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Britton v. ITT Technical Institute

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

April 17, 2014

RITA BRITTON, Plaintiff,
v.
ITT TECHNICAL INSTITUTE, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss Counts VIII, IX, and X of Plaintiff's complaint [15]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Defendants' motion [15] and dismisses Counts VIII, IX, and X. Counts I through VII remain pending.

I. Background[1]

Plaintiff Rita Britton began working at ITT in 2002 as an adjunct instructor at its Oak Brook, Illinois campus. She became a full-time instructor in 2003, teaching English Composition I and II, Group Dynamics, Portfolio, Written Analysis, Research Methods, World Culture, Social Psychology, and Strategy. Defendant Lisa Breitenberg was the Director of ITT's Oak Brook campus during Plaintiff's employment, and Defendant Natalie Hay was the Benefits Administrator at ITT's corporate headquarters. Plaintiff alleges that she was an exemplary employee and was never reprimanded during her time at ITT. Despite this, Plaintiff alleges that four of the other five full-time instructors, all of whom were male, were paid more. Plaintiff alleges that she was terminated in the summer of 2011.

For much of her time at ITT, Plaintiff had difficulty walking. She used a cane and placed a handicapped placard on her car. Plaintiff alleges that ITT did not have automatic doors and that its handicapped parking spots were far from the entrance of the building. According to Plaintiff, she informed Breitenberg and Dean John Metych of these issues, but nothing was done.

In 2010, while undergoing treatment for hip pain that she had suffered since 2008, Britton was diagnosed with breast cancer. Britton underwent surgery and took medical leave from June to October 2010. Britton alleges that Hay asked her, "When are you ever coming back?" Britton returned to work in October 2010, but took leave again in March 2011 for hip surgery. Britton required additional care for a staph infection in her right hip. According to the complaint, the staph infection prolonged the disability period by six weeks and necessitated a second surgery on April 8, 2011. Britton's doctor faxed ITT a note on April 22, 2011, which provided that Britton would be unable to work until further notice. According to the complaint, Britton contacted Lisa Breitenberg regarding her continued employment, and Breitenberg told Britton not to worry.

Approximately one month later, in July 2011, Britton received a letter from Defendants stating that her disability leave time had run out and that she was being replaced. Plaintiff alleges that the letter did not contain an explanation of ITT's medical leave policy or Britton's FMLA rights. According to Plaintiff, she called Breitenberg for clarification. When Britton asked if she had been fired, Breitenberg responded "you are and you aren't. We need to fill the position and our student census is down and we eliminated your full time position." Plaintiff also alleges that Breitenberg told her that she could reapply for employment with ITT as an adjunct. Meanwhile, Britton continued to receive disability pay while Dean John Metych sought a replacement instructor.

Britton underwent another hip surgery on July 12, 2011, shortly after she received the letter from ITT. Following the surgery, she informed ITT that she could resume teaching in during the 2011 fall term. Breitenberg informed her that she could return as an adjunct instructor, but that she would need to reapply online. Her doctor then informed ITT that she could teach during the fall term; however, when she contacted Metych, he informed her that all of ITT's classes had instructors and that he had not received a return-to-work release. When Britton contacted Breitenberg to confirm this information, Breitenberg admitted that she had received a return-to-work release, but also informed Britton that there was no position for her. Plaintiff alleges upon information and belief that only a few days prior to the start of the fall term, ITT hired Robert Bell and Rory Jobst, both male and under age 40, to replace Britton.

During her employment, Plaintiff received a copy of the ITT Sick Pay Policy, which included the following language:

This policy shall be administered in compliance with all applicable requirements of all applicable laws. ITT/ESI reserves the unilateral right to amend, change, or cancel this policy or any part thereof, or reduce, modify, suspend, or terminate its terms, in its sole discretion at any time for any reason, with or without notice, either retrospectively or prospectively. This policy is not a contract or assurance of compensation, continued employment, or benefit of any kind.

Compl., Ex. D.

On September 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed a ten-count complaint against Defendants ITT Technical Institute ("ITT"), [2] Natalie Hay, and Lisa Breitenberg. Plaintiff brings various claims related to her employment at ITT, including violations of Title VII, the ADEA, the ADA, the EPA, the FMLA, and the Illinois Equal Pay Act for unlawful age, disability, and sex discrimination, failure to accommodate, and additional unlawful employment practices. The complaint also includes claims for breach of contract against ITT (Count VIII) and negligent and intentinonal infliction of emotional distress against ITT, Hay, and Breitenberg (Counts IX and X). Defendants move to dismiss Counts VIII, IX, and X.

II. Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court takes as true all factual allegations in Plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in its favor. Killingsworth, 507 F.3d at 618. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the claim first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the claim must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level, " assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 ...


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