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Gallardo v. Chicago Transit Authority

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

December 5, 2016

ALFREDO GALLARDO, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Alfredo Gallardo, filed a two-Count Second Amended Complaint, alleging employment discrimination based on his race, ancestry, and disability. Defendant, Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”) moves to dismiss Count II of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim [34]. For the reasons stated herein, the motion is denied.

         Background

         Alfredo Gallardo is of Hispanic ancestry and was employed by the CTA as a Rail Maintenance Manager from May 2013 until CTA terminated his employment on October 25, 2013. (Second Amend. Compl. Dkt. 29 at ¶¶ 4, 6, 16). In Count II, Gallardo also alleges disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. He alleges that he had a history of physician diagnosed depression disorder and anxiety disorder. (Id. at ¶ 25). Gallardo alleges his condition substantially limited his sleep, concentration, breathing, thinking, eating, marital relations, and caused feelings of hopelessness. (Id. at ¶ 26). He alleges that he is unable to perform or is significantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration in performing the above major life activities as compared to the average person. (Id. at ¶ 27).

         Gallardo alleges CTA became aware of his depression and his anxiety disorder because he disclosed it to his managers, Bell and O'Connell and to Human Resources personnel. (Id. at ¶ 30). Additionally, Gallardo alleges that he disclosed and provided further information and documentation to CTA about his psychological conditions when he applied for disability leave. (Id. at ¶ 31). Through the process of applying for, and having his disability leave request approved, Gallardo provided CTA with an opportunity to access to his medical records. (Id.).

         CTA also allegedly communicated with Gallardo about his medical status and ability to return to work, while he was on medical leave. (Id.). He alleges that at all relevant times he adequately performed his job duties and never received any discipline. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 15, 24). He further alleges that, during his disability leave neither his managers, Bell and O'Connell, nor Willison in Human Resources ever informed him of disciplinary or performance issues. (Id. at ¶ 35).

         CTA terminated Gallardo's employment on October 25, 2013, during his medical leave. (Id. at ¶ 26). Gallardo further alleges that CTA fired him because of his superiors' displeasure and discomfort with his documented his mental health conditions and his related inability to return to work. (Id. at ¶ 37). He asserts that CTA falsely claimed his termination resulted from performance issues as evidence by the violation of CTA's own procedure of progressive discipline. (Id. at ¶ 38).

         Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “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.

         Discussion

         First, CTA argues that this Court should dismiss Gallardo's disability discrimination claim because his Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charge did not contain any claim of disability based on Gallardo having a record of impairment or CTA regarding him as having an impairment. It is CTA's position that Gallardo has not exhausted his administrative remedies as to those claims.

         The scope of the judicial proceedings in the employment discrimination context is limited by the nature of the charges filed with the agency. Rush v. McDonald's Corp., 966 F.2d 1104, 1110 (7th Cir. 1992). “Courts review the scope of an EEOC charge liberally.” Huri v. Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook Cnty., 804 F.3d 826, 831-832 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing Farrell v. Butler Univ., 421 F.3d 609, 616 (7th Cir. 2005)”. “To be cognizable in federal court, a Title VII claim must simply be ‘like or reasonably related to the allegations of the charge and growing out of such allegations.'” Id. (quoting Cheek v. W. & S. Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497, 500 (7th Cir. 1994)). At minimum, the complaint and the EEOC charge must describe the same conduct and implicate the same individuals. Huri, 804 F.3d at 832.

         Here, Gallardo's IDHR and EEOC charge includes a claim for disability discrimination. The fact that it states that CTA was aware of Gallardo's disability does not mean that he is precluded from asserting in his complaint that he is a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA based on his record of disability and that CTA regarded him as having a disability. A Title VII plaintiff need not include in his charge every fact that, individually or in combination, forms the basis of a subsequent lawsuit's claims. Huri, 804 F.3d at 831. The same conduct (disability discrimination) and the same entity (CTA) are implicated in both the charge and the complaint at issue here. How Gallardo establishes that he is a qualified individual with a disability for ADA purposes does not alter the notice provided to CTA that Gallardo is claiming they discriminated against him based on his disability. Accordingly, this Court finds Gallardo exhausted his administrative remedies.

         Next, CTA argues that Gallardo fails to state a claim in Count II for disability discrimination. The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with a disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12131. To establish an ADA violation Gallardo must allege that he is a qualified individual with a disability under the statute, suffered an adverse employment action, and there is a causal connection ...


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