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Candice Rowe v. U.S. Bancorp and U.S. Bank National Association

March 6, 2012

CANDICE ROWE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
U.S. BANCORP AND U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sara Darrow United States District Judge

E-FILED

Tuesday, 06 March, 2012 03:12:46 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This action was filed by the Plaintiff Candice Rowe ("Rowe) against the Defendants U.S. Bancorp, Inc., and U.S. Bank, N.A. ("U.S. Bank"), a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp and Rowe's former employer. Rowe seeks damages for wrongful termination alleging, inter alia, that U.S. Bank was motivated by unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), interfered with her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), and committed the common law torts of intentional infliction of emotional distress and retaliatory discharge. (Rowe's Compl., ECF No. 1.) Rowe alleges jurisdiction is proper in this Court because the action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (ADA) and 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (FMLA). Presently before the Court is U.S. Bank's Motion to Dismiss. (U.S. Bank's Mot., ECF No. 6.)

Based on the present allegations, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Rowe sufficiently stated a claim for FMLA interference under Count I and ADA discrimination and retaliation under Counts III and IV. The Court therefore denies U.S. Bank's motion to dismiss those counts. The Court further finds that Rowe cannot obtain the punitive damages sought in Count V of the Complaint with respect to her FMLA and ADA retaliation claims and thus partially grants U.S. Bank's motion to dismiss that count.

As to Counts VI and VII, the Court finds that Rowe has not adequately stated a claim for relief under the common law torts of intentional infliction of emotional distress and retaliatory discharge. Thus, the Court dismisses Counts VI and VII.

II. BACKGROUND

In July 2008, Candice Rowe was hired by U.S. Bank as a Teller in its Rock Island, Illinois branch. (Compl. 3-4.) She was promoted from Teller to Mortgage Opener in February 2010. (Id.) She claims that she received positive performance evaluations and enjoyed a good reputation among her colleagues during most of the two years she was employed at the bank. (Compl. at 2-3.) Rowe also asserts that she never required leave or special accommodations until May 2010, despite having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis ("M.S.") in 2005. (Compl. ¶ 21.) Rowe's M.S. occasionally resulted in symptoms for which treatment or rest was required, but she did not disclose the existence of her condition to supervisors, Ms. Melinda O'Melia and Ms. Polli Townsend, before May 2010. (Id.)

Rowe contends that she received significantly different treatment from her supervisors after requesting six weeks of FMLA leave for a surgical procedure that would be scheduled sometime during mid to late July 2010. (Compl. at 4.) Specifically, Rowe alleges that she began receiving more criticism of her performance, less cooperation in completing her tasks, and, despite a heavy workload, was provided less clerical support than her co-workers. (Compl. at 5.) She also alleges that her supervisors cautioned her regarding her responsibility to guarantee the success of an annual audit. (Id.) Rowe implies that her supervisors were motivated to warn her regarding the audit because if she failed it, O'Melia would be denied a bonus and Townsend would be denied a trip. (Compl. ¶ 27.)

Rowe states that she received a medical excuse from her physician on July 9, 2010, confirming that she was scheduled for surgery on July 20, 2010, with an anticipated return to work date of September 1, 2010. (Compl. ¶ 28.) Based on the surgery and anticipated recovery, Rowe initiated a Short Term Disability (STD) and FMLA claim with "the Hartford," presumably the company's insurance provider. (Compl. at 5.) Then, on July 18, 2010, one day before Rowe was to take her leave, Rowe was informed by O'Melia and Townsend that she was being terminated due to poor job performance. (Compl. ¶ 34.) Rowe was later informed on August 30, 2010, that the effective date of her termination was August 27, 2010, coinciding with the end of her leave. (Compl. ¶ 41.) After that meeting, Rowe was informed by letter that her STD and FMLA claims had been approved for leave from July 19, 2010 through August 26, 2010. (Compl. ¶ 34.) This approval was a few days short of her request for leave through September 1, 2010. (Compl. at 5.)

Rowe claims that before the August 26, 2010, expiration of her approved leave, she requested a leave extension to September 5, 2010. (Compl. ¶ 34.) She supported her request with a "Statement of Continued Disability" from her physician that indicated she could return to work with no restrictions on September 6, 2010. (Id.) But, the extension request apparently was not considered. (Compl. at 6-8.)

On September 17, 2010, Rowe filed a charge with the EEOC. (U.S. Bank's Mot. Ex. B, ECF No. 7.) The face of the charging document indicated that it was based on an allegation of "racial discrimination." (Id.) The EEOC decided to forego administrative enforcement of the allegations and, as is customary in such circumstances, issued Ms. Rowe a "Right to Sue" letter on November 23, 2010, giving her the right to proceed ...


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