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Toleda Travis v. Cook-Dupage Transportation

April 16, 2012

TOLEDA TRAVIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK-DUPAGE TRANSPORTATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Toleda Travis brings this suit against her former employer, the Cook-DuPage Transportation Company ("CDT"), for discrimination based on sex due to pregnancy in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., (Count I) ("Title VII"), retaliation in violation of Title VII (Count II), and violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12102, et seq., (Count III) ("ADA"). CDT moves to dismiss Counts II and III of Travis's Amended Complaint, arguing that the claims fall outside those for which he received his right-to-sue letter, or reasonably related to, the claims made in Travis's Charge submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), and regardless they fail to state a claim.

I. Background

The following facts are drawn from Travis's Amended Complaint. Their veracity is assumed for the purpose of deciding this Motion to Dismiss. See Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717 (7th Cir.1995).

Travis began working as a driver for CDT in January of 2004. CDT provides car and van transportation to disabled people. Travis was hired as a driver of both cars and vans. Drivers who drive van shifts must be capable of performing the physical labor of helping wheelchair-bound passenger on and off the vans. Drivers of car shifts do not have to perform this added physical labor.

In or around August 2007, Travis informed CDT that she was pregnant. She also informed CDT that her physician had diagnosed her as a high-risk pregnancy, due in part to her age, and that her physician had recommended that she avoid all undue physical exertion, including the physical exertion associated with helping wheelchair-bound passengers board and disembark vans. Accordingly, Travis sought accommodation from CDT to work only car shifts. CDT refused many of Travis's requests for accommodation, telling Travis that she would have to work a van shift or no shift at all. As a result, CDT frequently sent Travis home without giving her a shift.

In March 2008, Travis took maternity leave and then gave birth. During her leave Travis filed a Charge with the EEOC complaining of the alleged discrimination she suffered. After her maternity leave ended, Travis returned to work. In September 2008, Travis suffered an accident while on the job when another driver rear-ended the vehicle she was driving. As a result of the accident Travis suffered a back injury. Travis's physician diagnosed her with a cervical, thoracic and lumbar strain and advised her to avoid all undue physical activity, including the physical exertion associated with helping wheelchair-bound passengers board and disembark vans. Accordingly, Travis sought accommodation from CDT to work only car shifts. At first, CDT acceded to Travis's request for accommodation but then reversed course and refused many of her requests. CDT told Travis that she would have to work a van shift or no shift at all. CDT also urged Travis to take Vicodin. Travis refused because she was breast-feeding. CDT also urged Travis to take Family Medical Leave Act leave rather than accommodate her requests. Travis also refused this suggestion. As a result, CDT frequently sent Travis home without giving her a shift.

Some time in 2009, CDT began requiring that its drivers each possess a commercial driver's license, which Travis did not possess. Travis, like all CDT drivers who did not possess a commercial driver's license, was instructed to obtain one. According to the procedures then in place, an applicant could take the exam to obtain a commercial driver's license three times before being required to wait six to 12 months before taking the exam again. As of October 2009, Travis had taken the exam twice unsuccessfully. CDT therefore terminated Travis's employment for failing to obtain a commercial driver's license.

On April 1, 2011, the EEOC issued Travis a Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue by certified mail. The Postal Service returned the April 1, 2011, Right to Sue letter because it was unclaimed. The EEOC sent Travis another copy of the Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue via regular mail on June 3, 2011. On August 31, 2011, Travis filed a pro se Complaint in this Court. The Court then granted Travis's Motion for the Appointment of Counsel. Travis filed an Amended Complaint on December 20, 2011.

II. Standard of Review

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court accepts as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Murphy, 51 F.3d at 717. To properly state a valid claim, the complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Detailed factual allegations" are not required, but the plaintiff must allege facts that, when "accepted as true ... 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To determine whether a complaint meets this standard the "reviewing court [must] draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. If the factual allegations are well-pleaded, the Court assumes their veracity and then proceeds to determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. A claim has facial plausibility when its factual content allows the Court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. See Id. at 1949.

III. Discussion

In order to bring a civil action alleging a violation of Title VII or of the ADA, a plaintiff must exhaust her administrative remedies with the EEOC. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e); Doe v. Oberweis Dairy, 456 F.3d 704, 708 (7th Cir. 2006). Accordingly, a plaintiff must first present her claims of discrimination to the agency before she may litigate them in federal court. See Conner v. Ill. Dep't of Natural Res., 413 F.3d 675, 680 (7th Cir. 2005); Gorence v. Eagle Food Ctrs., 242 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2001). In Illinois, a plaintiff bringing a Title VII charge must file it with the EEOC "within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). Likewise, because the ADA's enforcement provision incorporates those of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, a plaintiff pursuing a charge under the ADA has three hundred days from the time of the allegedly unlawful act in which to bring a timely charge to the EEOC. See 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a); Stepney v. Naperville Sch. Dist. 203, 392 F.3d 236, 239 (7th Cir. 2004). Furthermore, before a plaintiff may file suit in federal court under Title VII or the ADA she must receive a right to sue letter from the EEOC. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1) (Title VII); 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a), incorporating 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1) (ADA); Gorence, 242 F.3d at 763. A plaintiff then has 90 days after the receipt of a right to sue letter to commence a civil action in the district court. See Id. All of these statutory requirements must be satisfied as preconditions to bringing suit; failure to do so is grounds for dismissal. See Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385 (1982).

The scope of a civil action brought after a charge is submitted to the EEOC is circumscribed by the nature of the charges filed. See Rush v. McDonald's Corp., 966 F.2d 1104, 1110 (7th Cir. 1992). Therefore, the general rule is that a plaintiff may not bring claims into subsequent judicial proceedings that were not within the scope of the earlier EEOC charge. See Sitar v. Indiana Department of Transportation, 344 F.3d 720, 726 (7th Cir. 2003). This limitation on a plaintiff's right to recover serves the dual purpose of promoting primary jurisdiction in the agency and notice to the employer. Notwithstanding the general rule that a plaintiff may only bring a claim in court that was included in her original EEOC charge, "because most EEOC charges are completed by laypersons rather than by lawyers, a Title VII plaintiff need not allege in an EEOC charge each and every fact that combines to form the basis of each claim in her complaint." Cheek v. W. & S. Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1994). Claims that are "like or reasonably related" to charges made with the EEOC and which may reasonably be expected ...


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