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Collier v. City of Chicago

February 4, 2010

STEVEN A. COLLIER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant City of Chicago's ("the City") motion to dismiss [41] for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss [41] is denied.

I. Background

Plaintiff, Steven A. Collier ("Collier"), filed this lawsuit in state court on August 28, 2008 [see 1]. The City subsequently removed the suit to this Court, and Collier subsequently amended his complaint [29]. The amended complaint names the City as well as two individual defendants who have not filed motions to dismiss-John Zander ("Zander") and Maureen Egan ("Egan").

According to Collier, whose well-pleaded factual allegations the Court accepts as true at the motion to dismiss phase (Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005)), he began working for the City in 1994. Compl. ¶ 9. Most recently he worked in the Department of Water Management and held the title of Hoisting Engineer. Id. Then he got sick. On August 21, 2006, Collier became ill while at work. After following the pertinent City rules, Collier left work with the approval of his employer. During the next week, he was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Id. ¶¶ 10-12. Also during that period, Collier kept the City apprised of his goings on, notifying the City of the multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Id. ¶ 13.

A week after he became ill at work, on August 28, Collier made numerous telephone calls, including one to Zander, letting the City know that he would not be available for work. Compl. ¶¶ 14-15. Two days later, Collier was readmitted to a hospital for treatment of complications from multiple sclerosis. Id. ¶ 16. Then, on September 1, Collier submitted to the City instructions (apparently from his doctor), which included a return-to-work date of September 18. Id. ¶ 17.

But September 18 never came, or more accurately Collier was not afforded an opportunity to return to work: on September 13, the City fired Collier, stating in a letter that Collier had been absent for more than five days without notifying the City. Compl. ¶ 18. Subsequent discussions, in which Collier tried to inform the City about the numerous telephone calls that he had made and about the doctor's return-to-work letter, proved fruitless. The City reaffirmed its decision to fire Collier. Id. ¶¶ 19-22. On October 10, Collier filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHS"), and about a month later, Collier filed a grievance with the City through his union local. Id. ¶¶ 23-25.

Collier's complaint comprises seven counts. Count I alleges wrongful termination against all Defendants. Count III (there is no Count II) alleges defamation per se on the theory that the wrongful firing was a calculated misrepresentation about Collier's integrity and work record; that Count names only Defendants Egan and Zander. Count IV alleges defamation per quod on the theory that the wrongful firing would lead a reasonable person to believe that Collier was incompetent; the Count names only Defendants Egan and Zander. Count V alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress for the "callous and uncaring" termination of Collier's employment; the count names only Defendants Egan and Zander. Count VII (there is no Count VI) names all Defendants and alleges that the City violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") when it refused to provide reasonable accommodation for Collier's "medical situation cancer treatment [sic]." Count VIII alleges that Defendants Egan and Zander committed fraud when they fired Collier. Count IX alleges that Defendants Egan and Zander engaged in a conspiracy to wrongfully terminate Collier's employment. Collier seeks lost wages, interest, reinstatement, punitive damages, and attorneys fees and costs.

II. The City's Motion

The City's motion seeks to dismiss Collier's complaint in its entirety. That is not possible, as the City brought the motion only on behalf of itself, and the City is named in only two of the seven counts. In pertinent part, the City argues that (1) Plaintiff failed to plead that he exhausted his administrative remedies, (2) Plaintiff is not permitted to sue Egan and Zander under the ADA; (3) Zander and Egan cannot be sued under Count I in their official capacity; (4) all of Collier's state law claims are time barred; and (5) Collier's request for punitive damages under the ADA should be stricken because the City is immune from such damages by statute and because Zander and Egan cannot be sued at all under the ADA.

III. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In analyzing a motion to dismiss, the factual universe generally is defined by the Plaintiff's complaint: the Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the Plaintiff and all reasonable inference that can be drawn therefrom. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005).

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 Atl. Corp. ...


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