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Jones v. Maywood Melrose Park Broadview School District 89

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

July 11, 2017

CLEON JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
MAYWOOD MELROSE PARK BROADVIEW SCHOOL DISTRICT 89, BOARD OF EDUCATION OF SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 89, COOK, ILLINOIS, and DAVID BRUSAK, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Cleon Jones brings claims against Defendants Maywood Melrose Park Broadview School District 89, Board of Education of School District No. 89, and David Brusak under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (“FMLA”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim [9]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss [9] is granted in part and denied in part: the Court denies Defendants' motion with respect to Plaintiff's FMLA claims in Count I, and grants Defendants' motion with respect to Plaintiff's due process claims in Count II. Plaintiff is given until August 11, 2017, to file an amended complaint consistent with this opinion.[1] This case is set for further status hearing on August 23, 2017 at 9:00 a.m.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Cleon Jones formerly worked as a teacher's assistant for Defendant Melrose Park Broadview School District No. 89 (“District 89”). Plaintiff contends that Defendant District 89 is overseen and controlled by Defendant Board of Education of School District No. 89, Cook, Illinois (“Board of Education”). According to Plaintiff, Defendant Davis Brusak held the position of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources at all times relevant to this lawsuit. [1, at ¶¶ 6-8.]

         Plaintiff began his employment with Defendant District 89 in or about 2013. Plaintiff alleges that in February 2016, Plaintiff applied for FMLA leave to care for his mother, who recently had been diagnosed with cancer. [Id. at ¶¶ 11-19.] Plaintiff contends that on March 11, 2016, Defendant Brusak sent a letter to Plaintiff indicating that the Board of Education had approved his FMLA request, “which they dated back to February 23, 2016 and set to end on May 15, 2016.” [Id. at ¶ 20.] Plaintiff asserts that on May 11, 2016, Defendant Brusak sent Plaintiff a letter indicating that his FMLA leave would expire on May 16, 2016. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Brusak also indicated in his letter that despite the fact that Plaintiff had provided documentation to extend his FMLA time, this extension was not approved. [Id. at ¶ 22.] Plaintiff alleges upon information and belief that after learning that Plaintiff needed additional leave time, none of the Defendants approached or discussed with Plaintiff the possibility of an intermittent or reduced-leave schedule, which Plaintiff alleges was required by Defendant District 89's FMLA policy, or a medical leave of absence, which Plaintiff alleges was provided for in the union contract. [Id. at ¶ 23.]

         According to Plaintiff, Defendant Brusak or another agent of Defendants miscalculated Plaintiff's FMLA time. Plaintiff contends that Defendant District 89 had a policy regarding FMLA indicating that an “eligible employee may take FMLA leave for up to a combined total of 12 weeks each 12-month period” and that “[a]ny full workweek period during which the employee would not have been required to work, including summer break, winter break and spring break, is not counted against the employee's FMLA leave entitlement.” [Id. at ¶¶ 21, 24.] Plaintiff asserts that twelve weeks from February 23, 2016-the start of his FMLA leave-is May 17, 2016 (not May 15 or 16, as indicated by Defendants). Plaintiff further asserts that since spring break (March 25 through April 1) does not count as FMLA leave under Defendants' policy, his FMLA leave “did not run out until May 24, 2016.” [Id. at ¶ 24.]

         Plaintiff did not show up for work or call his employer from Monday, May 16 through Friday, May 20, or Monday, May 23, 2016. Defendants disciplined Plaintiff for “No Call / No Show” for these days. [Id. at ¶ 25.] Plaintiff alleges that these No Call / No Shows “were used by Defendants to terminate Plaintiff's employment.” [Id. at ¶ 26.] Plaintiff also alleges that he was not provided with progressive discipline as set forth in Defendant District 89's Contractual Agreement with Local No. 73, of which Plaintiff was a member. [Id. at ¶ 27.] Plaintiff contends that he was placed on administrative leave on May 23, 2016. Plaintiff alleges upon information and belief that on June 9, 2016, Defendant Board of Education voted on the recommendation for Plaintiff's dismissal, and he was terminated. [Id. at ¶ 29.]

         On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff brought this suit alleging in Count I that Defendants violated the FMLA by “unlawfully, intentionally and willfully” interfering with and burdening Plaintiff's exercise of his FMLA rights, [id. at ¶ 35], and that Defendants considered Plaintiff's FMLA time as a negative factor against him in moving for his termination, [id. at ¶ 37]. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his procedural and substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to provide step discipline and “fast tracking termination of Plaintiff's employment with Defendants.” [Id. at ¶ 43.] On December 9, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. [10.]

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), such that the defendant is given “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) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)) (alteration in original). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the “speculative level.” E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558. In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all of Plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. Killings worth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007). The Court reads the complaint and assesses its plausibility as a whole. See Atkins v. City of Chi., 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011).

         III. Analysis

         A. Count I: FMLA

         Under the FMLA, an eligible employee is entitled to as many as twelve weeks of leave per year for a variety of reasons, including “to care for the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter, or parent has a serious health condition.” 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C); see also Scruggs v. Carrier Corp., 688 F.3d 821, 825 (7th Cir. 2012). In Count I, Plaintiff alleges FMLA interference in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1) and FMLA retaliation in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2).

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