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Tolston-Allen v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 21, 2014

SHERYL TOLSTON-ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN Z. LEE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sheryl Tolston-Allen ("Allen") sued Defendant City of Chicago ("the City"), alleging that the City interfered with her right to take eligible leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and retaliated against her for seeking to take such leave. The City moved to dismiss Allen's Amended Complaint, or in the alternative, for a more definite statement and to strike portions of the Amended Complaint. For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies the City's motion to dismiss, denies its motion in the alternative for a more definite statement, and grants in part its motion to strike.

Facts

The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of resolving this motion to dismiss. See Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). Allen has been employed as a Collection Representative by the City since approximately January 1, 1996. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) As of May 10, 2013, when the Amended Complaint was filed, she remained employed by the City. ( Id. )

Allen was diagnosed with chronic asthma in 2009. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Her condition is temporarily disabling and requires leave from work. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Sometime in 2009, after her diagnosis, Allen requested intermittent leave pursuant to the FMLA. ( Id. ¶ 13.) At the direction of Allen's supervisor, Tina Consola ("Consola"), the City denied Allen's request for FMLA leave. ( Id. ¶ 15.) Allen was told that Consola "did not like the amount of time that Allen needed for leave." ( Id. )

Sometime after Consola denied Allen's request for FMLA leave, Allen filed a claim of discrimination against the City. ( Id. ¶ 16.) Immediately thereafter, the City began to orally reprimand Allen for minor discrepancies in her performance. ( Id. ¶ 18.) At the same time, the City appeared to tolerate absenteeism and non-performance of work duties by Allen's coworkers. ( Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)

Allen reapplied for FMLA leave several times in 2009 and/or 2010, but the City refused to acknowledge her medical condition. ( Id. ¶ 20.) Allen's physician refused to complete additional certifications of her condition for FMLA requests, stating that he had completed sufficient documentation and that the City was "playing games" in refusing to acknowledge Allen's condition. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Consola was removed as Allen's supervisor sometime in 2010, and Allen "had no disciplinary issues or concerns during that time." ( Id. ¶ 22.)

Sometime in 2010 or 2011, Allen again applied for FMLA leave. ( Id. ¶ 23.) The request was initially granted, but ultimately denied. ( Id. ) It is unclear to whom Allen applied or who denied this particular request. ( Id. ) During this time, Allen's physician directed her to wear a face mask because the City prohibited Allen from leaving work on days when she experienced breathing difficulties due to her asthma. ( Id. ¶ 25.) Allen again complained about the City's denial of her requests for FMLA leave. ( Id. ¶ 26.)

In September 2011, Allen was suspended for three days due to her intermittent medical leaves; as a result, she lost earnings and moved one step closer to termination under the City's progressive disciplinary policy. ( Id. ¶ 28.) In January 2012, Allen again was suspended for five days due to her intermittent medical leaves ( id. ¶ 29), and the City accused Allen of having failed to assist a customer in October 2011. ( Id. ¶ 30.) Although Allen submitted a written statement from the customer disputing the City's allegations, Allen was suspended for five days. ( Id. ) Allen received two more suspensions because of her medical leaves: one in June 2012 for ten days ( id. ¶ 31), and another in December 2012 for an unspecified number of days. ( Id. ¶ 32.)

In January 2013, Consola attempted to have Allen disciplined for lurking around the hallways, despite no longer being Allen's supervisor. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Consola again attempted to have Allen disciplined in February 2013 when she observed Allen assisting a customer at her desk, although other employees also assisted customers at their desks without consequence. ( Id. ¶ 35.) Allen asserts that the City has "singl[ed] her out" and "treat[ed] her less favorably than similarly situated employees" in an "open and obvious" manner. ( Id. ¶ 36.)

Legal Standard

A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. Christensen v. Cnty. of Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 457 (7th Cir. 2007). Under the federal notice pleading standards, "a plaintiff's complaint need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, sufficient to provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim and its basis." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must "accept[] as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and draw[] all possible inferences in [the plaintiff's] favor." Id.

A complaint, however, must also "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations omitted) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). For a claim to have facial plausibility, a plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. Plausibility "does not ...


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