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Odicho v. Swedish Covenant Hospital

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

February 27, 2018

Edward Odicho, Plaintiff,
Swedish Covenant Hospital and Jane Lee, Defendants.


          Honorable Thomas M. Durkin Judge

         Edward Odicho alleges Swedish Covenant Hospital failed to pay him for lunch breaks when he was employed there as a pharmacist, in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and its Illinois counterpart (Counts I & II). Odicho also alleges that when he complained about this practice he was retaliated against by having his shifts understaffed and disciplinary warnings added to his employment record (Counts III & IV). Finally, Odicho brings a defamation claim against the Hospital and his former supervisor, Jane Lee, for making the accusations that were the basis of the disciplinary warnings against him (Count V). Defendants have moved to dismiss all counts against them for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 10. For the following reasons, that motion is denied in part and granted in part.

         Legal Standard

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. See, e.g., Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). A complaint must provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to provide defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This standard “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While “detailed factual allegations” are not required, “labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “‘A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard, the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Mann, 707 F.3d at 877.


         Odicho alleges that he began working at the Hospital as a clinical pharmacist in March 2013. R. 1 ¶ 7. He always met or exceeded performance expectations. Id. ¶ 8.

         Odicho was paid on a hourly basis, and the Hospital's policy required employees who worked more than 7.5 hours in a day to take an unpaid 30 minute meal break, which was automatically deducted from paychecks. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Odicho alleges that he was often forced to work through his meal breaks, yet 30 minutes of pay was still deducted from his check. Id. ¶ 11.

         Around January 31, 2017, Odicho complained about the underpayment to Lee. Id. ¶ 13. She refused to fix the problem and suggested that Odicho should not have a problem with the practice. Id. Shortly thereafter on February 7, 2017, Lee issued a disciplinary warning to Odicho, accusing him of behaving aggressively toward her. Id. ¶ 14.

         A few months later around March 3, 2017, Odicho again complained to Lee about the underpayment of his wages. Id. ¶ 15. Lee again issued a disciplinary warning to Odicho on March 14, 2017, this time accusing him of inappropriately touching a co-worker. Id. ¶ 16. Odicho alleges that the co-worker denied the accusation. Id.

         Several months later on June 27, 2017, Odicho complained during his performance review about understaffing at the Hospital's pharmacy. Id. ¶ 17. Three days later on June 30, 2017, Lee issued another disciplinary warning and sought to have Odicho suspended, based on the allegation that he left a cabinet open. Id. ¶ 18.

         Odicho then sent a letter to Lee's supervisor on July 3, 2017, complaining about the deductions from his paychecks, and retained an attorney who contacted the Hospital's human resources department about the issue. Id. ¶ 20. The human resources department investigated the issue, and around July 18, 2017, the Hospital paid Odicho $1, 909.04 for 99 unpaid meal breaks. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. The Hospital did not provide documentation demonstrating that this was the entirety of the wages Odicho was owed. Id. ¶ 22.

         Lee continued to understaff Odicho's shifts. Id. ¶ 23. Odicho alleges that this understaffing “created an unsafe environment for the Hospital's patients.” Id. ¶ 24. Odicho resigned because he “could not risk putting the patient's health and safety at risk because of long hours with no support.” Id.


         I. Wage Claims ...

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