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Pickett v. Chicago Transit Authority

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

May 2, 2017




         Before the Court is Defendant Chicago Transit Authority's (the “CTA”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Lawrence L. Pickett's (“Pickett”) Complaint filed pro se on May 23, 2016 (the “Complaint”) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, this Court grants in part and denies in part the Motion.


         For purposes of the instant Motion, the following well-pleaded allegations derived from the Complaint and the exhibits attached thereto are accepted as true. Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2013); Ed Miniat, Inc. v. Global Life Ins. Grp., Inc., 805 F.2d 732, 733 (7th Cir. 1986); Dilallo v. Miller & Steeno, P.C., et al., No. 16 C 51, 2016 WL 4530319, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 30, 2016). This principle does not apply to legal conclusions; the Court will not consider conclusory claims. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Court draws all reasonable inferences in Pickett's favor and construes all allegations in the light most favorable to him. Ed Miniat. Inc., 805 F.2d at 733; Dilallo, 2016 WL 4530319, at *1.

         Purportedly, the CTA hired Pickett on or about July 18, 2005. Pickett asserts in the Complaint that the CTA discriminated against him “on or about, or beginning on or about” April 18, 2013. On January 15, 2016, Pickett filed a charge against the CTA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”). At this time, Pickett was working as a bus driver for the CTA. The EEOC charge first asserts age discrimination. Second, it alleges disability discrimination. Pickett, however, fails to describe his disability in the EEOC charge, stating only that “Respondent is aware of [his] disability.” Pickett further claims that he was “subjected to different terms and condition[s] of employment, than younger and older disabled employees, including but not limited to being able to work light duty.” Lastly, the EEOC charge alleges retaliation, whereby Pickett argued that “[o]n or about December 21, 2015, [he] was not allowed to return back to work on light duty.” On February 1, 2016, the EEOC issued Pickett a dismissal and notice of right to sue. Thereafter, Pickett filed the Complaint.

         In the Complaint, Pickett alleges retaliation, and he brings claims of discrimination against the CTA under the Age Discrimination Employment Act (the “ADEA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act or Rehabilitation Act (the “ADA”), and on the basis of his race, color, or national origin under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pickett also asserts that the CTA “failed to reasonably accommodate” his disabilities; “failed to stop harassment;” and retaliated against him because he “did something to assert rights protected by the” ADEA and the ADA. The entirety of the facts that Pickett alleges in the Complaint, in addition to those pled in the EEOC charge, which is attached to the Complaint and the Motion, [1] are as follows:

The Defendant has and continues to cause me to lose income by refusing to allow me to work in any capacity, even though I [have] been cleared to do so by their doctor and mine. The Defendant has engaged in activity that has amplified my PTSD, and I feel is harassment by filling my personnel file with unjustified disciplinary write ups, suspensions and warnings.

         The CTA now seeks dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety, which we grant in part and deny in part, as discussed below.


         “[A] Rule 12(b)(6) motion ‘tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case.'” McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 694 F.3d 873, 878 (7th Cir. 2012). The allegations in a complaint must set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the pleadings “allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A plaintiff need not provide detailed factual allegations; however, he must offer enough factual support to raise his “right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). He must provide “sufficient detail to give the defendant ‘fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Importantly, however, pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, and pro se submissions are held “to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009).


         I. Procedural Defects

         First, the CTA points to Pickett's failure to comply with the Local Rules. Pickett filed a Response Brief exceeding ten pages, single spaced, in violation of Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 5.2(c), and without seeking leave of the Court, as required by Local Rule 7.1. However, “[t]he Court has broad discretion to determine how and when to enforce local rules.” Beauchem v. Rockford Prods. Corp., No. 01 C 50134, 2002 WL 31155088, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 27, 2002); see Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1169 (7th Cir. 2013) (“[U]nless the district court ‘enforce[s] (or relax[es]) the rules unequally as between the parties, ' the decision ‘to overlook any transgression [of the local rules] is left to the district court's discretion.'”) (quoting Stevo v. Frasor, 662 F.3d 880, 887 (7th Cir. 2011)). This Court accepts Pickett's Response as filed.

         II. Sufficiency of the Complaint

         Next, as the CTA argues, generally, “it is axiomatic that the complaint may not be amended by the briefs in opposition to a motion to dismiss.” Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1107 (7th Cir. 1984). However, “facts alleged in a brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss” and “factual allegations contained in other court filings of a pro se plaintiff may be considered when evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint” if ...

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