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Schwarz v. Loyola University Medical Center

September 18, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Plaintiff Daniel Schwarz ("Schwarz") filed a seven-count amended complaint [6] against Defendant Loyola University Medical Center ("Loyola") alleging discriminatory employment practices. This matter is now before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss [13] Counts IV and VI for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion [13] is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background*fn1

Schwarz is a licensed physician who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"). Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 29. After completing one year of training at the University of Michigan, Schwarz applied for a position in a three-year Plastic Surgery Residency Training Program ("Program") at Loyola, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates a medical care facility located in Maywood, Illinois. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Loyola offered Schwarz a position in the Program, which he accepted. Id. ¶ 14. At the time that Schwarz was hired, Loyola was aware that Schwarz was taking prescription medication for his ADHD and that it could substantially limit his ability to work and interact with others. Id. ¶¶ 29, 33.

Prior to starting the Program, Schwarz was required to participate in Loyola's non-accredited general surgery rotation ("Rotation"), which started on September 1, 2006. Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 15-17. On the first day of the Rotation, Schwarz and Loyola entered into an employment contract, the Graduate Medical Education Agreement ("Agreement"), which set the terms and conditions of Schwarz's employment as a resident in the Rotation. Id. ¶ 15. The Agreement provides that "prior to participating in the resident rotations required of PGY-7 plastic surgery residents, [Schwarz] will be assigned to a non-accredited general surgery rotation where he will receive training under the direct supervision of the Chairman of the Department of Surgery for a period of time not to exceed three months." Agreement at 3. Upon successful completion of the Rotation, "[Schwarz] shall begin his participation in the plastic surgery residency-training program" and "he will be issued a new agreement for the plastic surgery residency-training program." Id. However, if the Rotation is not successfully completed, "[Schwarz] will not be permitted to participate in the plastic surgery residency-training program and this Agreement shall terminate immediately." Id.

According to Schwarz, during the Rotation he was required to work more than 24 hours without a break and more than 80 hours per week, which was a violation of the standards established by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Amend. Compl. ¶ 71. Furthermore, because Schwarz's medication was ineffective at treating his ADHD after long hours of working without a break, his ability to work effectively was substantially limited. Id. ¶¶ 30, 32. Schwarz made several requests to change his work schedule to accommodate his need to avoid working excessive hours, but his requests were ignored. Id. ¶ 31. On September 22, 2006, Schwarz was informed that Loyola had decided to dismiss him from the Rotation. Id. ¶ 20. Schwarz also was barred from participating in the Program. Id.

After exhausting all of the internal grievance procedures at Loyola, Schwarz filed a complaint against Loyola, which was followed soon after by an amended complaint. Schwarz's amended complaint raises seven counts relating to employment discrimination: Counts I-IV allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act; Count V alleges a violation of the Rehabilitation Act; Count VI alleges a violation of Illinois common law doctrine of retaliatory discharge; and Count VII alleges defamation. Loyola filed the present motion to dismiss Count IV and Count VI, arguing that Schwarz pleaded himself out of court on both counts. Schwarz subsequently withdrew Count IV of his Amended Complaint [18], leaving only the motion to dismiss Count VI currently before the Court.

II. Standard of Review

A. Legal Standard on a Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint and not the merits of the suit. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563. The court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005).

B. Facts Alleged in Pleadings

As a preliminary matter, the Court must determine which facts are encompassed within the "pleadings" for consideration of Loyola's Rule 12(b)(6) motion. For purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Seventh Circuit has held that the pleadings "consist generally of the complaint, any exhibits attached to, and supporting briefs." Thompson v. Ill. Dept. of Prof'l Relations, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). More specifically, "documents attached to a motion to dismiss are considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to his claim." Wright v. Associated Ins. Co.'s Inc., 29 F.3d 1244, 1248 (7th Cir. 1994).

While the Court must generally accept the allegations in the complaint as true, the Court is free to examine independently and form its own conclusions as to the proper construction and meaning of documents attached to, and made part of, a complaint. See Rosenblum v. Ltd., 299 F.3d 657, 661 (7th Cir. 2002) (quoting WRIGHT & MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 1327 at 766 (1990)). To the extent that the terms of an attached document conflict with the allegations of the complaint, the attached document controls. Centers v. Centennial Mortgage Inc., 398 F.3d 930, 933 (7th Cir. 2005). "[A] plaintiff may plead himself out of court by attaching documents to the complaint that indicate that he or she is not entitled to judgment." Ogden Martin Sys. of Indianapolis, Inc. v. Whiting Corp., 179 F.3d 523, 529 (7th Cir. 1999) (quoting In re Wade, 969 F.2d 241, 249 (7th Cir. 1992)).

Here, Schwarz described the terms of the Agreement in his amended complaint and referenced a copy of the Agreement, which he labeled as Exhibit 1. Amend. Compl. ¶ 15. Although the Agreement was not, in fact, attached to his amended complaint, Schwarz included an unsigned Agreement as an exhibit to his original complaint. A slightly different, signed Agreement was added to the record as Exhibit B to Loyola's memorandum in support of its motion to dismiss [14].*fn2 The Agreement plays a central role in the dispute because it establishes the terms and conditions of ...

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