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Debacker v. City of Moline

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

March 20, 2014

MICHAEL E. DEBACKER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MOLINE and JAY TITUS, individually, Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES E. SHADID, Chief District Judge.

Now before the Court is Defendant Jay Titus' Motion to Dismiss Counts III, VI, VII, and VIII. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [13] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 as the claims asserted in the Complaint present federal questions under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(d) and 12203(a) ("ADA"). The Court further has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims for slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel, and tortious interference with a contract pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff, Michael DeBacker ("DeBacker"), began working for Defendant City of Moline (the "City") in April 1994. He has been a police officer for 18 years, without any complaints or discipline and is certified as a Traffic Crash Reconstructionist and a Master Firearms Instructor. At the times relevant to this Complaint, he was a Traffic Investigator and Firearms Instructor.

On June 16, 2011, the Moline Police Department received information that DeBacker had made a threat against Lieutenant Jay Titus, and DeBacker was taken for a psychiatric evaluation at the Robert Young Center. The evaluating psychiatrist advised that DeBacker posed no threat to himself or others and could be discharged. Upon learning this recommendation, the City threatened to obtain a court order committing him if he did not stay voluntarily. As a result, DeBacker voluntarily admitted himself. Three days later, he was discharged without any change in medication and with two psychiatrists supporting the return of his guns to his home and the reinstatement of his FOID card. DeBacker was released to return to work on July 21, 2011 with no restrictions. However, the City refused to allow him to return to work, demanding that he undergo intensive psychological testing through Stanard & Associates, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois.

On August 23, 2011, DeBacker was evaluated at Stanard & Associates, Inc. He was found to be fit for duty as a fully armed police officer, and several recommendations were made to assist with DeBacker's transition back into his position. The first was that he participate in an immediate meeting with his Chief and Lieutenant Titus. Following this session, it was recommended that DeBacker begin in a light duty capacity and transition back into his full duties to allow him to manage stress and significant changes in his position. The final recommendation was that if the issues with Lieutenant Titus could not be addressed, DeBacker should be considered for work on a different shift. None of these recommendations were followed, and on September 15, 2011, the City sent him a letter stating that he was directed to return to work on September 19, 2011.

When DeBacker returned to work, he was demoted to a new position titled "Booking Officer, " that did not appear on the Police Department Organizational Chart. This new position consisted mostly of tedious paperwork in the basement. His access to many areas of the department was restricted, including the garage, indoor shooting range, records, and Traffic Investigations. DeBacker was also restricted from driving any marked or unmarked police cars, handling any firearms or firearms equipment, and wearing a police uniform or displaying any police insignia.

On September 26, 2012, Lieutenant Titus filed a Complaint against the Police Chief with the Board of Fire and Police Commission regarding the Chief's deicison not to discipline DeBacker for his threat against Titus and requesting DeBacker's termination. The Commission reaffirmed that there were no grounds for disciplining DeBacker. The City of Moline made this decision available to the press, and it was ultimately published in the newspaper. DeBacker subsequently requested reinstatement to his former position on several occasions, but no action was taken on these requests. DeBacker filed a Complaint with the EEOC, and on July 9, 2012, he and the City participated in a mediation with the EEOC. No settlement was reached. On August 8, 2012, DeBacker was terminated.

DeBacker brought this action alleging violations of his rights under Title VII, the ADA, and the FMLA as well as state law causes of action for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress ("IIED"), Libel, Slander, and Tortious Interference with a Contract. Defendant Titus has moved to dismiss the state law counts to the extent that they are alleged against him. DeBacker has filed a response, and this Order follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Courts have traditionally held that a complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears from the pleadings that the plaintiff could prove no set of facts in support of her claim which would entitle her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41 (1957); Gould v. Artisoft, Inc. , 1 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, a complaint should be construed broadly and liberally in conformity with the mandate in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f). More recently, the Supreme Court has phrased this standard as requiring a showing sufficient "to raise a right to relief beyond a speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007). Furthermore, the claim for relief must be "plausible on its face." Id .; Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1953 (2009).

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the complaint is construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff; its well-pleaded factual allegations are taken as true, and all reasonably-drawn inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver , 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Hishon v. King & Spalding , 467 U.S. 69 (1984); Lanigan v. Village of East Hazel Crest , 110 F.3d 467 (7th Cir. 1997); M.C.M. Partners, Inc. V. ...


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