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Tuhey v. Illinois Tool Works, Inc.

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

August 2, 2017

JOHN M. TUHEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 8]. For the reasons to follow, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part. Counts IV and VI are dismissed without prejudice. Count VII is dismissed with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         To redress wrongs allegedly visited upon him by his former employer, Plaintiff John M. Tuhey (“Tuhey”) filed this lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (the “ADA”), the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (the “FMLA”), the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq. (“ERISA”), and Illinois common law.

         The following facts are drawn from Tuhey's First Amended Complaint and are, for purposes of this Motion, accepted as true, with all reasonable inferences drawn in his favor. See, e.g., Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2015).

         Illinois Tool Works, Inc. (“ITW”) hired Tuhey in 2005 as an associate general counsel. (ECF No. 12 (“FAC”) ¶ 7.) Years of bonhomie ensued, and ITW showered Tuhey with “positive reviews and corresponding raises and bonuses” until November 2014, when he was hospitalized after a spate of dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting with what doctors diagnosed initially as “vestibular neuritis and/or some sort of virus.” (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) ITW designated the time Tuhey spent hospitalized as FMLA leave. (Id. ¶ 8.) Immediately following his hospitalization and until December 3, 2014, Tuhey continued to suffer the same symptoms and accordingly worked full-time from home. (Id. ¶ 10.) ITW “inappropriately designated this period of time as FMLA leave.” (Id. ¶ 11.) Tuhey returned to work in early December 2014 on a reduced schedule, continuing to work from home as needed. (Id. ¶ 12.)

         By January 2015, Tuhey had experienced overall improvement in his condition. So he returned to work on a full-time schedule, spending much of that month traveling. (FAC ¶ 13.) Unhappily, “on or around February 25, 2015, Plaintiff suffered a severe reaction to a newly prescribed medication which forced him to work from home for two weeks.” (Id. ¶ 15.) ITW again designated this time as FMLA leave despite Tuhey's working full-time. (Id. ¶ 16.) When Tuhey returned to the office after this second illness, ITW's General Counsel, Maria Green, “asked him many probing and intrusive questions about his health, ” cast aspersions on his memory, and suggested that Tuhey take full-time medical leave. (Id. ¶ 17.) Tuhey declined to do so, and he subsequently lodged a complaint with ITW's human resources director that “he believed Ms. Green was discriminating against him because of his medical condition and time off.” (Id. ¶ 18.) No action was taken, and instead Green informed Tuhey in April 2015 that he was no longer to report to her but instead to a deputy general counsel, Mr. Derek Linde, making “it appear to others as if Plaintiff had been demoted.” (Id. ¶ 19.)

         Meanwhile, Tuhey's symptoms recurred and were accompanied by global swelling, leading his doctors to revise their diagnosis from “some sort of virus” to “a brain injury . . . impacting his central nervous system.” (FAC ¶ 20.) On May 8, 2015, one of Tuhey's doctors requested that ITW allow him to work from home intermittently as needed. (Id. ¶ 21.) Instead of granting this request, ITW informed Tuhey that he had exhausted his FMLA leave and short-term disability benefits such that he would be terminated and lose his insurance unless he applied for long-term disability. (Id. ¶ 22.) At this point, Tuhey charged ITW management with inappropriately debiting his FMLA and short-term disability banks for days when he had been working full-time from home. (Id. ¶ 23.) Throughout the balance of his employment with ITW, Tuhey reprised this grievance, but ITW never resolved the issue. (Ibid.) On July 1, 2015, further to evaluating Tuhey's work-from-home accommodation request, ITW sought and was provided with more information from his doctor about Tuhey's condition. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) Nevertheless, ITW persisted in not granting the accommodation. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.)

         In October 2015, Linde sent Tuhey an email review criticizing his performance that was replete with “false statements of fact about Plaintiff's performance including falsely accusing Plaintiff of refusing to provide legal advice to the business leaders.” (FAC ¶ 27.) Linde “communicated the allegations in this email to others in the law department including Maria Green.” (Ibid.) A few months later in February 2016, Tuhey was up for an annual performance review, and this report too contained “a myriad of new, alleged false performance accusations which rated him as failing to meet expectations.” (Id. ¶ 28.) The October 2015 and February 2016 reviews constituted Tuhey's first negative performance reviews in his 10 years at ITW. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) Tuhey made known his belief that his February 2016 annual review “was related to his disability and request for accommodation.” (Id. ¶ 28.) The next day, Linde and an individual from ITW's human resources division informed Tuhey “that there was no longer a job for him at Defendant and that he was not eligible to be placed on a Performance Improvement Plan since he was ‘too senior' an attorney and would be unable to change to meet their needs.” (Ibid.) Effective February 15, 2016, Tuhey was terminated. (Ibid.) His departing employee documentation stated that eligibility for benefits ends upon termination, and no one informed Tuhey that he had a right to convert his long-term disability plan to an individual plan - something he learned too late to effect a conversion. (Id. ¶ 29.) Tuhey now knows that his symptoms are the result of “a degenerative neurological condition.” (Id. ¶ 30.)

         On April 19, 2016, Tuhey filed EEOC charges challenging ITW's conduct. He received his right-to-sue letter on May 23, 2017 and then filed the Amended Complaint now subject to ITW's Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint “must state a claim that is plausible on its face.” Adams, 742 F.3d at 728 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim enjoys “facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads sufficient factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct.” Adams, 742 F.3d at 728 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A plaintiff need not plead the elements of a prima facie case in haec verba to survive a motion to dismiss. See, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 (“[W]e do not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”). To the contrary, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Simply put, a complaint passes Rule 12 muster so long as it invokes a recognized legal theory and contains plausible allegations on the material issues. See, Richards v. Mitcheff, 696 F.3d 635, 638 (7th Cir. 2012).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Tuhey brings claims for intentional discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation under the ADA; interference and retaliation under the FMLA; defamation under Illinois law based on the allegedly false statements surrounding his negative performance reviews; and breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA for ITW's failure to inform him of the right to convert his disability policy. Based on a mélange of arguments, ...


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