United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
For David Basek, Plaintiff: Margaret Megan O'Malley, LEAD ATTORNEY, John Paul Madden, Lindsey Erin Goldberg, O'Malley & Madden, P.C., Chicago, IL.
For Tri-State Fire Protection District, an Illinois Municipal Corporation, Tri-State Fire Protection District Board of Trustees, Tri-State Fire Protection Board of Commissioners, Hamilton Gibbons, in his individual capacity and as a Trustee of the Tri-State Fire Protection District's Board of Trustees, Jill Strenzel, in her individual capacity and as a Trustee of the Tri-State Fire Protection District's Board of Trustees, Robert Jewell, in his individual capacity and as a Commissioner of the Tri-State First Protection District Board of Comissioners, William Anderson, in his individual capacity and as a Commissioner of the Tri-State First Protection District Board of Commissioners, Michael Orrico, in his individual capacity and as a Trustee of the Tri-State Fire Protection District's Board of Trustees, Christopher Baumbach, in his individual capacity and as a Commissioner of the Tri-State First Protection District Board of Commissioners, Michelle Gibson, in her individual capacity and as Chief of the Tri-State Fire Protection District, Defendants: David Graham Weldon, Lindsey M. Marcus, William R Pokorny, Franczek Radelet P.C., Chicago, IL.
Memorandum Opinion and Order
Honorable Edmond E. Chang, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff David Basek, an Illinois firefighter, alleges that he was removed from his position as a " Division Chief" without due process and in retaliation for taking medical leave, in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and filing a worker's compensation claim, in violation of state law. Basek has named as Defendants his employer, the Tri-State Fire Protection District, its Board of Trustees, and a number of individual trustees and District commissioners. Defendants move to dismiss Basek's due process and medical-leave claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). They also move for summary judgment on Basek's worker's compensation-retaliation claim. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' partial motion to dismiss is denied and their motion for partial summary judgment is granted.
The Tri-State Fire Protection District, a municipal corporation organized under Illinois law and headquartered in Darien, Illinois, serves portions of DuPage and Cook Counties. Compl. ¶ 5; DSOF ¶ 2. David Basek began working as a union firefighter for the District in 1986. Compl. ¶ 11; DSOF ¶ 8. In 1991, he was promoted to Station Commander. DSOF ¶ 10. After nearly two decades of service for the District,
Basek was appointed to the position of Division Chief for Safety and Security in 2004 or 2005. Compl. ¶ 13; DSOF ¶ 12.
Around June 2011, Basek began receiving treatment for a heart condition, which required him to take medical leaves from work throughout the rest of the year. Compl. ¶ ¶ 15-16. Also as a result of that heart condition, Basek filed a claim for worker's compensation benefits with the Illinois Industrial Commission in November 2011. Id. ¶ 17. According to Basek, in December 2011, he was told that his supervisor was displeased that Basek had filed the worker's compensation claim. Id. ¶ 18. When Basek returned to work in 2012, he was allegedly harassed about that claim, in the form of comments downplaying his heart condition. Id. ¶ 19.
In late May 2012, Basek suffered a separate workplace injury, requiring him to take a two-month medical leave. Id. ¶ ¶ 20-21. A few weeks later, in mid-June 2012, Basek received an email from Michelle Gibson, the District's Fire Chief, stating that he was being investigated for possible unidentified violations of District rules. Id. ¶ 22. He was also required to submit a weekly report to Gibson on his actions involving District business. Id. ¶ 25. Basek alleges that when he returned from medical leave in July 2012, Gibson refused to discuss the investigation or the new requirement for weekly reports with him, and that he was required to work at a desk typically reserved for part-time employees rather than his usual cubicle. Id. ¶ ¶ 26-27, 30. He further alleges that around this time he was no longer identified as a Division Chief on the District's website. Id. ¶ 31.
Sometime in late October or November 2012, Basek was removed from his position as Division Chief. Basek Decl. ¶ 2; DSOF ¶ 13. Basek asserts that Gibson informed him that the discharge was the result of the investigation into unspecified rules violations, but offered him the chance to return to his former union position as a Career Service Lieutenant, which Basek accepted. Compl. ¶ 33; Basek Decl. ¶ ¶ 2-3. According to Defendants, however, Basek immediately reverted to his former position of Lieutenant upon removal from the Division Chief position without any intervening offer. DSOF ¶ 13.
Basek filed this lawsuit in August 2013, (1) alleging that Defendants unlawfully discharged him as Division Chief without due process as required by the United States and Illinois constitutions, (2) seeking a writ of mandamus reinstating him as a Division Chief, (3) alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of the FMLA, and (4) alleging retaliatory discharge for asserting his rights to Illinois worker's compensation. Compl. ¶ ¶ 49-87. Defendants moved to dismiss the due process claims because Basek cannot establish that he had a protectable property interest in the Division Chief position, and because the individual Defendants are protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity. R. 18, Mot. Dismiss. Discovery has been ongoing in the case except as to these claims, pending resolution of the motion to dismiss. R. 27, Oct. 10, 2013 Minute Entry. Meanwhile, Defendants separately moved for summary judgment on the workers' compensation claim on the grounds that at worst Basek was demoted, not fired, in retaliation, which is not actionable as a matter of Illinois law. R. 21, Mot. Summ. J.
II. Standards of Review
A. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
A Rule 12(b)(6) motion " challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir.
2009). The complaint " must 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). The allegations " must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and are entitled to an assumption of truth so long as they are factual in nature, rather than mere legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
B. Motion for Summary Judgment
Summary judgment must be granted " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists if " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In evaluating summary judgment motions, courts must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). The Court may not weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations, Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth Grp., Inc., 629 F.3d 697, 704 (7th Cir. 2011), and must consider only competent evidence of a type otherwise admissible at trial, Gunville v. Walker, 583 F.3d 979, 985 (7th Cir. 2009). The party seeking summary judgment has the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Carmichael v. Village of Palatine, 605 F.3d 451, 460 (7th Cir. 2010); see also Celotex Corp. v. ...