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King v. Northwest Community Hospital

April 7, 2010

MARIANNE KING, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTHWEST COMMUNITY HOSPITAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendant Northwest Community Hospital's (NCH) partial motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, we deny the partial motion to dismiss.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Marianne King (King) allegedly began employment with NCH in March 1992. King contends that she suffers from several disabilities, including osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and pseudo-gout. In August 2006, King allegedly worked in the NCH Adult Day Center and had an outstanding work performance history. King was allegedly 65 years old at that time. According to King, her supervisor began making comments about her age, asking when she was going to retire. Other employees also allegedly referred to King in her supervisor's presence as "Grandma." (Compl. Par. 18). At the end of 2007, King allegedly advised her supervisor that she was going to schedule hip replacement surgery. King contends that she made clear to her supervisor that King was willing to delay the surgery if taking medical leave from work would jeopardize her employment. King claims that her supervisor assured King that she would still have her job when she returned from the surgery. In the time leading up to King's surgery, the alleged comments about King's age by King's supervisor allegedly escalated. Her supervisor allegedly asked King if she was sure that she could still do the job, suggested that King retire, and told King that her job was hard for someone of her age.

King claims that after her surgery, her supervisor refused to allow King to return to work. In a conversation with her employer, King was allegedly informed that her position had been terminated and that her hours had been assigned to another part-time worker with whom King had shared her position prior to her surgery. King also claims that during the conversation with her supervisor, her supervisor referred to King's retirement age and "stability" as bases for her termination. (Compl. Par. 33). After King lost her position, King allegedly complained to NCH Human Resources Department (HRD) about unlawful discrimination. HRD allegedly failed to reinstate King to her position, but purportedly offered to assist King with a job search at NCH. During this period, NCH allegedly presented King with a severance package that would require her to retire from employment at NCH. King contends that each time HRD located a job, King indicated a willingness to accept the job, but the job offer was rescinded by NCH for some reason. NCH also allegedly encouraged King to accept the severance package, and on June 27, 2008, NCH presented King with a severance agreement that terminated her employment as of July 1, 2008. King includes in her complaint a claim alleging discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., (Count I), an ADEA retaliation claim (Count II), a claim alleging discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., (Count III), an ADA failure to accommodate claim (Count IV), an ADA retaliation claim (Count V), and a promissory estoppel claim (Count VI). NCH has moved to dismiss Counts II-VI.

LEGAL STANDARD

In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Rule 12(b)(6)), a court must "accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint" and make reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(stating that the tenet is "inapplicable to legal conclusions"); Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). To defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations omitted)(quoting in part Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint that contains factual allegations that are "merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations omitted)(quoting in part Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

DISCUSSION

I. ADA Discrimination Claim (Count III)

NCH argues that King cannot prevail on her ADA discrimination claim because she is not disabled under the ADA. NCH also contends that King is not a qualified individual under the ADA because King admits that she could not have worked for several months after her leave expired.

A. Whether King is Disabled

NCH argues that King has not alleged facts to show that she was disabled under the ADA. The ADA prohibits a covered employer from "discriminat[ing] against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). However, the ADA does not protect every individual with an injury, aliment, or illness. See Nese v. Julian Nordic Const. Co., 405 F.3d 638, 641 (7th Cir. 2005)(stating that "[t]he ADA is not a general protection for medically afflicted persons"). Under the ADA, the term "'disability' means, with respect to an individual-- (A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).

1. Impairment that Limits Major Life Activities

NCH argues that King has not specifically identified what major life activity was limited by her impairments. The term "major life activities" is defined as tasks such as "caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working." 42 U.S.C. ยง 12102(2)(A)(emphasis added). Contrary to NCH's contention, King is not required to specifically plead all of the elements for her cause of action and thus was not required to specifically list in her complaint what major life activity was limited by her impairments. See ...


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