United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Wood United States District Judge.
Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”) fired Plaintiff
Christopher Paul, a bus operator who is bipolar. Paul then
brought this lawsuit alleging that his firing and related
employment actions violated the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et
seq. The CTA has moved to dismiss Paul's Amended
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 31.) In
particular, the CTA contends that Paul's three ADA
claims-failure to accommodate his disability, improper
retaliation, and improper interference-all fail and that the
exemplary and liquidated damages he seeks are barred by
statute. For reasons explained below, the CTA's motion is
granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, the Court
grants the CTA's motion to dismiss Paul's failure to
accommodate claim and his prayer for exemplary and liquidated
damages, but denies the CTA's motion to dismiss
Paul's improper retaliation and improper interference
was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1999. (Am. Compl.
¶ 6, Dkt. No. 29.) The CTA employed him as a part-time
bus driver beginning in 2007. (Id. ¶ 7.) On
multiple occasions during the course of his employment, Paul
sought to have a schedule that would allow him a consistent
amount of sleep. (Id. ¶ 11.) Paul's doctors
maintained that consistent sleep would prevent his disease
from worsening. (Id.)
2011, the CTA agreed to schedule Paul's shifts to enable
him to have at least 13 hours between the end of one shift
and the beginning of the next. (Id. ¶ 17.) But
the CTA never actually put that accommodation into practice.
(Id. ¶ 19.) However, the CTA did hire Paul into
a full-time position in August 2012. (Id. ¶
24.) Shortly thereafter, the CTA took Paul off duty because
of his lithium medication. (Id. ¶ 30.) After
his doctor wrote to the CTA explaining how his lithium
medication was not a concern to his work, especially if he
was adequately accommodated, Paul was reinstated to work.
(Id.) Then, three months later in December 2012, the
CTA discharged Paul.
filed a charge with the Illinois Department of Human Rights
and United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). This filing charged disability-based
discrimination occurring as late as December 11, 2014.
(Charge of Discrim., Dkt. No. 1 at 14 of 15.) Paul did not
check the box to charge a claim of retaliation or
interference, nor did he check the box indicating a
continuing action. (Id.) The narrative of Paul's
EEOC complaint stated as follows:
I was hired by the Respondent on or about January 1, 2007. My
most recent position was Bus Operator. Respondent is aware of
my disability. During my employment, I requested a reasonable
accommodation, which was not provided. Subsequently, I was
disciplined and discharged. I believe I have been
discriminated against because of my disability, in violation
of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.
(Id.) The EEOC issued Paul a right-to-sue letter in
February 2014. (EEOC Dismissal and Notice of Rights, Dkt. No.
1 at 15 of 15.) Paul then filed the present suit. The
now-operative Amended Complaint states three counts, each
under the ADA: (1) failure to accommodate, (2) retaliation,
and (3) interference, coercion, and intimidation.
plaintiff's complaint must contain “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must
“‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level . . . .”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also Brooks v.
Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009) (stating this
plausibility requirement “‘simply calls for
enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery
will reveal evidence' supporting the plaintiff's
allegations” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause
of action, supported by mere conclusory statements” do
not satisfy this standard. Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Paul's Failure to Accommodate Claim
prevail on a claim for failure to accommodate a disability
under the ADA, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) he is a
qualified individual with a disability; (2) his employer was
aware of his disability; and (3) his employer failed to
reasonably accommodate his disability. Gratzl v. Office
of Chief Judges of 12th, 18th, 19th, and 22nd Judicial
Circuits, 601 F.3d 674, 678 (7th Cir. 2005). Paul's
claim fails at the first step, for he has not sufficiently
pleaded that he is “disabled” for purposes of the
relevant here, the ADA defines “disability” to
mean “a[n] impairment that substantially limits [at
least] one . . . major life activit[y] of [the allegedly
disabled] individual . . . .” 42 U.S.C. §
12102(1). The statute directs the Court to interpret this
“definition of disability . . . in favor of broad
coverage of individuals . . . to the maximum extent permitted
. . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(4)(A). The EEOC
regulations that implement the ADA define an
“impairment” as “any physiological disorder
or condition . . . affecting one or more of the body systems
. . . .” Chicago Reg'l Council of Carpenters v.
Thorne Assoc., Inc., 893 F.Supp.2d 952, 960 n.7 (N.D.
Ill. 2012) (quoting 34 C.F.R. § 104.3(j)(2)(i)). An
emotional or mental illness like bipolar disorder may
constitute such an impairment. 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(h)(2);
see also Roman Martinez v. Potter, 550 F.Supp.2d
270, 278 (D.P.R. 2008) (finding that bipolar disorder
qualifies as an impairment under the ADA); Glowacki v.
Bufalo Gen. Hosp., 2 F.Supp.2d 346, 251 (W.D.N.Y. 1998)
not all impairments are disabilities for purposes of the
ADA.” Krocka v. City of Chicago, 203 F.3d 507,
512 (7th Cir. 2000). Rather, an impairment is a disability
only if it “substantially limits the ability of an
individual to perform a major life activity as compared to
most people in the general population.” 29 C.F.R.
§ 1630.2(j)(1)(ii). “[M]ajor life activities
include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself,
performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping,
walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing,
learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating,
and working.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A); see
also Scheerer v. Porter, 443 F.3d 916, 919 (7th Cir.
2006) (observing that a plaintiff under the ADA “must
be able to show that . . . he was either prevented or