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Blickle v. Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

June 7, 2013

JACQUELINE B. BLICKLE, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jacqueline Blickle filed a complaint against Defendant Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS") alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12112, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623. DCFS has moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss certain claims alleged in Blickle's Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Blickle's Complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of the Motion to Dismiss. See Voelker v. Porsche Cars North America, Inc., 353 F.3d 516, 520 (7th Cir. 2003); Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 717 (7th Cir. 1995). DCFS hired Blickle in 1995 to serve as a Child Welfare Nurse Specialist. ( See Complaint, Doc. 1 at ¶ 10.) Her home office was in Aurora, Illinois; however, her job required her to travel to other DCFS field offices in Kankakee, Joliet and Glen Ellyn, Illinois. ( Id. ) Blickle suffered from arthritis in her back. ( Id. at ¶ 12.) The arthritis was so severe by September 2009 that it was disabling. ( Id. ) However, Blickle continued to complete her job responsibilities for DCFS, including traveling to the other field offices. ( Id. ) In March 2010, Blickle requested in writing for DCFS to accommodate her arthritic condition by transferring her home office to Glen Ellyn, which was located closer to where she received therapy for her condition in Woodridge, Illinois. ( Id. at ¶ 13.) This accommodation would allow Blickle to work a full day for DCFS and then attend therapy sessions after work. ( Id. ) The accommodation would not have resulted in any change in Blickle's daily activities or her ability to fulfill any responsibilities at the various DCFS field offices. ( Id. )

DCFS did not respond to Blickle's written request for accommodation. ( Id. at ¶ 14.) In April 2010, Edgar Hernandez, DCFS' Statewide Clinical Manager and head of the Aurora field office, came to Blickle's cubicle and threw down her request for accommodation on her desk. ( Id. at ¶ 15.) Hernandez told Blickle that it appeared due to her medical history that she may not be able to do her job. ( Id. ) Blickle understood this statement to be a threat to drop her accommodation request or be fired. ( Id. )

In mid-April 2010, Blickle attended a monthly DCFS Nurse's Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. ( Id. at ¶ 16.) During a break in the meeting, Blickle's supervisors, Jerrilyn Pearson-Minor and Jane Kelly, called her to the cafeteria. ( Id. ) Minor and Kelly told Blickle that DCFS had received her accommodation request but stated that DCFS required more documentation from her before it could be processed. ( Id. ) Subsequently, Blickle contacted the State of Illinois about her request. ( Id. ) She was told that her request for accommodation required no further documentation and that she should not respond any further to her supervisor's demands. ( Id. ) However, Blickle's request for accommodation was never granted. ( Id. at ¶ 17.) Blickle retired in December 2010. ( Id. at ¶ 18.) She was 70 years old. ( Id. )

After exhausting her administrative remedies, Blickle filed this lawsuit in which she asserts claims under both the ADA and the ADEA. Specifically, she alleges that DCFS violated the ADA because: (1) it failed to accommodate her disability; (2) it constructively discharged her because of her disability; (3) it created a hostile work environment; and (4) it retaliated against Blickle for requesting an accommodation. Alternatively, Blickle alleges that DCFS violated the ADEA because: (1) she was constructively discharged due to her age; (2) it created a hostile work environment for Blickle due to her age; and (3) it retaliated against her because of her complaints about the discrimination against her based on her age. DCFS concedes that Blickle has adequately alleged a failure to accommodate claim. However, it moves to dismiss the remainder of her claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).

LEGAL STANDARD

When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) the Court accepts as true all of the well-pled facts alleged in the complaint and construes all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 619 (7th Cir. 2007) (citing Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006)); accord Murphy, 51 F.3d at 717. To state a claim upon which relief can be granted a 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) (internal quotations omitted). In analyzing whether a complaint meets this standard the "reviewing court [must] draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When the factual allegations are well-pled the Court assumes their veracity and then determines if they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. See id. at 679. A claim has facial plausibility when the factual content pled in the complaint allows the Court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. See id. at 678.

DISCUSSION

I. The ADA Claims

The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against "a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual..." 42 U.S.C. § 12112. The ADA prohibits an employer: (1) from making an adverse employment decision, such as termination or denial of benefits, when that decision is based on a qualified individual's actual or perceived disability; or (2) from not making a reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a), 12112(b)(3)-(5); see also Weigel v. Target Stores, 122 F.3d 461, 463-64 (7th Cir. 1997). Disparate treatment and failure to accommodate claims are analyzed differently. See Timmons v. GMC, 469 F.3d 1122, 1126 (7th Cir. 2006) (internal citations omitted).

In analyzing a disparate treatment claim, a court should employ the McDonnell Douglas[1] burden-shifting framework. See id; see also Weigel, 122 F.3d at 464. Under this framework, a plaintiff may establish disparate treatment by either direct or indirect means. See Timmons, 469 F.3d at 1126. If a plaintiff attempts to prove her case by indirect means, she must establish a prima facie case of discrimination. See id. This means the plaintiff must present evidence adequate to create an inference that an employment decision was based on an illegal, discriminatory criterion. See id. If she succeeds in doing so, the defendant must articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the disparate treatment. See id. To overcome a sufficient showing by the defendant, a plaintiff must then establish that this proffered reason is really a pretext ...


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