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Bucks v. Mr. Bults, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 3, 2016

TRACY BUCKS, Plaintiff,
v.
MR. BULTS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Tracy Bucks initiated this action on March 24, 2016, by filing a two-count Complaint. The first count alleges that Defendant Mr. Bults, Inc. (“Bults”) terminated Bucks in retaliation for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The second count claims that he was terminated as a result of his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In response, Bults filed a motion to dismiss Count I for failure to state a claim (Doc. 16), as well as a motion to dismiss Count II for failure to state a claim, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on Count II (Doc. 17). For the reasons stated below, the motions to dismiss are granted.

         Background

         Bucks began working for Bults as a truck driver around December 26, 2011 (Doc. 1). On June 19, 2013, Bucks fell from a trailer while at work and was injured (Id.). Bucks does not state the nature of his injury, but claims he had surgery related to the injury in February 2014 and again in February 2015 (Id.). Bucks alleges he was off work pursuant to the FMLA for both surgeries, returning to work after the second surgery in August 2015 (Id.). On or about December 13, 2015, Bucks was driving a tractor-trailer when it jackknifed, causing a piece of metal wind spoiler to bend. Bucks claims the damaged piece could be repaired by hand and was less than $200 in damage (Id.). Bucks asserts that he was terminated as a result of the accident (Id.). He also claims that he had never been disciplined prior to this incident, and three other drivers who had similar accidents were not disciplined by Bults.

         On January 12, 2016, Bucks filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging discrimination by retaliation and for his disability (Id., Doc. 1-1). In the charge of discrimination, Bucks provides a somewhat different account of the facts leading up to his termination. The EEOC charge states: “On February 14, 2015, I had a second surgery due to a work related injury that I sustained in November 2013. I was released back to work in March 2015 with restrictions. On December 14, 2015, I sustained a work-related injury and upon reporting my injury, I was immediately terminated.” (Doc. 1-1).

         On March 7, 2016, the EEOC issued a “Notice of Right to Sue” permitting Bucks to file this lawsuit. Within his claim for retaliation, Bucks asserts that Bults was an “employer” under the FMLA because it employed the requisite number of employees, he was an “eligible employee” because he worked the requisite number of hours in the 12-month period preceding the incident giving rise to this action, and his June 19, 2013 injury constituted a “serious health condition” under the FMLA because it involved continuing treatment by a health care provider and it made him unable to perform his job as a truck driver (Doc. 1, p. 3). Within his claim for violation of the ADA, Bucks merely states that his injury was a disability as defined by the ADA, the ADA prohibits employers from terminating an employee because of an actual or perceived disability, and Bults terminated Bucks because of his actual or perceived disability. Bucks seeks actual damages, liquidated damages, equitable relief, attorney fees, and costs.

         On June 8, 2016, Bults filed a motion to dismiss the FMLA retaliation claim and a second motion to dismiss Bucks's ADA claim or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on the ADA claim.

         Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is meant to “test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits” of the case. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011); Thompson v. Ill. Dep't. of Prof'l Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must include a short and plain statement of the claim, showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Accordingly, the Court may grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) only if a complaint lacks “enough facts to state a claim [for] relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 697, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1960 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007)); Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010).

         “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1955). While a complaint need not include detailed factual allegations, there “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1955). These requirements ensure that “the defendant [receives] fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1964 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103 (2007)).

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss, a federal court may consider documents attached to the pleadings without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, as long as the documents are referred to in the complaint and central to the plaintiff's claims. See Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 729 (7th Cir. 2014); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).

         Discussion

         A. FMLA Retaliation

         The FMLA allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave to tend to a serious health condition. Long v. Teachers' Ret. Sys. of Illinois, 585 F.3d 344, 349 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 2612). The FMLA also makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee who exercises his FMLA rights. Carter v. Chicago State Univ., 778 F.3d 651, 657 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2), (b)); see also Burnett v. LFW Inc., 472 F.3d 471, 477 (7th Cir. 2006) (“The FMLA makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with an ...


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