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Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority

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

October 17, 2016

Mark Richardson, Plaintiff,
v.
Chicago Transit Authority, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Robert Blakey, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Mark Richardson alleges that Defendant Chicago Transit Authority terminated his employment as a bus operator in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12112 et seq. (hereinafter the “ADA”). Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claim [14], and for the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion is denied.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a bus operator from August 15, 1999 through at least February 14, 2012. [1] at 1. In September of 2010, Plaintiff attempted to return to his job from an extended medical leave. Id. at 2. On or about September 13, 2010, a physician employed by Defendant determined that Plaintiff was physically able to return to work as a bus operator. Id. Defendant was also given a “safety assessment” on September 16, 2010, which “was different” from the safety assessment that is normally required of bus operators returning from extended leave. Id.

         Defendant eventually rejected Plaintiff's request to return to work. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant refused to allow him to return to work because Defendant regarded him as disabled, due to his obesity. Id. On December 1, 2010 Plaintiff filed, with the assistance of his present counsel, a Charge of Discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id. Ex. A. The substantive portion of that Charge of Discrimination reads as follows:

I have been employed by Respondent since August 15, 1999, as a Bus Operator. I was given a Special Assessment, which I passed and my doctor released me to return to work. Respondent denied my return to work.
I believe I have been discriminated against because of my disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.

Id. Plaintiff's EEOC Charge did not resolve the parties' dispute, and Plaintiff was issued a “right to sue” letter on December 15, 2015. Id. Ex. B.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), this Court must construe the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, accept as true all well-pleaded facts and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013); Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). Statements of law, however, need not be accepted as true. Yeftich, 722 F.3d at 915. Rule 12(b)(6) limits this Court's 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). To survive Defendant's motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Yeftich, 722 F.3d at 915. A “claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         III. Analysis

         The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against a “qualified individual on the basis of disability” in employment decisions, including decisions to discharge. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). An ADA plaintiff must, inter alia, “prove that she has a ‘disability' in order to prevail.” Knapp v. Evgeros, Inc., No. 15-cv-754, 2016 WL 4720026, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 9, 2016). In addition, a putative plaintiff under the ADA must exhaust his administrative remedies through the EEOC. See Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1087 (7th Cir. 2008).

         Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim must be dismissed because he has: (1) failed to sufficiently allege that he is “disabled” within the meaning of the ADA; and (2) failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with the EEOC. The Court addresses these arguments in turn.

         A. ...


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