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Wright v. Bullock

September 2, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge


Before the Court are Defendant's, Children's Home and Aid Society ("CHASI"), Motion to Dismiss Counts VI and IX of Plaintiff's, Margaret Wright's ("Wright") Amended Complaint [#16] and Defendant's, Cindy Petty ("Petty"), Motion to Dismiss Counts V and VIII of Wright's Amended Complaint [#24]. For the reasons set forth below, the CHASI's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part and Petty's Motion is DENIED.


Wright is a former employee of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"), who worked at DCFS from June 7, 1982, through September 30, 2007. (Am. Compl. ¶ 9). She has brought suit against three DCFS officials (Mary Ellen Bullock, Jill Foster, and Pete Wessel), CHASI, and two of CHASI's employees (Petty and Petronilo Costa, M.D. ("Costa")).

Wright alleges that Defendants attempted to compel her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation (which she refused) and in doing so, invaded her privacy interests protected under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and interfered with her employment relationship with DCFS, which resulted in her loss of job. As the three DCFS officials have filed Answers and Affirmative Defenses to the counts against them in the Amended Complaint and Wright has not perfected service on CHASI employee Costa, the Court will summarize the relevant facts and allegations from the Amended Complaint, as they pertain to CHASI and Petty.

Wright was employed as a Child Welfare Specialist II, where she provided various services to families and children including wards of DCFS who were assigned to her, and where she oversaw and monitored the services provided for these individuals by firms who had contracts with DCFS, like CHASI. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 2, 9, 10). As part of her job, she handled the case of a DCFS ward named CPL, who at various times was placed in a residential facility operated by CHASI. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11, 16).

Wright periodically visited CPL at CHASI, conferred with CPL's care providers at CHASI, and monitored the care and services provided to CPL by CHASI. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18). She states that prior to December of 2006, she maintained a good working relationship with the individuals at CHASI assigned to provide care and services to CPL. (Am. Compl. ¶ 19). However, during the year 2006, Wright, as well as certain mental health professionals who provided services to DCFS and its wards, became concerned about potential problems which existed at CHASI, including concerns that CHASI staff members were either abusing or not properly caring for wards who were residents at its facility. (Am. Compl. ¶ 20).

Wright alleges that beginning on December 14, 2006, and continuing into the year 2007, individuals at CHASI involved in the care of CPL became less cooperative with Wright, and began interfering with her efforts in monitoring his care and treatment at CHASI. (Am. Compl. ¶ 21). Wright contends that on April 19, 2007, Wright attempted to contact CPL by telephone while she was a resident of CHASI, but that representatives of CHASI resisted her attempt to communicate with CPL. (Am. Compl. ¶ 24). At no time prior to that date had CHASI ever complained to Wright about her interactions with CPL or indicated that she was in any respect interfering with the care it was providing to CPL. Id. On April 20, 2007, a non-work day for Wright, Petty contacted Wright and indicated that CHASI was no longer willing to work with her. (Am. Compl. ¶ 25). Wright maintains that at no time during or prior to that conversation did any representative of CHASI ever inform her that she was engaging in conduct which was contrary to the best interests of CPL or interfering with the care and treatment CPL was receiving at CHASI. Id.

On April 23, 2007, a DCFS official informed Wright that she was to have no further contact with CPL until DCFS had conducted an unbiased review of CPL's case. (Am. Compl. ¶ 26). On April 25, 2007, a DCFS official informed Wright that the investigation concluded that there was no evidence that Wright had engaged in any improper conduct or behavior in her handling of CPL's case, but that there were concerns about the manner in which CHASI provided services for CPL. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27).

Wright alleges that Defendants Jill Foster and Mary Ellen Bullock met on or about May 3, 2007, with representatives of CHASI including Petty, whereby they discussed Wright. (Am. Compl. ¶ 30). Immediately after that meeting, Defendant Mary Ellen Bullock directed Wright to have no further contact with anyone concerning CPL. Id. On May 7, 2007, Wright discovered that all files and related documents she had pertaining to CPL had been removed from her desk. (Am. Compl. ¶ 33). Later that day, Defendant Jill Foster informed her that CPL's case had been reassigned to another child welfare specialist. Id. Despite her request for a reason, neither the Defendant Jill Foster, nor Defendant Mary Ellen Bullock, would give her a reason for that decision. Id.

On June 4, 2007, DCFS sent Wright an order dated June 1, 2007, which: a) directed her to undergo an independent fitness for duty evaluation conducted by a psychiatrist selected by DCFS on June 19, 2007; b) indicated that the evaluation was arranged due to exhibited behavior on her part that put into question her personal safety and the safety of others in the workplace; c) indicated that the evaluation would be used to determine if she was able to perform the essential functions of her duties as a child welfare specialist; and d) indicated that if she refused to comply her refusal might result in her being considered unfit for duty and subjected to disciplinary action up to and including discharge. (Am. Compl. ¶ 35). Wright alleges that when she asked Defendant Mary Ellen Bullock why she was being required to submit to an independent fitness for duty evaluation, Defendant Mary Ellen Bullock told her that DCFS was not required to provide her with that information. (Am. Compl. ¶ 37). Wright maintains she did not attend the fitness for duty evaluation because of the intrusive nature of the fitness for duty evaluation, her concern that personal information she shared with the evaluator during the course of the evaluation would be exchanged with representatives of DCFS, and because DCFS failed to set forth any reasonable justification for the evaluation. (Am. Comp. ¶ 43).

On July 17, 2007, DCFS convened a pre-disciplinary meeting where it accused Wright of insubordination for her failure to attend the July 16, 2007, fitness for duty evaluation. (Am. Compl. ¶ 44). Thereafter, Defendants Mary Ellen Bullock and Jill Foster placed Wright on desk duty, and Defendant Jill Foster transferred all of the active cases assigned to the Wright to other caseworkers. (Am. Compl. ¶ 45). On August 1, 2007, Defendant Jill Foster gave Wright her annual performance evaluation, where she criticized Wright's performance, despite never having previously shared any concerns or criticisms regarding how Wright was performing her duties for DCFS. (Am. Compl. ¶ 48). On August 2, 2007, Defendant Mary Ellen Bullock informed Wright that she was being assessed a fifteen day disciplinary suspension extending from August 6, 2007, through August 21, 2007. (Am. Compl. ¶ 49).

Wright was also informed that on August 22, 2007, she would be directed to attend another fitness for duty evaluation conducted by a psychiatrist selected by DCFS. Id. Wright proposed that a mutuallyagreeable mental health professional could conduct the fitness for duty evaluation, but Defendant Mary Ellen Bullock, on behalf of DCFS, rejected that proposal. (Am. Compl ¶ 50). On August 22, 2007, pursuant to the direction given to her by DCFS, Wright reported to the scheduled fitness for duty evaluation referred to above but declined to execute a consent enabling the psychiatrist to release to DCFS information gathered during his examination, and the fitness for duty evaluation was not conducted. (Am. Compl. ¶ 52).

On September 4, 2007, Defendant Mary Ellen Bullock informed Wright that she would be summoned to attend a pre-disciplinary meeting on September 5, 2007, because of her failure to cooperate with the fitness for duty evaluation, and that Wright was required to remain on desk duty and would not be allowed to perform any case work. (Am. Compl. ΒΆ 53). Wright stated that she resigned from DCFS, effective September 30, 2007, because she believed she ...

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