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Schroeder v. RGIS, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

June 11, 2013

FREDERICK SCHROEDER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
RGIS, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois No. 11 L 2228 The Honorable Sanjay Tailor, Judge Presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Simon concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

HARRIS PRESIDING JUSTICE.

¶ 1 Plaintiff, Frederick Schroeder, brought a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against his former employer, defendant RGIS. Defendant filed a combined motion to dismiss, brought pursuant to section 2-619.1 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2010)), arguing, among other reasons, that plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2010)) because his claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress was preempted and, thus, barred by the Illinois Human Rights Act (Human Rights Act) (775 ILCS 5/8-111(D) (West 2010)) and by the exclusivity provision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (Workers' Compensation Act) (820 ILCS 305/5(a) (West 2010)). Specifically, defendant asserted that plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed, based on the Human Rights Act, because his claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress was inextricably linked with alleged civil rights violations. Defendant argued that plaintiff's claim was barred by the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act because his alleged injury was compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act. The circuit court granted defendant's motion to dismiss.

¶ 2 The following issues are before this court: (1) whether plaintiff is able to establish, independent of any duties created by the Human Rights Act, the elements of the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (2) whether the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act bars plaintiff's claims. We hold that the circuit court properly dismissed plaintiff's second amended complaint because his tort claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress is inextricably linked to a civil rights violation. Therefore, plaintiff's claim is preempted and, thus, barred by the Human Rights Act. We further hold that plaintiff''s alleged injury is compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act. Therefore, plaintiff's claim is also preempted and, thus, barred by the Workers' Compensation Act. Accordingly, the circuit court properly dismissed plaintiff's second amended complaint.

¶ 3 JURISDICTION

¶ 4 On July 25, 2012, the circuit court granted defendant's motion to dismiss, with prejudice. On August 21, 2012, plaintiff timely filed his notice of appeal. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rules 301 and 303 governing appeals from final judgments entered below. Ill. S.Ct. R. 301 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994); R. 303 (eff. May 30, 2008).

¶ 5 BACKGROUND

¶ 6 On February 28, 2011, plaintiff filed his initial complaint against defendant alleging a claim for retaliation under section 6-101(A) of the Human Rights Act (775 ILCS 5/6-101(A) (West 2010)), constructive discharge, and negligence. Defendant filed a combined motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant section 2-619.1 of the Code. 735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2010). In its motion, defendant alleged that plaintiff's retaliation claim is time-barred, that Illinois does not recognize an independent cause of action for constructive discharge, and that it owed plaintiff no duty to investigate his complaints in order to sustain a negligence action. Defendant attached to its motion the charge of discrimination that plaintiff filed before the Illinois Department of Human Rights on August 23, 2010. Defendant also attached a copy of the dismissal issued by the Illinois Department of Human Rights, concluding it lacked jurisdiction to pursue the allegations made by plaintiff. The circuit court granted defendant's motion to dismiss, making the following findings: that plaintiff's retaliation claim was time-barred and subject to dismissal pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2010)); that there was no legal basis for plaintiff's constructive discharge claim and, thus, the claim was subject to dismissal pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2010)); and that plaintiff failed to plead a legally cognizable duty to support his negligence claim, which was subject to dismissal pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2010)). Although the circuit court dismissed all three counts of plaintiff's complaint, it allowed plaintiff time to replead.

¶ 7 On October 19, 2011, plaintiff filed his amended complaint, which contained a single count alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendant filed a combined motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to section 2-619.1 of the Code. 735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2010). Defendant argued that under section 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2010)), plaintiff's claim was preempted and barred by both the Human Rights Act and the Workers' Compensation Act. Under the section 2-615 component of the motion (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2010)), defendant argued that plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because plaintiff did not, and could not, plead sufficient facts to support a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Specifically, plaintiff failed to plead that defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous. The circuit court granted defendant's motion to dismiss the first amended complaint, finding that it was not "convinced" that plaintiff's claim was preempted by the Workers' Compensation Act, but was "convinced the Human Rights Act preempts the claim insofar as it is based on allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation." The circuit court further found that the complaint was not sufficiently pled to rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

¶ 8 On April 13, 2012, plaintiff filed his second amended complaint, which is at issue here. Plaintiff's second amended complaint contained a single count for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff alleged that he lived in Chicago, Illinois, and worked for defendant, an inventory services business, from July 21, 2008, until February 25, 2010. He counted inventory for clients and he worked at two locations during his time of employment: Chicago, Illinois and Merrillville, Indiana. He alleged that "on or about November 25, 2008, " his supervisor, Tonya Kaufman, called him a " ' faggot, flamer and queer.' " On January 7, 2009, in Chicago, plaintiff quit and left work after Kaufman called him a " ' fucking faggot' in the presence of several co-workers." The next day, plaintiff informed Perry Foy, a vice president for defendant, and Steve McNeil, an operations manager for defendant, of Kaufman's actions. Plaintiff agreed to be reinstated to work in another district and was promised that an investigation would be conducted regarding Kaufman's conduct. Kaufman continued to bully and verbally abuse plaintiff, which he again reported to McNeil, on February 12, 2009.

¶ 9 According to plaintiff, on February 15, 2009, during a conference call, McNeil informed defendant's other district managers that plaintiff would be the district manager at Merrillville, Indiana. During the conference call, two managers, Susan Powell and Roger Cisco, stated that the commute to Indiana for defendant was "extreme." Plaintiff alleged that McNeil, in response to Powell and Cisco, stated "[e]xactly. If the drive doesn't get rid of him, the jungle from Gary will." Plaintiff alleged that McNeil additionally told the other seven district managers present during the conference call that they were not to communicate with plaintiff and that "any manager caught helping Plaintiff would be disciplined." McNeil further demanded that he be copied on all emails sent to plaintiff. According to plaintiff, Powell stated that during monthly calls, McNeil would repeat that any manager caught helping plaintiff would be disciplined.

¶ 10 Also on February 15, 2009, defendant told plaintiff that a " ' thorough investigation' was in progress" and that he was to report to its Merrillville, Indiana office, a two-hour commute. Plaintiff, as district manager, "was required to drive employees to various contracted inventories, which required drives several times per week that were several hundred miles round-trip." He alleged that he called Louis Marty, an operations manager for defendant, "[o]n a weekly basis, " to request assistance, to question policies, to tell him of the exhaustion and excessive driving he endured, and to inform him that the conditions were putting himself and other employees in danger. Plaintiff alleged "these calls were rarely answered." He described his normal work week as such: he would leave home at 5:30 in the morning and arrive at the office at 8 in the morning. Approximately 40 different inventories at different locations would be scheduled. He performed "all of the budgeting, hiring, training and employee development." He alleged that he would drive a van of employees to various jobsites starting at 5 in the morning and "often not finishing until 3" in the morning the next day. Plaintiff alleged that it was not uncommon for him to sleep on the office floor 4 days a week and to work 20 hours a day.

¶ 11 Plaintiff alleged that in March of 2009, McNeil told Powell, after she asked him about how plaintiff was doing, that " ' It's not like we sent him to Broadway to find a boyfriend, we sent him to Merrillville to get the hell rid of his queer ass.' " Plaintiff further alleged that on April 1, 2009, he called McNeil to report that he was sleeping on his office floor and that the excessive driving was putting both himself and other employees in danger. According to plaintiff, McNeil told him he was " 'lucky to have a job.' " The next day, Marty informed plaintiff that defendant could no longer afford to have his office floor cleaned. Plaintiff alleged that Marty told him that if he "wanted to sleep on a clean floor, he could clean it himself." ¶ 12 On June 11, 2009, plaintiff spoke with Kim Wood, a member of defendant's human resources department. He called Wood to inform her about his concerns over the safety of his excessive driving schedule. Plaintiff alleged Woods also told him that he "was lucky to ...


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