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Dibelka v. Repro Graphics, Inc.

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

November 12, 2014

ROBERT J. DIBELKA, Plaintiff,
v.
REPRO GRAPHICS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Dibelka ("Dibelka"), who has renal cell carcinoma, sued his former employer, defendant Repro Graphics ("Repro"), pursuant to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII") and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (the "ADA"). Dibelka, who is represented by counsel, alleges that Repro failed to accommodate his medical needs, prohibited him from taking necessary medical leave, retaliated against him and harassed him after he complained about how Repro handled his medical situation, and then fired him in violation of Title VII and the ADA based on pretextual reasons. Repro asserts that Dibelka's EEOC charge included a single claim: that he was wrongfully discharged based on his disability. It thus moves to dismiss Dibelka's other claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), contending that Dibelka failed to exhaust these claims because they are outside the scope of his EEOC charge. For the following reasons, Dibelka's ADA wrongful termination, failure to accommodate, and denial of medical leave claims survive the motion to dismiss. However, his Title VII, retaliation, and harassment claims are dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust.

I. BACKGROUND

In 1992, Repro hired Dibelka to work as a pressman. Dibelka was diagnosed with renal cell cancer in 2008. In 2013, Dibelka was working at Repro as a maintenance mechanic. On February 20, 2013, Repro terminated Dibelka's employment based on proffered reasons that are not specified in Dibelka's complaint. Dibelka's complaint does not divide his claims into counts. Construing his complaint broadly, Dibelka contends that Repro: (1) failed to provide reasonable accommodations for his medical needs; (2) refused to allow him to take necessary medical leave; (3) retaliated against him, harassed him, and subjected him to different terms and conditions of employment after he complained about Repro's handing of his medical situation; and (4) fired him in violation of Title VII and the ADA based on pretextual reasons.

Dibelka's EEOC charge is attached to his complaint. It states, in full, that:

I was hired by Respondent in or around November 1992. My most recent position was Maintenance Mechanic. Respondent is aware of my disability. On or around February 20, 2013, I was discharged. I believe I have been discriminated against because of my disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as Amended.

(Dkt. 1, Compl., Ex. A.) In the area on the EEOC form labeled "Discrimination Based On, " Dibelka checked the "disability" box but did not check any other boxes, such as "retaliation" or "race." Dibelka's complaint does not allege that he belongs to a protected class.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim satisfies this pleading standard when its factual allegations "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56; see also Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[P]laintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together."). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court takes all facts alleged by the plaintiff as true and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. Virnich v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011).

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Scope of the Charge Rule

A plaintiff generally must present his claims to the EEOC before he can file a federal lawsuit based on those claims. See Peters v. Renaissance Hotel Operating Co., 307 F.3d 535, 550 (7th Cir. 2002) (explaining that "[g]enerally a plaintiff may not bring claims... that were not originally brought among the charges to the EEOC"); Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 637 (7th Cir. 2004) (holding that "an employee may sue under the... ADA only if he files a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice"). This rule gives the employer notice of the charged conduct and allows the EEOC and the employer a chance to settle the dispute. Peters, 307 F.3d at 550.

Nevertheless, a plaintiff may proceed on claims not explicitly set out in a charge if those claims are "like or reasonably related" to the claims in his EEOC charge and could "be expected to grow out of an EEOC investigation of the charge." Id. (internal quotations marks and citation omitted); see also Cheek v. W. & S. Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 501 (7th Cir. 1994). A complaint's allegations are "like or reasonably related" to the allegations in an EEOC charge if there is a "factual relationship" between them. Risk v. Ford Motor Co., 48 F.Supp.2d 1135, 1145 (S.D. Ill.1999) (citing Cheek, 431 F.3d at 501). A factual relationship exists when the EEOC charge and the complaint involve the same conduct and implicate the same individuals. Id.

When faced with an exhaustion issue based on the scope of the charge, the court is not limited to considering only the body of the charge. Instead, it may consider additional documents "when it is clear that the charging party intended the agency to investigate the allegations." Cheek, 431 F.3d at 502. However, the "additional allegations cannot expand the scope of the allegations in [the] original charge; ...


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