v. Vill. of
Bensenville, No. 00 C 01026, 2000 WL 1648937, at *7 (N.D. Ill. Nov.
1, 2000) (plaintiff failed to state claim because allegations did not
show conduct was extreme and outrageous). However, defendants' conduct
must be examined in light of other factors, namely the control defendants
had over plaintiffs and plaintiffs' particular sensitivities to emotional
stress. Honaker v. Smith, 256 F.3d 477, 489-91 (7th Cir. 2001).
Plaintiffs allege they are uniquely susceptible to stress because of
their medical conditions, and one could infer defendants disliked
plaintiffs given the context of the pre-disciplinary meetings. Am. Compl.
at ¶ 25.
Even in light of these considerations, plaintiffs fail to state an
actionable claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Plaintiffs cite Kamberos v. Infiniti of Orland Park in support
of their position, but in Kamberos the plaintiff alleged
continual and daily harassment. No. 02 C 3000, 2002 WL 31248538, at * 1-3
(N.D. Ill. Oct. 4, 2002) (daily psychologically abusive tirades in front
of co-workers). In their response brief, plaintiffs characterize
defendants' conduct as "bullying," "angry," "hosfile" and abusive. Resp.
at 11. But these characterizations are not consistent with the
allegations in the amended complaint. Plaintiffs merely allege defendants
met, determined that suspensions were warranted, issued suspensions and
that Batinich made one stray remark at the meeting. Am. Compl. At ¶¶
25, 68-69. They do not allege defendants threatened to fire them, or that
defendants engaged in ongoing harassment. Any inference that defendants
maliciously and systemically attempted to injure plaintiffs would be an
unreasonable reading of the complaint. Stripped of rhetoric, plaintiffs'
claims are predicated on a
garden-variety employment dispute. See Honaker, 256 F.3d
at 489-91 (noting employment disagreements not extreme and outrageous
unless they "go well beyond the parameters of the typical workplace
dispute"); Herion, 2000 WL 1648937 at *7-8. This conduct cannot
be considered "so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as
to go beyond all bounds of decency, or to cause distress so severe that a
reasonable person could not be expected to endure it." Lewis,
932 F. Supp. at 1118.
Count V alleges Haran, Batinich, Rodriguez, Rooney, Killman and Reyes
conspired to intentionally inflict emotional distress upon plaintiffs by
collectively imposing disciplinary suspensions. The elements of civil
conspiracy in Illinois are: 1) an agreement; 2) to participate In an
unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means; 3) an overt act performed
in furtherance of the scheme; and 4) an injury caused by the overt act.
Hakim v. Outsourcing Solution, Inc., No. 02 C 0425, 2002 WL
31818961, at * 7 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 16, 2002). Because plaintiffs fail to
state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, their
conspiracy claim must also fail. Hanania v. Lor en-Maltese, No.
98 C 5232, 2004 WL 547238, at * 19 (N.D. Ill. March 17, 2004) (failure of
underlying tort claim precludes conspiracy claim).
Punitive Damages Against the City
Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' prayer for punitive damages
against the city. Plaintiffs contend they are only precluded from seeking
punitive damages as to Counts I-III, and that the city is entitled to
immunity from punitive damages on their state law tort claims only if the
individual defendants are "public officials" serving in their official
capacity at the time they caused plaintiffs' injury. This is an incorrect
reading of the law. It is clear that the city is
immune from punitive damages under federal civil rights laws.
Bell v. City of Milwaukee, 746 F.2d 1205, 1270 (7th Cir. 1994).
Moreover, the Tort Immunity Act specifically provides "a local public
entity is not liable to pay punitive or exemplary damages in any action
brought directly or indirectly against it . . ." 745 ILCS 10/2-102;
Agnew v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, No. 97 C 5993, 1998
WL 386155, at *6 (N.D. Ill. July 7, 1998). The claims for punitive
damages against the city are therefore stricken with prejudice.
Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted. Counts III, IV, and V of the
amended complaint fail as a matter of law and are dismissed with
prejudice. Plaintiffs' prayer for punitive damages against the city in
Counts IV and V are stricken.
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