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Tolston-Allen v. City of Chicago

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

March 8, 2017

SHERYL TOLSTON-ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN W. DARRAH United States District Court Judge

         On May 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Complaint, alleging: retaliation for engaging in protected activities under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., in Count I; racial discrimination pursuant to Title VII in Count II; and a claim for hostile work environment under Title VII, the FMLA, and the ADA in Count III. Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Counts II and III [11] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [11] is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant City of Chicago (the “City”) is a municipal corporation organized in Cook County, Illinois. (Compl. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff is an African-American female who began working for the City on or about January 1, 1996. (Id. ¶ 8.) At the time relevant to this Complaint, Plaintiff was working as a Collection Representative. (Id.) Plaintiff has been diagnosed with chronic asthma, which, when active, prevents Plaintiff from breathing and causes chest pains and respiratory problems. (Id. ¶ 10.) In 2012, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the City, alleging retaliation for requesting intermittent leave under the FMLA. (Id. ¶ 11.) That lawsuit was resolved around February 2014. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that, shortly thereafter, Plaintiff's supervisor, Eugenia Iskos, a white female, began to retaliate against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 13.) Iskos issued suspensions, followed Plaintiff around work on a daily basis, issued pre-disciplinary notices with false allegations about Plaintiff's conduct at work, and sent disparaging emails to Plaintiff's supervisors with false allegations. (Id.) Iskos also used racially charged language when describing Plaintiff's interactions with coworkers and described Plaintiff's tone as “speaking like a loud person.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Iskos did not follow any of Plaintiff's non-African-American coworkers or use similar language when describing the activities of non-African-American employees. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 14.)

         On January 14, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, which stated:

I was hired by Respondent on or about January 2014. My most recent position is Collection Representative. During my employment, I filed two EEOC charges of discrimination . . . . Subsequently, I have been harassed and subjected to discipline.
I believe I have been discriminated against because of my race, Black, and retaliated against for engaging in protected activity, in violation of the [sic] Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.
I also believe I have been discriminated against because of my disability, and retaliated against for engaging in protected activity, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.

         (Dkt. 12-1, p. 9.)[1] A right-to-sue letter was issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) on April 4, 2016. (Id. p. 10.)

         On January 19, 2015, Plaintiff attempted to use her approved FMLA leave but was issued a pre-disciplinary notice by Iskos for failing to submit the request to her direct supervisor. (Compl. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff's request was given to a supervisor in the same department, and Plaintiff's direct supervisor was not working on the date of the request. (Id.) The pre-disciplinary notices were used to support a one-day suspension for Plaintiff on February 10, 2015. (Id. ¶ 17.) On July 2, 2015, Plaintiff filed an internal complaint with the City of Chicago Department of Human Resources Diversity and Equal Employment Opportunity Division. (Id. ¶ 18.) The internal complaint alleged harassment based on race and retaliation for the 2012 lawsuit. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that this did not affect the harassment and resulted in further retaliation. (Id.)

         Plaintiff received further pre-disciplinary notices on June 3, 2015, and July 21, 2015. (Id. ¶ 19.) The pre-disciplinary notices contained false allegations. (Id.) Plaintiff was issued a three-day suspension on August 24, 2015. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff's physician issued a letter that stated Plaintiff could not return to work at the Department of Finance due to stress-triggered asthma and phobia of the workplace. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff took a forced, unpaid leave of absence from August 24, 2015, until December 16, 2015, when she was transferred to the Department of Transportation. (Id. ¶ 22.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). However, plaintiffs are not required to “plead the elements of a cause of action along with facts supporting each element.” Runnion ex rel. Runnion v. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Nw. Indiana, 786 F.3d 510, 517 (7th Cir. 2015). Rather, the complaint must provide a defendant “with ‘fair notice' of the claim and its basis.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting ...


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