United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
JEANETTE Y. SAMS, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CHICAGO and BARBARA HEMMERLING, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MANISH S. SHAH, District Judge.
Jeanette Sams is an African-American woman, and a Chicago police officer. Illness required her to take medical leave, but she recovered and by March 2011 she was fit to work. Upon her return she asked to be transferred from the Alternate Response unit to the Medical unit, because the culture of the Alternate Response unit could have exacerbated her condition. The director of the Medical unit, Barbara Hemmerling, refused. Hemmerling placed Sams on unpaid leave, without her consent. Sams believes that decision was motivated by her race and disability. In March 2012, Sams asked to be reinstated, but was turned down-purportedly because of her medical condition, even though she was fit to work.
Sams filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and then brought this lawsuit. She asserts claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Defendants-the City of Chicago and Hemmerling-move to dismiss on a number of grounds. For the reasons discussed below, that motion is granted in part and denied in part.
I. Legal Standards
Defendants' motion is brought under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. I therefore construe the complaint in the light most favorable to Sams, accept as true all well-pleaded facts, and draw reasonable inferences in her favor. Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013). Rule 12(b)(6) limits my consideration to "allegations set forth in the complaint itself, documents that are attached to the complaint, documents that are central to the complaint and are referred to in it, and information that is properly subject to judicial notice." Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013).
Defendants' motion is based in part on applicable statutes of limitations. "A statute of limitations provides an affirmative defense, and a plaintiff is not required to plead facts in the complaint to anticipate and defeat affirmative defenses. But when a plaintiff's complaint nonetheless sets out all of the elements of an affirmative defense, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate." Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 935 (7th Cir. 2012).
Sams is an African-American woman, who became a police officer in 1991. TAC at 7, ¶ 1. Between 2005 and 2008, she suffered a series of strokes, which left her disabled. TAC at 7, ¶ 1. As a result, she took medical leave between June 2005 and May 2010. TAC at 7, ¶ 1. While on leave, she was retrained to do office work (she participated in speech therapy, cognitive therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy). TAC at 7, ¶ 1.
In 2010, Sams asked to return to work. TAC at 7, ¶ 2. According to both her own doctor and the City's doctor, she was fit to return to work, on limited duty. TAC at 7, ¶ 2. In January 2011, she was reinstated as a limited-duty police officer. TAC at 7, ¶ 2. The City wanted her to return to the Alternate Response unit, where she worked before her first stroke. TAC at 7, ¶ 2. Sams asked instead to be placed in the Medical unit. TAC at 7, ¶ 2. Her reasons were (1) the Medical unit was appropriate, given the retraining she had received; and (2) her doctor feared that the loud, combative, poorly supervised Alternate Response unit could exacerbate her disabilities, and he therefore recommended that she not return there. TAC at 7, ¶ 2.
The Chief of Patrol granted Sams's transfer request, though he asked for a letter from her doctor explaining the need. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. Sams obtained that letter, and the director of the Medical unit (Hemmerling) read it. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. Upon reading the letter, Hemmerling stated that she did not want Sams in the Medical unit. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. Hemmerling threatened to make certain that Sams was put on leave unless Sams returned to the Alternate Response unit. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. Sams refused. TAC at 7, ¶ 3.
Around March 3, 2011, Hemmerling filled out paperwork stating that Sams was unfit to work. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. That statement conflicted with the views of both Sams's doctor, and the City's doctor. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. Without Sams's consent, Hemmerling placed Sams on personal leave, and later converted that to medical leave. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. In violation of City policy, Hemmerling placed Sams on medical leave without obtaining a doctor's opinion that Sams was unfit to work. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. In addition to Sams, Hemmerling (who is white) blocked another disabled African-American officer from working in the Medical unit. TAC at 7, ¶ 3. Hemmerling filled the relevant positions with two white officers, who had less seniority than Sams. TAC at 7, ¶ 3.
One year later, around March 12, 2012, Sams asked to return to work, but was told that she could not return due to her medical status. TAC at 7, ¶ 3; TAC at 9. Though the City had no medical justification for preventing Sams's return, Sams remained off work on unpaid medical leave, through the time she filed the third amended complaint. TAC at 7, ¶ 3; see also TAC ¶ 12(h). As a result, Sams has lost income and insurance coverage. TAC ¶ 12(h). She was therefore unable to afford her medications, putting her at greater risk for additional harm. TAC ¶ 12(h).
On March 23, 2012, Sams filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging racial and disability-based discrimination. TAC ¶ 7.1; TAC at 9. Sams received a right-to-sue notice from the EEOC on July 27, 2013. TAC ¶ 8; TAC at 8. She filed the present suit on October 24, 2013. See . Sams asserts claims for unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. ...