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Morales v. Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc.

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

September 30, 2014

MARGARITA MORALES, Plaintiff,
v.
GOODWILL INDUSTRIES OF SOUTHEASTERN WISCONSIN, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MANISH S. SHAH, District Judge.

Defendant employed plaintiff as a food service worker for over seven years. Because plaintiff suffered from permanent hearing loss, she regularly wore a hearing aid at work. Plaintiff also had a standing request with her employer that she not be assigned to the hot parts of the kitchen. According to plaintiff, working in hot conditions made her sweat, and sweating caused her device to malfunction.

One day, after years of accommodation, plaintiff was assigned to work in the hot food station. When she asked for a reassignment, supervisors refused her request. And when plaintiff refused to do the assignment, she was fired.

Plaintiff has filed a two-count complaint alleging defendant both failed to reasonably accommodate her and discriminated against her, all in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Defendant now moves to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the following reasons, defendant's motion is denied.

I. Legal Standard

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted." Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 637 (7th Cir. 2012). Where the complaint provides a basis for arguing that the claims are barred by res judicata or a failure to exhaust administrative remedies, a defendant may move under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint on these bases. See Muhammad v. Oliver, 547 F.3d 874, 878 (7th Cir. 2008); Lavalais v. Village of Melrose Park, 734 F.3d 629, 633 (7th Cir. 2013). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, I accept all well-pleaded facts as true. See Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2013).

In considering a motion to dismiss, I may take judicial notice of public court documents and other matters of public record. Henson v. CSC Credit Services, 29 F.3d 280, 284 (7th Cir. 1994); United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1582 (7th Cir. 1991). This includes records of the Illinois Department of Human Rights. See, e.g., Ocampo v. Remedial Environmental Manpower, Inc., 2014 WL 2893190, *5 (N.D. Ill. June 26, 2014) (taking judicial notice of a voluntary withdrawal request form and an order of closure); Anderson v. Centers for New Horizons, Inc., 891 F.Supp.2d 956, 959-60 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (taking judicial notice of a right-to-sue letter); see also McGee v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 2002 WL 449061, *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 22, 2002) ("the court may take judicial notice of matters of public record, including records of administrative bodies such as the IDHR").

In deciding this motion, I take judicial notice of certain public records submitted by the parties, including the IDHR Notice of Substantial Evidence (Dkt. 10-1 at 8), the Complaint of Civil Rights Violations before the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Dkt. 10-1 at 16-21), the Final Order and Decision of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (Dkt. 10-1 at 23-24), the transcript of the April 17, 2007 debate of the Illinois House of Representatives (Dkt. 10-1 at 36-43), and the IDHR Investigation Report (Dkt. 13-1 at 2-12).

II. Background

Plaintiff Margarita Morales suffers from permanent hearing loss, for which she regularly wears a hearing aid. Dkt. 7 ¶ 11. Plaintiff's hearing aid malfunctions, however, when it is exposed to moisture. Id. ¶ 13. Thus, for her device to function, plaintiff must avoid activities that make her perspire, such as working in hot conditions. Id. ¶¶ 13-15.

In 2003, defendant Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin began to employ plaintiff as a food service worker. Dkt. 7 ¶¶ 5-6. Because of her condition, plaintiff had a standing request with defendant not to work in significant heat. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff substantiated her request with documents from her doctor. Id. ¶ 15.[1]

On May 25, 2011, plaintiff was assigned to work in the hot food area. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. According to plaintiff, the hot food area was considerably warmer than the other available work stations and inconsistent with plaintiff's standing request for a reasonable accommodation. Id. Plaintiff asked her immediate supervisor to reassign her to the salad bar, but he said he could not and told her to take it up with the food service manager-Roxanne Ferrell. Id. ¶¶ 21-22.

Plaintiff spoke with Ferrell. Id. ¶ 23. She reminded her of her accommodation and asked to work the salad bar instead of the hot food area. Id. Plaintiff also asked Ferrell to review the medical records and doctor's notes that substantiated her request. Id. ¶ 24. Ferrell refused. Id. ¶ 25. She said plaintiff should be able to work in every part of the kitchen, and that plaintiff had to either do the job or go home. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Yolanda Winningham, a "human resources generalist, " entered Ferrell's office as the two spoke. Id. ¶ 27. After Ferrell explained the situation, Winningham confirmed that plaintiff would be sent home unless she worked the hot food station. Id. ¶ 28.

Plaintiff was unwilling to expose herself to the hot food station, so Ferrell and Winningham terminated her employment. Id. ¶¶ 29-30. On November 21, 2011, plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights against "Goodwill Industries International" as respondent. Dkt. 7-1 at 4. Plaintiff claimed her ...


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