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Maxwell v. County of Cook

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

August 4, 2014

COUNTY OF COOK a unit of local Government; THOMAS DART, in his individual and official capacity as Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, Defendants.


SIDNEY I. SCHENKIER, Magistrate Judge.

On May 7, 2014, Plaintiff Robert Maxwell filed a six-count fourth amended complaint ("Compl.") against the defendants County of Cook and Thomas Dart, both individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Cook County (doc. # 196). Mr. Maxwell alleges violations of: the Shakman Consent Decree[2] (Count I), his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 (Count II), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et. Seq. (Count III), and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"), 775 ILCS § 5/1-101 et. seq. (Count IV); retaliation in violation of the ADEA, IHRA, and Section 1983 (Count V); and disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act 42 U.S.C. $12101 et. seq., ("ADA") as amended (Count VI).

Presently before this Court is defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice the ADA claim in Count VI (doc. # 199). Defendants argue that Mr. Maxwell has not stated sufficient facts to support a plausible claim of discrimination under the ADA. Specifically, they argue that plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged he is disabled under the terms of the ADA, or that the alleged discrimination against him was the result of any alleged disability. For the following reasons, we grant the motion to dismiss Count VI.


We have set forth the central allegations of Mr. Maxwell's claims in an earlier opinion granting in part and denying in part a motion to dismiss the first amended complaint. Maxwell v. County of Cook, No. 10 C 320, 2011 WL 4639530 (N.D. Ill. March 17, 2071). While we will not reproduce the extensive recitation of facts set forth in the earlier opinion, we summarize the allegations relevant to the current motion. Solely for purposes of the motion, we assume without deciding the truth of all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and make all permissible inferences in plaintiff's favor. Active Disposal, Inc. v. City of Darien, 635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th Cir. 2011).

Mr. Maxwell has held various positions at the Cook County Sheriff's Office since 1991 (Compl. A 19). Since 2004, he has been employed as a Police Officer for the Cook County Sheriff s Police Department ("CCSP") ( Id., at ¶¶ 6, 21, 25). In 2005, Mr. Maxwell sought to be slated as the Democratic candidate for Sheriff, running unsuccessfully against Defendant Thomas Dart ( Id., at ¶¶ 26-29). After learning of Mr. Maxwell's intention to run for Sheriff, the Chief of Patrol for the Sheriff's Office in Sheriff's Police told Mr. Maxwell that he was not going to get "anything else" (meaning promotions or special assignments) in Sheriff's Police and the Chief of Courts for the Sheriff's Office told Mr. Maxwell's wife to tell her husband to quit running for Sheriff because it would ruin his career Id., at ¶¶ 32, 33).

Five years later, on September 6, 2010, Mr. Maxwell tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder while arresting a suspect (Compl. ¶ 39). As a result of this injury, Mr. Maxwell was off work and had to undergo numerous surgeries ( Id., at ¶ 40). On August 5, 2011, Mr. Maxwell's doctor authorized him to return to work subject to permanent restrictions on his physical activity including a complete prohibition on climbing, crawling or reaching and a limitation of less than 2.5 hours per day on balancing with both arms or kneeling ( Id., at ¶ 43). Mr. Maxwell was also limited to performing activities that required lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling only when in a sedentary position ( Id., at ¶ 44). According to Mr. Maxwell's doctor, he was specifically forbidden from any activity that required restraining other individuals, physical altercations or street duty ( Id., at ¶ 46). Mr. Maxwell had no limitations placed on activities that required walking, sitting, standing or crouching ( Id., at ¶ 45).

As a result of his injury, Mr. Maxwell filed a workers' compensation claim with the Illinois Industrial Commission ("IIC") (Compl. ¶ 41). On August 3, 2012, the IIC found that Mr. Maxwell's injury was an accident that arose out of his employment, and that it resulted in a permanent partial disability ( Id., at ¶ 52).

In September 2011, Mr. Maxwell asked to return to work in a position that was consistent with his permanent physical restrictions (Compl. ¶ 47). Defendants refused to return him to work in any capacity ( Id., at ¶ 48). Mr. Maxwell alleges that he would have been able to return to work if defendants had provided him with a reasonable accommodation and/or light duty ( Id., at ¶ 133). Defendants refused to engage in any interactive dialogue with plaintiff with respect to potential accommodations that could be made ( Id. ¶ 134).

Mr. Maxwell later made a second request to return to work and on January 15, 2013, the CCSP provided him with a statement that it has no permanent light duty positions (Compl. ¶ 54). Mr. Maxwell was not paid for eight months of salary as a result of defendants' refusal to return him to work ( Id., at ¶ 55). During the time that defendants refused to return Mr. Maxwell to work, the CCSP offered a test for Sergeant and did not inform Mr. Maxwell about it, despite notifying others who were on leave or disability about the test ( Id., at ¶ 51).[3] Plaintiff later underwent additional surgery which enabled him to return to work in a full duty capacity as a police officer, which he did on June 10, 2O13 ( Id., at ¶¶ 56, 57).


On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, we must determine whether the complaint "contain(s) 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) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). And "[w]hile a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombley, 550 U.S. at 555. "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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation omitted.) "A complaint must always... allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, and how many facts are enough will depend on the type of case." Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Villa. of Lemont, Ill., 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir.2008) (internal citations omitted).

To state a claim of disability discrimination under the ADA, the plaintiff must show that: (1) he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, as amended, (2) he is qualified to perform the essential functions of his job with or without a reasonable accommodation, and (3) the defendant took an adverse employment action against him because of his disability. See, e.g., Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc. 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014).[4] An adverse employment action includes "not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, " unless the employer "can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A). Moreover, "[b]ecause disability... can often be a legitimate consideration in employment decisions, a complaint alleging discrimination under the ADA must plead with adequate specificity that the plaintiff is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation." EEOC v. SuperValu, Inc., 674 F.Supp.2d 7007, 1014 (N.D. Ill. 2009).

Defendants argue that Count VI of Mr. Maxwell's Complaint fails with respect to all three factors for demonstrating that he is protected by the ADA. We address the sufficiency of ...

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