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Baier v. Rohr-Mont Motors, Inc.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 29, 2013

TERRY A. BAIER, Plaintiff,
v.
ROHR-MONT MOTORS, INC., d/b/a Oakbrook Toyota in Westmont, an Illinois corporation, JOHN BARRETT, and ALEX SYED, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUZANNE B. CONLON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Terry Baier sues his former employer, Rohr-Mont Motors, Inc., d/b/a Oakbrook Toyota in Westmont ("Rohr-Mont"), and his former supervisors, John Barrett and Alex Syed, for alleged violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq. (Count I); the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (Count II); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. (Count III); and defamation (Counts IV). Defendants move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons below, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

As an initial matter, defendants have submitted documentation to support their motion to dismiss, including sworn declarations of individual defendants John Barrett and Alex Syed, excerpts of text messages between plaintiff Terry Baier and Syed, three letters from the DuPage Medical Group from October 21, 2011 and October 26, 2011 regarding Baier's medical condition, and Baier's EEOC charge of discrimination. They ask the court to consider these documents in resolving their motion. The court declines to do so.

It is generally improper to consider materials outside the complaint in deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). An exception exists when extraneous documents are referenced in the complaint and central to the plaintiff's claims. Burke v. 401 N. Wabash Venture, LLC, ___ F.3d ___, 2013 WL 1442280, at *2-3 (7th Cir. Apr. 10, 2013). The EEOC charge is disregarded as duplicative of the EEOC charge attached to the complaint. The remaining documents will not be considered because defendants have not established the exception applies. Neither the declarations nor the text messages are mentioned in the complaint. While the complaint alleges Baier provided letters from his physician to defendants, it does not identify the name of the physician, the number of letters, or the dates of the letters. It is not clear that the three letters defendants submitted are the letters Baier referred to or represent all the correspondence he received from his physicians. Moreover, physician letters were not the only form of notice of his medical condition and work restrictions he provided to defendants. Am. Compl. ¶ 27 (notice "including but not limited to providing Defendants with letters from his physician"). Thus, defendants also have not established the letters are central to Baier's claims.

The following facts are taken from the amended complaint. Baier was hired by Rohr-Mont in August 2005. Id. ¶ 13. His most recent title was general sales manager. Id. ¶ 18. On September 28, 2011, he experienced chest pains and was diagnosed with a damaged aortic valve. Id. ¶ 20. He was immediately admitted to the hospital and underwent open heart surgery several days later. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. The surgery was to be followed by rehabilitation lasting approximately twelve weeks. Id. ¶ 21. Baier requested leave under the FMLA to recover and rehabilitate, but Rohr-Mont never provided him with documents for his FMLA leave request. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. Nonetheless, Baier took four weeks of leave. Id. ¶ 24. He returned to work on October 26, 2011 with restrictions that limited his hours and lifting and acknowledged the need for continued rehabilitation. Id. ¶ 25. He wore a visible defibrillator to monitor his heart. Id. ¶ 26.

Baier notified Rohr-Mont about his work restrictions and provided defendants with letters from his physician. Id. ¶ 27. His supervisors and co-workers were aware of his medical conditions and restrictions and that he would require further evaluation. Id. Syed told employees he "could not handle" Baier wearing a defibrillator pack, that it was "a disgrace to the dealership, " and that he was afraid Baier "would drop over dead at the manager's work station." Id. ¶ 28. Rohr-Mont and Syed allowed Baier to attend one rehabilitation appointment but insisted he work extensive hours, usually up to twelve hours per day. Id. ¶ 29. Less than two weeks after his return, Baier was told he would be demoted to sales manager, a move that would entail a 50% pay cut. Id. ¶ 30. Barrett initially told him the reason for the demotion was because Baier "was not a happy person" and "untrainable, " but he later stated that defendants really wanted him to resign. Id. ¶ 31. Barrett terminated Baier's employment the next day. Id. ¶ 32.

On November 10, 2011, the day after Baier was fired, Barrett held two meetings to explain to management and staff the reasons for Baier's termination. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Barrett said that Baier was unable to perform his job duties and lacked integrity in performing his employment duties. Id. ¶ 34. Among other things, Barrett stated Baier was "unprofessional" and treated staff in a "demeaning" way. Id. Baier subsequently filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and timely filed this lawsuit after receiving a right to sue letter. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.

DISCUSSION

This court has jurisdiction over Baier's federal and state law claims. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367. The complaint must contain a short and plain statement of a claim showing he is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Baier need only provide enough factual content to show his claims are "plausible." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Well-pleaded factual allegations are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in Baier's favor. Opp v. Office of State's Attorney of Cook Cnty. , 630 F.3d 616, 619 (7th Cir. 2010).

I. Count I - FMLA Claim

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take up to twelve weeks of leave in a twelve-month period when a serious health condition renders the employee unable to perform his job. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D); 29 C.F.R. § 825.113(a). An employer violates the FMLA by interfering or restraining an individual from exercising or attempting to exercise these rights and by discriminating or retaliating against an individual who exercises his rights. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a); Kauffman v. Fed. Exp. Corp., 426 F.3d 880, 884 (7th Cir. 2005). Baier claims defendants denied him FMLA leave to which he was entitled, threatened him with demotion and terminated him two weeks after he returned from leave.

A. Interference

Baier claims defendants interfered with his rights under the FMLA by failing to provide FMLA leave to which he was entitled. To prevail on an FMLA interference claim, Baier must establish that (1) he was eligible for the FMLA's protections, (2) Rohr-Mont is a covered employer, (3) he was entitled to leave, (4) he provided sufficient notice of his intent to take leave, and (5) defendants denied him FMLA benefits to which he was entitled. Nicholson v. Pulte Homes Corp., 690 F.3d 819, 825 (7th Cir. 2012). Defendants dispute the last three elements. They contend Baier has not pleaded he was entitled to FMLA leave because he fails to allege what, if any, medical treatment was scheduled between his return to work and his ...


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