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Pack v. Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

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

July 25, 2014

MARTHA PACK, Plaintiff,


ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint [9]. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint [9].

I. Background[1]

In May 2007, Defendant Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service (IDHFS) hired Plaintiff Martha Pack as an Office Coordinator. Plaintiff's supervisors included Norris Stevenson, the Deputy Administrator; Warren Cottren, a Senior Public Service Administrator; and Elise McWoodson, a Public Service Administrator. During her employment, Plaintiff always received satisfactory, or better, performance evaluations

In November 2011, Plaintiff, a Caucasian, filed a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, alleging racial harassment by Deputy Administrator Norris Stevenson, an African-American. In May 2012, her complaint was withdrawn pursuant to a settlement agreement. Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Stevenson was directed to communicate with Plaintiff exclusively through her immediate supervisor and the IDHFS was required to assist Plaintiff in acquiring a reassignment outside of the Division of Child Support Services.

According to the complaint, following the settlement agreement, Stevenson began to monitor Plaintiff's activities in the workplace, follow her in and out of the building on numerous occasions, and directly interact with her in violation of the terms of the settlement agreement. Plaintiff alleges that Stevenson's activities caused her to suffer extreme anxiety and panic attacks at work, prompting her to see a psychiatrist for counseling and treatment. According to the complaint, Plaintiff was diagnosed with extreme anxiety, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and in August 2012 and December 2012, a doctor recommended that Plaintiff be reassigned due to severe anxiety and panic attacks when in the presence of Stevenson.

On December 20, 2012, Plaintiff underwent a psychological evaluation by a licensed clinical psychiatrist, who determined that Plaintiff's condition caused her to experience apprehension and fears regarding her relationships with co-workers. Following the evaluation, her doctor again recommended that she be transferred. Notwithstanding Plaintiff's requests for reassignment, the complaint alleges that IDHFS failed and refused to engage in any meaningful interaction with Plaintiff, or her psychiatrists, and ignored her continuing requests for reassignment. On December 19, 2012, Plaintiff applied for and subsequently received occupational disability benefits from the State Employees' Retirement System of Illinois.

On December 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed her complaint in this case, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Title VII"), and negligent infliction of emotional distress under Illinois common law. Plaintiff's ADA claims (Counts I and II) allege that Defendant IDHFS failed to accommodate Plaintiff's disability and retaliated against Plaintiff as a result of her request for a reasonable accommodation; her Title VII claim (Count II) alleges that Defendant retaliated against her for filing a charge of discrimination against Norris Stevenson; and her state law claim (Count IV) alleges that the actions of Stevenson caused Plaintiff to suffer "extreme exacerbation" of her alleged disability.

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 her 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 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (ellipsis in original). The Court reads the complaint and assesses its plausibility as a whole. See Atkins v. City of Chi., 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011); cf. Scott v. City of Chi., 195 F.3d 950, 952 (7th Cir. 1999) ("Whether a complaint provides notice, however, is determined by looking at the complaint as a whole.").

III. Analysis

A. Failure to Accommodate Under the ADA (Count I)

To establish a violation of the ADA, an employee must show that: 1) she is disabled; 2) she is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation; and 3) the employer took adverse action because of her disability or failed to make a reasonable accommodation. Winsley v. Cook County, 563 F.3d 598, 603 (7th Cir. 2009). Defendant contends that Plaintiff (i) cannot establish ...

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