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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. United Parcel Service

September 28, 2011

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF, TRUDI MOMSEN,
PLAINTIFF-INTERVENOR,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant United Parcel Service's ("UPS") motion to dismiss [49] the proposed class action claims of Plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's ("the EEOC") first amended complaint [44]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to dismiss [49] is granted.

I. Background*fn1

The EEOC filed an original complaint on behalf of former UPS employee Trudi Momsen alleging that UPS violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 ("Civil Rights Act") by permitting Momsen only a twelve-month leave of absence and failing to provide her with reasonable accommodation for her disability. The Court dismissed the original complaint with leave to refile because the claim did not sufficiently plead that Momsen was qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. The EEOC thereafter filed a first amended complaint asserting claims on behalf of Momsen as well as Mavis Luvert and unidentified class members. The EEOC alleges that UPS has violated the ADA and Civil Rights Act because it inflexibly permits only twelve-month leaves of absence for disabled individuals and does not provide for reasonable accommodation of those individuals.*fn2

The EEOC alleges that Momsen was a UPS employee who took a medical leave of absence from February 2006 to February 2007 for reasons related to her multiple sclerosis ("MS"). When Momsen returned to work in February 2007, she requested reasonable accommodations from UPS, including a hand cart that would allow her the mobility required to perform her job duties. The EEOC contends that when Momsen requested a hand cart, her supervisor laughed in response, and UPS refused to provide her with this or any other accommodation for her disability. Momsen thereafter injured herself when she slipped on ice while walking to her car in the UPS parking lot. In addition, after returning to work, Momsen experienced a flare-up of her MS that required her to take additional time off to receive therapeutic treatment. The EEOC alleges that UPS fired Momsen pursuant to its twelve-month leave policy rather than accommodating her by extending her leave or offering her other reasonable accommodations. The EEOC contends that, despite her disability, Momsen could perform the essential functions of her job.

The EEOC alleges that Mavis Luvert is a qualified individual with a disability who could perform the essential functions of her job with or without an accommodation. Luvert was diagnosed with emphysema and frequently has difficulty breathing, particularly when the temperature is high. In July 2006, Luvert was transferred to an area of the UPS facility that had a relatively warm temperature and limited ventilation. The EEOC alleges that Luvert presented UPS with a doctor's note advising that she work only in a well-ventilated area. Luvert requested that UPS allow her to return to her original area where the ventilation was better. The EEOC alleges that in response to Luvert's request, UPS placed Luvert on a disability leave of absence of more than twelve months and then fired her. According to the EEOC, Luvert could have continued her employment with UPS if UPS had provided a fan as a reasonable accommodation for her in her new work location or if UPS had returned her to her original work area. However, the EEOC alleges, UPS never had any discussions with Luvert concerning possible accommodations and fired her pursuant to its twelve-month leave policy.

In addition to its detailed allegations concerning Momsen and Luvert, the EEOC also has asserted claims on behalf of a purported class of unidentified individuals with disabilities who were subjected to UPS's allegedly unlawful employment practices. The EEOC alleges that each purported class member is a qualified individual with a disability who could perform the essential duties of his or her job with or without a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC alleges that UPS should have but did not make reasonable accommodations for class members to permit them to perform the essential functions of their jobs.

UPS filed a motion to dismiss in part the EEOC's first amended complaint. UPS does not seek dismissal of the claims asserted on behalf of Momsen and Luvert. UPS does, however, move to dismiss the EEOC's claims on behalf of class members aside from Momsen and Luvert on the ground that the EEOC has not pleaded (and cannot plead) sufficient facts regarding the putative class members' alleged disabilities, the leaves of absence they were afforded, or the reasonable accommodations that UPS purportedly failed to provide for them.

II. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss

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). 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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (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, 127 S. Ct. at 1965, 1973 n.14). "[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, 127 S.Ct. at 1969. 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).

III. Analysis

Under the ADA, it is unlawful for an employer to fail to make reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(b)(5)(A), 12112(a). To establish a prima facie case of such a violation, the EEOC must show that the individuals on whose behalf they assert a claim under the ADA (1) are disabled and (2) are otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) that the individuals' employer took adverse job actions against them because of their disabilities or failed to make reasonable accommodations. See Stevens v. Illinois Dep't of Transp., 210 F.3d 732, 736 (7th Cir. 2000); Mobley v. Allstate Ins. Co., 531 F.3d 539, 545 (7th Cir. 2008). When the EEOC files a claim under the ADA, "it is not enough for a complaint to avoid foreclosing possible bases for relief; it must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level." E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 777 (7th Cir. 2007) (citations and quotation marks omitted). The EEOC's complaint must plead sufficient facts to put the employer on notice of the claims against it and to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Concentra Health Servs., 496 F.3d at 776.

The EEOC alleges that all unidentified class members are disabled and "could perform the essential duties of his or her job with or without a reasonable accommodation." [44, at ¶ 9.] The EEOC further contends that UPS failed to reasonably accommodate the unidentified class members' disabilities by maintaining an inflexible twelve-month leave policy. According to the EEOC, UPS's leave policy resulted in the termination of the unidentified class members' employment rather than reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. The first amended complaint does not allege any specific facts regarding what the unidentified class members' disabilities are, the conditions of their termination or leave, or what accommodations would have been suitable for them to return to work.*fn3

UPS argues that the EEOC's first amended complaint does not satisfy the Twombly pleading standard because the complaint includes only conclusory and formulaic statements regarding unidentified class members' qualification for protection under the ADA. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice"). Although the factual basis required under Twombly will "depend on the type of case," the mere "formulaic recitation of the elements" of a claim is prohibited. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The EEOC "must provide some specific description of [the protected conduct] beyond the mere fact that it is protected," and the allegations must "specifically indicate that the plaintiff is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation." Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d at 781 (emphasis added). UPS ...


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