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Pack v. Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

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

February 5, 2015

MARTHA PACK, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTHCARE AND FAMILY SERVICES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint [22]. The Court previously granted a motion to dismiss the original complaint and gave Plaintiff 21 days to amend. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on August 11, 2014, and Defendant moved to dismiss with prejudice shortly thereafter. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendant's motion and dismisses the amended complaint with prejudice.

I. Background[1]

As in her original complaint, Plaintiff Martha Pack asserts four counts that relate to her employment with Defendant Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services ("IDHFS"). The claims have not changed from the original complaint to the amended version, and include: two violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ("Title VII"), and negligent infliction of emotional distress ("NIED") under Illinois law.[2] The Court's previous memorandum opinion set forth the alleged facts underlying Plaintiff's claims, which in many respects, also have not changed in any significant manner.

In May 2007, Plaintiff was hired by IDHFS to work as an office coordinator. One of her supervisors at IDHFS was Deputy Administrator Norris Stevenson. In November 2011, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights alleging that Stevenson racially harassed her. About six months later, Plaintiff withdrew her harassment complaint pursuant to a settlement agreement, in which Stevenson agreed only to communicate with Plaintiff through her immediate supervisors, and IDHFS agreed to assist in reassigning Plaintiff to a position outside of the agency. According to Plaintiff, neither Stevenson nor IDHFS complied with the agreement. Stevenson allegedly began to "conduct surveillance of [P]laintiff's activities, " followed her in and out of the building, and interacted with her at work. [20], Am. Compl. at ¶ 13. IDHFS allegedly failed to reassign Plaintiff to a new position. See id. at ¶ 22.

Several months later, two mental health professionals, Dr. Greenberg and Dr. Salero, diagnosed Plaintiff with anxiety and panic disorders. As before, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Greenberg recommended "reassignment" due to anxiety and panic attacks when in the presence of [] Stevenson." Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff newly alleges that Dr. Greenberg specifically recommended that she be reassigned "to an alternate work location" and that he advised that Plaintiff was "unable to perform any of the essential functions of her job due to the extreme nature of her anxiety and panic attacks." Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. She further alleges that in February 2013, Dr. Greenberg advised the Illinois Department of Central Management Services that Plaintiff "was permanently unable to work at IDHFS due to severe limitation of her functional abilities associated with her panic disorder and anxiety." Id. at ¶ 19. Dr. Salero "also reported [that] [P]laintiff experienced suicide ideations in May and September, 2012 due to the recurrent psychological impairment associated with her work location at IDHFS." Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff now alleges that her anxiety and panic disorders "substantially limited one or more of her major life activities including caring for herself, learning, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working." Id. at ¶ 27.

Also added in the amended complaint is an excerpt from a letter or email that Plaintiff's counsel wrote to Stevenson on October 31, 2012. It states, in pertinent part:

* * * this correspondence shall constitute [Plaintiff's] request for reasonable accommodation in the form of work reassignment to an available position either within or without [sic] [ID]HFS. In this regard, [Plaintiff] requests [ID]HFS identify each vacant position for which [Plaintiff] may be qualified (either with or without accommodation); all job descriptions and postings relative to such positions; and state each reason [Plaintiff's] reassignment would otherwise constitute an undue hardship if granted.

Id. at ¶ 21. After Defendant did not reassign Plaintiff within IDHFS or transfer Plaintiff to a different agency, Plaintiff applied for and received occupational disability benefits from the State Employees' Retirement System of Illinois. Id. at ¶ 23.

In Count I, the failure to accommodate claim, Plaintiff newly alleges that Defendant admitted that it perceived her as an individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA. Id. at ¶ 33. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that she filed charges with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in which she alleged that she had a disability under the Illinois Human Rights Act, of which Defendant was aware. See id. In its Verified Answer to the charge, Defendant allegedly stated that it did not deny that Plaintiff had a disability, as defined by the Human Rights Act, admitted that it was aware of Plaintiff's condition, and admitted that Plaintiff's work performance as an office coordinator met expectations. See id. As before, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to reassign her; she now also alleges that Defendant failed to identify available positions outside IDHFS and states without further specificity that Defendant caused her to be "constructively discharged from [her] employment[.]" Id. at ¶ 34.

The allegations that comprise Counts II through IV essentially mirror those in the original complaint. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant retaliated against her in violation of the ADA by failing to identify vacant positions for which she was qualified and by failing to reassign her to a new position. See id. at ¶ 41. Plaintiff alleges retaliation under Title VII for these same actions in Count III. See id. at ¶ 48. Count IV asserts an NIED claim based on Stevenson's actions and Defendant's indifference to Plaintiff's anxiety, which allegedly constituted "extreme negligence and reckless disregard for [her] health and well-being[.]" Id. at ¶ 54.

II. Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court takes as true all factual allegations in Plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in her favor. Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the claim first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the claim must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level, " assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (ellipsis in original). The Court reads the complaint and assesses its plausibility as a whole. See Atkins v. City of Chi., 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011); cf. Scott v. City of Chi., 195 F.3d 950, 952 (7th Cir. 1999) ("Whether a complaint provides notice, however, is determined by looking at the complaint as a whole.").

III. Discussion

A. Failure to Accommodate under the ADA (Count I)

Under the ADA, an employer must reasonably accommodate the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A). To establish a violation of the ADA, an employee must show that: (1) she is disabled; (2) she is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) the employer took adverse action because of her disability or failed to make a reasonable accommodation. Winsley v. Cook County, 563 F.3d 598, 603 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court previously dismissed Count I because (1) Plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege a disability, as she only alleged that her anxiety and panic arose when ...


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