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Edwards v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

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

March 27, 2014



MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Fascia Edwards brings a six-count complaint against Defendants Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation ("IDFPR") and Illinois State Retirement System ("ISRS"). The counts allege violations of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (hereinafter "ADA"); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623(a) (hereinafter "ADEA"); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. (hereinafter "Title VII"); Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794; retaliatory discharge in violation of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Ms. Edwards alleges that Defendants failed to rehire her after she became disabled while employed by Defendants, and that Defendants failed to provide appropriate accommodations. (Compl. ¶¶ 15, 25.) She also claims that Defendants discriminated against her in retaliation for filing worker compensation claims.

Presently before us is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's fourth amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 50.) For the reasons discussed below, we grant the motion for all counts against Defendants ISRS, and for Counts V and VI against IDFPR. We deny the motion for Counts I, III, and IV against IDFPR.


Ms. Edwards was employed with the Illinois Department of Human Services from November 3, 2003, and served there until December 1, 2008, when she was transferred in lieu of layoff to IDFPR. At IDFPR, she served as Executive I until July 9, 2009. (Compl. ¶¶ 12-13.) On June 22, 2009, she suffered a back injury on the job and reported it to her superiors. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Ms. Edwards immediately sought emergency medical attention. ( Id. ) Her doctor concluded she had moderate-to-severe degenerative disk disease. On July 9, 2009, Ms. Edwards took disability leave from work due to her back injury. ( Id. ¶ 19.) She concluded treatment on March 30, 2013. ( Id. ) She claims that she was medically cleared in June 2010 and was able to return to work, although she was restricted from "stooping, lifting, climbing, bending, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and reaching functions." ( Id. ¶¶ 17, 21, 31.) She alleges that, despite her clearance to work, IDFPR failed to re-instate her and instead hired other employees. ( Id. ¶ 32.) On June 4, 2010, Ms. Edwards filed an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the IDFPR Workers Compensation Commission in connection with her workplace injury. ( Id. ¶ 20.) On June 11, 2011, an Industrial Commission three-judge panel on appeal from IDFPR ruled that Ms. Edwards' job duties caused her to suffer a work-related injury. ( Id. )

According to Ms. Edwards, IDFPR failed to approach her about re-assigning her to a job that suited her disability. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Instead, IDFPR offered her a job described within the CMS#104 Office of Legal Affairs, #13851-13-01-500-40-01 as a file clerk. ( Id. ¶ 23.) She alleges that she was required to perform manual labor and heavy lifting that neither IDFPR advertised, nor Illinois Central Management Services approved. ( Id. ) Moreover, Ms. Edwards claims that she applied to and was rejected from over 30 jobs, despite being qualified. ( Id. ¶¶ 24, 29.) Lastly, she pleads that ISRS acted as IDFPR's agent in denying her medical and retirement benefits. (Resp. at 4.) According to Ms. Edwards, not only did IDFPR deny her re-assignment, but they also refused to make reasonable accommodations for her. (Compl. ¶ 25.) Ms. Edwards pleads that on September 29, 2011, the EEOC sent her a right to sue notice, but that it was returned on October 4, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 7.) In her response, she asserts that she "never received a copy of the Right to Sue letter through the U.S. Postal Service." (Resp. at 5.)

Ms. Edwards claims that IDFPR discriminated against her, harassed her, and retaliated against her for seeking accommodations for her disability. First, Ms. Edwards alleges that IDFPR took retaliatory actions and effectively terminated her employment. (Compl. ¶ 25.) Second, her EEOC Charge Amendment on September 26, 2011 alleges that, since filing the Charge, IDFPR created a hostile work environment. (Resp., Ex. A., Am. EEOC Charge.) She claims that IDFPR threatened her "with physical violence in the work place, subjected [her] to abuse of power by immediate supervisor, and subjected [her] to management keeping a secret diary of 83 pages of false allegations prepared by non-state employees to discredit" her and thereby "creat[ed] a hostile work environment." ( Id. ) Third, her Charge also alleges discrimination based on race and sex. ( Id; Compl. ¶¶ 44-47.)

Ms. Edwards asks that Defendants make her "whole" and provide her "back pay and reimbursement for lost pension, social security and other benefits and out of pocket-expenses, plus prejudgment interest in an amount to be shown at trial." (Compl. at 8-9.) She also requests that she be reinstated to her former position or a comparable position, that she receive front pay, and that Defendants pay her compensatory damages in the maximum amount allowable by law. ( Id. ) She also seeks punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. ( Id. ) Defendants raise a number of arguments in their motion to dismiss, which we address below.


A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is meant to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, we must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Thompson v. Ill. Dep't of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). A court may grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) only if a complaint lacks enough facts "to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007)); Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618-19 (7th Cir. 2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

Although a facially plausible complaint need not give "detailed factual allegations, " it must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. These requirements ensure that the defendant receives "fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964.


Consistent with the above principles, we apply a liberal pleading standard. We will first consider the federal claims against ISRS. We will then analyze the federal claims against IDFPR. Finally, we will consider the state law claims against both Defendants.

A. Federal Claims against ISRS

As a threshold matter, we dismiss Ms. Edwards' claims against ISRS under the ADA, ADEA, and Title VII because she does not claim that ISRS was her employer. Title I of the ADA bans an "employer" from discriminating against an employee. 42 U.S.C.S § 12111(2). The federal statutes consider what constitutes an "employer" under equivalent standards. 42 U.S.C § 12111(7) (providing that the term "employer" will be interpreted as having the same meaning as it does under Title VII); E.E.O.C. v. AIC Sec. Investigations, Ltd., 55 F.3d 1276, 1279-80 (7th Cir. 1995) ("The ADA's definition of employer' mirrors the definitions of employer' in Title VII... and in the... ADEA."); Haltek v. Vill. of Park Forest, 864 F.Supp. 802, 803 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 794(d), the Rehabilitation Act, "[t]he standards used to determine whether this section has been violated in a complaint alleging employment discrimination under this section shall be the standards applied under the [ADA]'"). Without an employer-employee relationship, ADA, ADEA, and Title VII claims fail. AIC Security Investigations, Ltd., 55 F.3d at 1281; Small v. Chao, 377 F.Supp.2d 654, 658 (C.D. Ill. 2003).

Although Ms. Edwards concedes that she was not officially an employee of ISRS, she urges that ISRS should still count as her employer because ISRS acted as IDFPR's agent in issuing medical and retirement benefits. (Resp. at 4.) However, agents are not liable individually; rather, the provision attaches "respondeat superior liability" to the employer for the agent's violations. AIC Security Investigations, Ltd., 55 F.3d at 1281-82; Patterson v. Xerox Corp., 901 F.Supp. 274, 277 (N.D. Ill. 1995). Likewise, agents of a state government can be held liable under the ADA and Title VII, but such liability falls to the government agency that employs her under respondeat superior, and not on the agent individually. AIC Sec. Investigations, Ltd., 55 F.3d at 1281-82.

Because Ms. Edwards is not an employee of ISRS, and agency does not give rise to liability for the agents individually, we dismiss Ms. Edwards' ...

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