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Graham v. State

June 3, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-Yeghiayan United States District Court Judge



This matter is before the court on Defendant State of Illinois' (Illinois), Defendant Illinois Department of Corrections' (IDOC), Defendant Illinois Department of Central Management Services' (CMS) (collectively referred to as "State Agency Defendants"), Defendant Rod R. Blagojevich's (Blagojevich), Defendant Director Roger Walker's (Walker), Defendant Warden Jeffery Bargar's (Bargar), Defendant Wendy Blank-Navarro's (Navarro), Defendant Margarita Mendoza's (Mendoza), and Defendant Cynthia Miller's (Miller) (collectively referred to as "Individual Defendants") motion to dismiss. This matter is also before the court on Defendant Illinois Department of Corrections School District Number 428's (School District) motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, we grant both motions to dismiss.


Plaintiff Shawnetta Graham (Graham) alleges that she began working for the IDOC in May 1994 and since July 2002 has been employed as a Library Associate at the Illinois Youth Center (IYC), a juvenile detention facility, in Warrenville, Illinois. According to Graham, on or about January 6, 2004, Graham slipped on ice in the parking lot at the IYC. Graham alleges that, as a result of the accident, she suffers from chondromalacia, which causes sudden weakness and pain in the knees and ankles. Graham allegedly filed a claim under the Illinois Worker's Compensation Act and settled the claim with her employer on June 29, 2005.

Graham claims that on or about July 1, 2004, while at work her knees "gave out" and she was forced to walk in a "crunch position" to the nurse's station. (S.A. Compl. Par. 13). Graham alleges that despite her requests "in a helpless manner" for walking assistance from her supervisor, the supervisor and the staff failed to come to her aid. (S.A. Compl. Par. 14).

In addition, on or about August 18, 2004, Graham alleges she was making copies at work and experienced pain in her ankles. Graham allegedly received medical treatment that day and returned to work the next day with a note that stated Graham should avoid prolonged standing or walking. Graham alleges she later received additional medical treatment and went to work on August 23, 2004, with another note, this time stating that Graham could not walk or stand for longer than five minutes while at work and should remain seated. Graham alleges at the end of her work day on August 23, 2004, Miller, who was her supervisor, informed Graham that, if she had such physical restrictions, Graham would be required to go on medical leave due to her work limitations. On August 24, 2004, Graham allegedly returned to work with a union representative and was told she must go on a leave of absence until her physicians cleared her to work with fewer restrictions. Graham claims that she was shown a copy of an IDOC policy, which stated that employees must be capable of standing or walking for at least sixty minutes. Graham alleges that on August 26, 2004, she did return to work with a doctor's note that allowed her to walk and stand for up to an hour at a time. According to Graham, on September 9, 2004, Graham presented her supervisor with a statement from her doctor indicating that she would need to take a short medical leave and that she would be recovering from her injury at home. However, Graham alleges that she nonetheless reported back to work with special kind of shoe which allowed her to walk and stand at work.

Graham claims that on November 14, 2004, she filed her charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) and cross-filed this charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII),and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (ADA). Her claim was allegedly dismissed by the EEOC and IDHR in September 2005. (S.A. Compl. Par. 19).

Graham filed the instant action pro se on December 17, 2007. After Defendants filed a motion to dismiss we gave Graham an opportunity to file an amended complaint and a second amended complaint. When we liberally construe Graham's pro se second amended complaint, Graham appears to be bringing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Section 1981), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Section 1983), 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Section 1985), Title VII claims, and ADA claims. Defendants have again moved to dismiss all claims.


In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Rule 12(b)(6)), 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. Thompson v. Ill. Dept. of Prof. Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002); Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 466 (7th Cir. 1991). 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 Sch., 144 F.3d 448, 454-55 (7th Cir. 1998); Lucien v. Preiner, 967 F.2d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir. 1992). A plaintiff is required to include allegations in the complaint that "plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level' and 'if they do not, the plaintiff pleads itself out of court.'" E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting in part Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)). Under the current notice pleading standard in federal courts, a plaintiff need not "plead facts that, if true, establish each element of a 'cause of action. . . .'" See Sanjuan v. Amer. Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)(stating that "[a]t this stage the plaintiff receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint" and that "[m]atching facts against legal elements comes later"). The plaintiff need not allege all of the facts involved in the claim and can plead conclusions. Higgs v. Carver, 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,'" Kyle, 144 F.3d at 455 (quoting Jackson v. Marion County, 66 F.3d 151, 153-54 (7th Cir. 1995)), and the plaintiff cannot satisfy federal pleading requirements merely "by attaching bare legal conclusions to narrated facts which fail to outline the bases of her claims." Perkins, 939 F.2d at 466-67. The Seventh Circuit has explained that "[o]ne pleads a 'claim for relief' by briefly describing the events." Sanjuan, 40 F.3d at 251; Nance v. Vieregge, 147 F.3d 589, 590 (7th Cir. 1998)(stating that "[p]laintiffs need not plead facts or legal theories; it is enough to set out a claim for relief").


I. Graham's Second Amended Complaint

Graham brought the instant action pro se. After Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the instant action, the court granted Graham's request for leave to file a second amended complaint to clarify her claims. In Graham's second amended complaint, she has included a jurisdictional section in which she has cited several federal statutes, a fact section which consists of a narrative of the events that she alleges occurred in this case, and finally a prayer for relief section in which she requests various monetary awards for pain and suffering. Graham also requests an order from the court instructing the EEOC to conduct further investigation into her prior complaint. The Seventh Circuit has stated that "pro se complaints are to be liberally construed and not held to the stringent standards expected of pleadings drafted by lawyers." See McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). ...

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