United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN Chief Judge
Mollet filed suit against St. Joseph's Hospital Breese,
of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis
d/b/a HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital Breese and Hospital
Sisters Health System alleging that she was discharged for
retaliatory and discriminatory reasons after she exercised
her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act and the
Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act. According to Mollet, she
was working at St. Joseph's Hospital in 2014 and 2015
when her hours were temporarily reduced, leading her to file
for unemployment benefits. Despite opposition from the
defendants, Mollet received unemployment benefits for the
reduction in her employment income in both 2014 and 2015. In
June 2015, Mollet had a serious health condition arise that
necessitated her taking approximately six to eight weeks of
FMLA leave. After she returned to work, Mollet's
employment was terminated for “excessive
absences” on December 7, 2015. In Count I of her
complaint, Mollet alleges that the defendants retaliated and
discriminated against her for exercising her FMLA rights,
alleging that the “excessive absences” that led
to her termination were those she had as part of her FMLA
leave. In Count II, she alleges that the stated basis of her
termination, the “excessive absences, ” was a
pretext and that she was, in fact, terminated for asserting
and prevailing in her unemployment benefits claims.
31, 2016, Defendants filed a motion for a more definite
statement as to Count I and to dismiss, or for a more
definite statement of, Count II. With respect to the requests
for a more definite statement, the factual allegations of
both counts are largely the same and suffer from a similar
defect according to Defendants: they cannot discern to whom
Plaintiff refers when she uses the term
“defendants” in her complaint. They also argue
that Mollet's complaint is too vague and ambiguous for
them to determine whether she is alleging that one or both of
the defendants was her employer at the time she was fired.
Defendants also argue that Mollet's claim that she was
discharged in retaliation for filing an unemployment
insurance claim fails as a matter of law. They argue that the
Illinois Supreme Court has never recognized a retaliatory
discharge claim under the Unemployment Insurance Act (UIA)
and, if given the opportunity to rule on the matter, would
decline to allow such claims. Because Defendants seek a more
definite statement of both counts if Count II is not
dismissed, the Court first addresses the motion to dismiss
common law tort of retaliatory discharge in Illinois requires
that a plaintiff show that she was terminated by her employer
in retaliation for actions she took and that her termination
violates a clearly mandated public policy. Turner v.
Memorial Med. Ctr., 911 N.E.2d 369, 374 (Ill.
2009)(citation omitted). Defendants argue that Illinois law
does not support a common law retaliatory discharge claim for
a plaintiff alleging she was terminated for attempting to
secure unemployment benefits. There is no Illinois Supreme
Court addressing whether a retaliatory termination claim
arises in connection with an employee who avails herself of
the UIA's benefits, so the Court is tasked with making a
predictive judgment as to how the Illinois Supreme Court rule
if presented with the question. See Allstate Ins. Co. v.
Menards, Inc. 285 F.3d 630, 635 (7th Cir. 2002).
parties agree that there is only one Illinois appellate case
on point and that its holding is in Plaintiff's favor,
Fiumetto v. Garrett Enterprises, 321 Ill.App.3d 946
(Ill. Ct. App. 2d. Dist. 2001). The facts in
Fiumetto closely mirror Plaintiff's allegations
in this case. In Fiumetto, an employee filed for
unemployment benefits after the availability of work and the
number of hours the employee worked diminished. When her
employer discovered that she had filed for unemployment
benefits, she was terminated. Plaintiff suggests that the
decision is thorough and well-reasoned. Defendants counter
that Fiumetto is dated and not illustrative of how
the Illinois Supreme Court would rule today because Illinois
courts have consistently declined to expand the retaliatory
discharge to claims other than those involving worker's
compensation and whistleblowing.
is an at-will employment state, and an employer generally may
discharge an employee for any reason at any time. Kelsay
v. Motorola, Inc., 384 N.E.2d 353, 360 (Ill. 1978).
Retaliatory discharge claims have been recognized as a narrow
exception to the general rule in two types of cases: those
involving retaliation for filing a worker's compensation
claim and those involving an employee terminated for
reporting an employer's allegedly criminal activity.
See Michael v. Precisions Alliance Group, LLC, 21
N.E.3d 1183, 1188 (Ill. 2014). Courts in Illinois have not
held that retaliatory discharge claims are limited to these
two exceptions, and there is “no precise definition of
what constitutes clearly mandated public policy.”
Id. Appellate courts in Illinois, with the exception
of the Fiumetto Court, routinely refuse to extend
the exception beyond the two categories.
opinion in Fiumetto likens the Unemployment
Insurance Act to the Workers' Compensation Act, applying
and thoroughly examining a four-prong test to determine
whether the UIA provides a clear mandate of public policy.
Like the Worker's Compensation Act, the UIA is intended
to benefit and protect workers, and “both Acts provide
mechanisms for employees to seek compensation for matters
related to their employment.” Fiumetto, 321
Ill.App.3d at 955. If an employee is fired for seeking
unemployment benefits, it would worsen the injury that the
Act aimed to prevent. Id. The Fiumetto
Court reasoned that both Acts are remedial, and employers
have a “financial incentive to dissuade an employee
from going forward with a claim, ” under both Acts,
making a private cause of action necessary. Id. at
955-56. Preventing an employee from bringing a retaliatory
discharge claim under the UIA could allow an employer to
“put employees in a position where they are required to
choose between their jobs and their rights.”
Id. at 956.
argue that the Illinois Supreme Court would disagree with the
Fiumetto Court because the Unemployment Insurance
Act is more similar to the Illinois Minimum Wage Act (IMWA)
and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA),
both of which do not allow for retaliatory discharge claims.
See McGrath v. CCC Info. Servs., 314 Ill.App.3d 431
(Ill. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 2000); and Wilke v.
Salamone, 404 F.Supp.2d 1040 (N.D. Ill. 2005).
Defendants suggest that the UIA is like the IMWA and IWPCA in
that all three are economic in nature. The IMWA and the IWPCA
aim to ensure that employees are compensated in accordance
with wage laws, and courts in Illinois have held that
“public policies associated with . . . economic
regulation are less likely to be held sufficient to support
claims of retaliatory discharge.” Leweling v.
Schnadig Corp. 276 Ill.App.3d 890, 894 (Ill. 1995). This
metric for evaluating whether a public policy rises to the
level of a clear mandate, however, was in place when
Fiumetto held that employees had a private cause of
action for retaliatory discharge under the UIA.
is further set apart from the IMWA and IWPCA by the UIA's
opening declaration of public policy in which legislators
strongly advocated for the importance of the Act as public
policy, calling “[e]conomic insecurity due to
involuntary unemployment . . . a serious menace to the
health, safety, morals and welfare of the people of the State
of Illinois.” 820 ILCS 405/100. The declaration calls
unemployment a “burden which now so often falls with
crushing force upon the unemployed worker and his
family” and points to the need for the UIA to
“lessen the menace to the health, safety and morals of
the people of Illinois, and to encourage stabilization of
employment.” Id. The issue is where to draw
the line between a public policy and a clearly mandated
public policy that “strike[s] at the heart of a
citizen's social rights, duties, and
responsibilities.” McGrath, 314 Ill.App.3d at
440 (citations omitted). The only Illinois court to analyze
whether the UIA espouses a clearly mandated public policy
held that it does. Given the statutory language and the
support of the only Illinois case on point, the Court FINDS
that Plaintiff's complaint alleges a plausible cause of
action for retaliatory discharge and DENIES the motion to
dismiss Count II.
indicate that they cannot properly respond to Plaintiff's
complaint without a more definite statement of the
allegations in both counts. A complaint must include enough
factual content to give the opposing party notice of what the
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), and
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 698 (2009). To
satisfy the notice-pleading standard of Rule 8, a complaint
must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” in a
manner that provides the defendant with “fair
notice” of the claim and its basis. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555 and quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). A
reviewing court must “examine whether the allegations
in the complaint state a ‘plausible' claim for
relief.” Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751
(7th Cir. 2011) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78).
A complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face, ” rather than providing
allegations that do not rise above the speculative level.
for a more definite statement are governed by Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(e), which allows a party to seek a more
definite statement where a “pleading to which a
responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous
that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a
response.” Motions for a more definite statement
“are generally disfavored, and courts should grant such
motions only if the complaint is so unintelligible that the
defendant cannot draft a responsive pleading.”
Moore v. Fid. Fin. Servs., Inc., 869 F.Supp. 557,
559-60 (N.D. Ill. 1994). Rule 12(e) motions should not be
used as “a substitute for the . . . normal discovery
process.” Metso Paper, Inc. v. Enerquin Air,
Inc., No. 06-C-1170, 2007 WL 486635, at *5 (E.D. Wis.
Feb. 12, 2007).
complaint is not so unintelligible as to prevent Defendants
from responding to the allegations. The complaint provides
notice that Plaintiff believes her discharge was in
retaliation for taking FMLA leave and for seeking and
securing unemployment benefits. The complaint provides dates
and a factual framework explaining why Mollet believes her
termination was retaliatory. The factual allegations
referring to the defendants jointly as
“Defendants” or “Defendant” do not
render Mollet's complaint so unintelligible that it
prevents Defendants from responding “even with a simple
denial, in good faith or without prejudice to himself.”
Vician v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, No.
2:05-CV-144, 2006 WL 694740, at *9 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 16, 2006).
The plaintiff argues that she is not in a position to know
the corporate structure of the defendants' organizations
or the role that each defendant played in the process of her
termination without conducting discovery. A more definite
statement is not required in order to allow the defendants to
answer the complaint and will not be ordered as a substitute
for questions best answered by conducting discovery.
Accepting her well-pleaded factual allegations as true and
drawing all inferences in her favor, Plaintiff's
complaint satisfies the pleading requirements of Rule 8.
reasons stated above, Defendants' motion for a more
definite statement as to Count I and to dismiss Count II
(Doc. 18) is DENIED. This case remains set
for final pretrial conference on June 30, 2017, and jury
trial on July 10, 2017.