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Billie Jean Ammons v. Cook County

June 20, 2012

BILLIE JEAN AMMONS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, A BODY POLITIC, AND SHERIFF TOM DART, SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert W. Gettleman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Billie Jean Ammons filed a three-count amended complaint against defendants Cook County and Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Illinois, alleging employment discrimination in violation of the Family Medical and Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (Count I) and the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq. (Count II), and unlawful retaliation in violation of Title V of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12203 (Count III). Defendants moved to dismiss counts II and III of plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that they were time-barred. The court granted defendants' motion to dismiss on March 15, 2012. Plaintiff has now moved this court to reconsider its March 15, 2012, order granting defendants' motion to dismiss counts II and III of plaintiff's amended complaint. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's motion to reconsider is denied.

FACTS

Plaintiff, a Cook County Deputy Sheriff, was diagnosed with a permanent spinal injury in August 2003 while working for defendants. Shortly thereafter, she received proper authorization from defendants to take periodic medical leave under the FMLA based on the sudden emergence of this condition. In 2006, defendants instituted a policy that restricted promotion opportunities available to officers who had taken medical leave. Specifically, the policy stated a minimum amount of medical leave time credit that a candidate officer must have had available to her in order to qualify for promotion to sergeant. According to plaintiff, she could not qualify for such a promotion because her continued use of FMLA-authorized medical leave since August 2003 prevented her from meeting the requisite threshold amount of time as stated under defendants' policy. Plaintiff alleges that defendants denied her promotion to sergeant rank solely on the basis of her permanent injury, as a consequence of her having to use medical leave.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 22, 2010, plaintiff filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging that defendants failed to promote her based on her disability and open opposition to defendants' 2006 policy of disqualifying officers from promotion to sergeant based on their use and necessity of qualified medical leave. On April 28, 2011, the EEOC issued plaintiff a right-to-sue letter, informing her that she had a right to file a claim within 90 days of receipt of the letter, and that a failure to file within this time frame would bar her right to sue.*fn1 Plaintiff filed a complaint on July 25, 2011-87 days after receiving her right-to-sue letter-asserting claims of employment discrimination based on her use of benefits (i.e., medical leave) provided by the FMLA and "her illness which precipitated [the use of those benefits]" in violation of the ADA (Compl. ¶ 11), and unlawful retaliation in violation of Title V of the ADA.

Upon receipt of the complaint, defendants filed a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that the factual allegations were insufficient to state a claim under the ADA, citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).

On January 25, 2012, this court granted the motion at initial presentation, and dismissed the complaint without prejudice (the "January 25 Order"). During the hearing, plaintiff's counsel stated that he agreed with defendants' motion to dismiss and asked the court for leave to file an amended complaint. This court granted counsel's request and gave plaintiff leave to refile on or before February 15, 2012. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on February 15, 2012. Count I of the amended complaint was brought pursuant to the FMLA, and counts II and III alleged discrimination and retaliation under the ADA and Title V, respectively.*fn2

On March 7, 2012, defendants filed a motion to dismiss Counts II and III of the amended complaint. In their motion, defendants argued that Counts II and III were time-barred because they were filed after the 90-day statutory filing period had elapsed. On March 15, 2012, plaintiff's counsel failed to appear on the motion and the court granted defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiff then filed the instant motion to reconsider and vacate this court's order of March 15, 2012, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e).

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard: Motion for Reconsideration

Rule 59(e) is designed to address substantive questions concerning a judgment. Villegas v. Princeton Farms, Inc., 893 F.2d 919, 924 (7th Cir. 1990). To prevail on a motion to reconsider, the movant must present either newly discovered evidence or establish a manifest error of law or fact. Oto v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000). "Manifest error" is not demonstrated by disappointment of the losing party; rather, it is the wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent. Id. Motions to reconsider that merely take umbrage with the court's ruling and rehash old arguments, and do not demonstrate that there was disregard, misapplication or failure to recognize controlling precedent, are properly rejected by the court. Id. Further, a party may not use a motion to reconsider to introduce new evidence that could have been presented earlier. Id.

II. Analysis

The court technically did not enter a final judgment in this case when, on January 25, 2012, it dismissed plaintiff's original complaint without prejudice and with leave to amend. As discussed below, however, unique circumstances existed that allowed for the dismissal of that complaint to constitute adequate finality for appeal. Thus, although Rule 59(e) applies, plaintiff fails entirely to present either a manifest error of law or fact or newly discovered evidence. Rather, in ...


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