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Meehan v. Loyola University of Chicago

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

June 5, 2017

ANN MEEHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, an Illinois Not-for-Profit corporation; ROBERT PAPROCKI; and ALICIA ROMAN, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS United States District Judge

         After being forced to take a medical leave of absence, Plaintiff Ann Meehan, who worked as a curator for Defendant Loyola University of Chicago (“Loyola”), filed suit against Loyola and two of its campus police officers, Robert Paprocki and Alicia Roman, who were involved in escorting Meehan off Loyola's campus and a subsequent encounter that led to Meehan's arrest for criminal trespassing and battery. Meehan brings claims against Loyola for discrimination and hostile work environment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), 775 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/1-101 et seq., and for intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). She also brings claims against Loyola, Paprocki, and Roman for intrusion upon seclusion, assault, battery, and false arrest/imprisonment. Finally, Meehan seeks to hold Loyola responsible for Paprocki and Roman's conduct under a respondeat superior theory of liability, bringing a separate claim for this purpose. Loyola, Paprocki, and Roman move to dismiss Meehan's claims for IIED (Count III), intrusion upon seclusion (Count IV), and respondeat superior (Count VIII). The Court finds that the IHRA and the Illinois Workers Compensation Act (“IWCA”) do not preempt Meehan's IIED claim and that, at this stage, she has sufficiently alleged outrageous conduct to allow that claim to proceed to discovery. The Court also rejects the application of Defendants' advocated for one-year statute of limitations to the intrusion of seclusion claim because that claim does not involve elements of publication. As such, the intrusion upon seclusion claim is timely. But the Court dismisses Meehan's independent respondeat superior claim against Loyola as barred by the IWCA.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         In 2005, Loyola hired Meehan as curator of education at the Loyola University Museum of Art (“LUMA”). In that role, among other things, Meehan developed and managed educational programs, trained and managed docents, collaborated with other Loyola departments, and curated exhibitions of art by elementary and high school students. Additionally, Meehan administered internship programs and served as chief editor of LUMA's quarterly newsletter. Her hours varied per week depending on the tasks at hand, with Loyola typically allowing her to set her own hours. Meehan sometimes worked evenings if LUMA hosted an evening program or weekends to prepare for the opening of an exhibition.

         In 2006, Meehan received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She disclosed this diagnosis to her supervisor, Jonathan Canning, in 2007. She continued to work at LUMA without taking any medical leaves as a result of her bipolar disorder until 2014 and her illness did not appear to affect her work. Meehan received merit salary increases every year between 2006 and 2013 and, in the two performance reviews she received while working for Loyola-in 2008 and 2012-she received ratings of 2.5 or 3 on a scale of 1 through 3, with positive comments.

         Loyola asked Meehan to take on additional responsibilities, such as grant writing and editing other projects, based on her writing skills. The addition of these tasks to her job responsibilities caused her to work longer hours and, at times, meant that she did not perform her curator responsibilities in as timely a manner as she previously had done. Additionally, her parents, living in New York with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, both needed her assistance. These issues led to an August 5, 2014 meeting of Meehan, Canning, and the Director of LUMA, where they discussed a plan to help Meehan perform her essential tasks and care for her parents. At that meeting, Loyola agreed to reassign some of Meehan's non-curator duties to others.

         In October 2014, after a major exhibit closed on which Meehan worked, Meehan took a scheduled vacation to Ethiopia, intended to last from October 8 to October 27. But on October 15, Meehan sent Loyola an email explaining she had returned to Chicago earlier than planned because a man at a hotel in Ethiopia had sexually assaulted her. She explained she needed several days to recover and asked for privacy. But Meehan resumed some of her work duties on Friday, October 17. The following Monday, October 20, Loyola inquired whether it should treat her time off as sick time or vacation time, even though she was performing some of her work duties from home and at LUMA. The following day, when she was at work at LUMA, Loyola directed her to obtain a physician's release to be at work because she had suggested, although in jest, that she had been home sick all weekend with “what [she hoped was] not malaria.” Doc. 24 ¶ 30.

         On October 23, LUMA's director sent an email to Loyola's human resources (“HR”) personnel, stating that because of Meehan's “manic behavior, ” she need to be placed on leave. Id. ¶ 32. The following day, Meehan met with Loyola HR representatives and formally advised them that she suffered from bipolar disorder. That same day, Loyola placed her on medical leave until it received a doctor's note indicating she could return to work, which it received the following day.

         Despite Meehan previously benefiting from flexible work hours, on November 4, she learned that, going forward, she was to obey a strict 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday schedule. Meehan then met with Loyola representatives on November 7 to request accommodations that would allow her to perform her job duties while also seeking medical attention for her bipolar disorder. Instead of discussing this request at the meeting, however, Loyola disciplined Meehan for not advising her supervisor early enough on November 5 of an illness and thus failing to report to work that day. At the end of the meeting, Loyola provided Meehan with a disciplinary report of conference, pamphlets on taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, and information on its employee assistance program. Then, on November 9, Loyola informed Loyola police officers that Meehan could not enter LUMA during non-business hours and that she should be refused access and escorted out of LUMA if she was seen there before 8:30 a.m. Loyola did not communicate this information to Meehan.

         Things came to a head on November 10. After Meehan had difficulty using a photocopier, which made her late to a docent meeting, Loyola recommended that she go on a medical leave that started immediately. Observing that this distressed Meehan, Loyola called its campus police to escort Meehan out of the building. Paprocki and Roman responded, believing that Meehan had been terminated from her employment and was not allowed on Loyola's premises. Loyola did not correct this misimpression or inform them of Meehan's bipolar disorder. Loyola's HR, Paprocki, and Roman escorted Meehan to her office, where she retrieved her purse and coat, and then out of the building. Meehan requested reentry to her office because she needed to gather additional items, such as her medication, but Paprocki and Roman told her she was not allowed on the premises. Meehan then called her boyfriend, who also worked for Loyola, to assist her. Because she could not hear well on the phone while outside, Meehan entered the lobby of her office building, but Paprocki and Roman ordered her to leave. Meehan vacated the premises and went to wait for her boyfriend on Rush Street. Roman saw her waiting there and told her to leave, warning her that he would arrest her for trespassing if he saw her again. Roman then observed Meehan entering Argo Tea, [2] radioing Paprocki that they “were going to have a problem.” Id. ¶ 70. Roman followed Meehan into the Argo Tea at Paprocki's direction and saw Meehan enter the women's bathroom. Roman then asked an Argo Tea employee for the key to the women's bathroom, at which point Meehan opened the door. Roman grabbed Meehan and pushed her out of Argo Tea, while Paprocki looked on. Meehan ultimately was arrested and taken to a Chicago police station, where she was held for approximately twelve hours without her medications. Meehan was charged with criminal trespass to land and battery.

         On November 18, Meehan checked herself into an inpatient treatment program at Northwestern Hospital for individuals suffering mental disabilities. She left December 2 but two days later began an intensive outpatient program at the Rush Day Hospital.

         On February 25, 2015, Loyola sent Meehan a formal letter stating that, under the ADA, it was engaging in the interactive process and inquiring what reasonable accommodations it could provide to enable Meehan to return to work. On March 3, Loyola sent a request to Meehan's doctor for medical information. Meehan's doctor responded that he could not estimate when Meehan could return to work based on the existence of the criminal case stemming from her November 10, 2014 arrest, for which no trial date had been set. Meehan's counsel then sent a letter to Loyola on March 17 seeking to resolve the parties' issues and allow Meehan to return to work. Instead of engaging in discussions, Loyola sent Meehan a letter on March 30 indicating that when her long-term disability ended, so would her employment with Loyola.

         On November 4, 2015, Meehan's criminal trial occurred. The judge was not told of Meehan's mental disability. He found Meehan not guilty of criminal trespass but guilty of battery. She was ordered to a year of supervision with no physical contact with Loyola. Meehan has been unable to find other employment, although she continues to be eligible for long-term disability benefits.

         LEGAL ...


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