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Wicik v. County of Cook

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

March 23, 2018

LAURA WICIK, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF COOK, COOK COUNTY HEALTH AND HOSPITAL SYSTEM d/b/a Oak Forest Hospital and John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, and LYNDA HARPER, Defendants.


          Hon. Virginia M. Kendall United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Laura Wicik brings this action against her employer Cook County Health and Hospital System (“CCHHS”), her supervisor Lynda Harper, and Cook County for discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.; interference with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”); and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 11). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part. Wicik is given until April 13, 2018 to file an amended complaint consistent with this opinion to the extent that she can do so. In any event, the parties are directed to exchange their mandatory initial discovery within 30 days, or by April 13, 2018.


         In June 1992, Laura Wicik, a Caucasian woman, began working for CCHHS. Wicik suffers from a “medical disability, which includes high blood pressure and stress”; Defendants were aware of her condition, although Wicik does not include specifics concerning how or when Defendants became so aware. (Dkt. 1) at ¶¶ 4, 14, 20, 24; see also Id. at ¶ 48 (“Upon information and belief, Plaintiff has advised her supervisors, union representatives, and the Defendants of her disabilities . . . .”). As relevant here, on or about November 4, 2013, Wicik was working as an administrative assistant at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital (“Stroger”). Id. at ¶ 18. During her time at Stroger, her supervisor, Fran Rampick, harassed her by issuing unwarranted “write ups” and otherwise “targeted [Wicik] for harassment.” Id. ¶¶ 19, 23. Wicik reported incidents of harassment and reverse-racial discrimination to Defendant “on multiple occasions” and she “complained about her treatment in 2015” and after, but no discipline was effected and management continued to pressure her and disregard her need for disability accommodations. Id. at ¶¶ 16, 21, 22.

         At some point (which, based on the complaint's structure and Wicik's EEOC charge, was prior to December 2016), because of her “medical disability, ” Wicik requested FMLA leave from work, but Defendants interfered with her use of protected leave. Specifically, her managers discouraged her from taking leave, stating that it is “looked down upon and is a strike against employees who use it.” Id. at ¶¶ 20, 26, 27; see also id. at ¶ 65 (“Plaintiff attempted to apply for FMLA time but was discouraged by her supervisors that it would affect her ability to obtain advancements and would put a target on her back.”). Therefore, Wicik was “forced” to use sick and vacation time. Id. at ¶ 24. When Wicik returned to work, she was “subject to disciplinary write-ups, ” although Wicik does not specify what the alleged discipline was for. Id. at ¶ 25.

         On November 22, 2016, Wicik signed a Charge of Discrimination, which she then filed on December 2, 2016. Id. at ¶ 40 & Ex. B. Wicik's charge named Stroger as her employer and alleged the following:

My employer subjected me to disparate and discriminatory treatment on the basis of my disability and interfered with my use of protected medical leave. In 2015, I raised my concerns to the chairman of the company regarding the disparate treatment I was receiving from my manager. I was told that they prefer someone with the mentality of my manager running the office. Nothing was done to remedy the situation, the behavior continued, and I became her target. As a result of management's targeting, the hostile work environment grew worse and I was forced to take time off work due to high blood pressure. When I returned to work, I received a write-up for the events that caused me to miss work in the first place. I requested protected medical leave, but was told management looks down on it and does not approve of employees' [sic] using protected medical leave.

Id. at Ex. B.

         Around this same time, Wicik's administrative assistant position was eliminated. In December of 2016, Wicik was transferred from Stroger to Oak Forest Hospital, where she worked as a Document Processor in the Call Center under Defendant Lynda Harper. Id. ¶¶ 6, 29. Although Wicik was performing her Call Center duties satisfactorily, she was harassed by Harper and her Call Center co-workers. For example, Wicik was not given a telephone at her desk, which meant that she had to walk to her supervisor's office with all questions and issues; her co-workers kept track of her daily whereabouts and behaviors and complained about how often she was moving around the office; she received emails on her days off; she received requests that she report throughout the day regarding her project-completion status; she was disciplined as tardy even though she clocked in within a six-minute non-tardy grace period; she received other disciplinary write-ups; and she received “downgraded reviews.” Id. at ¶¶ 30-36, 50. Wicik was also harassed when she was required to “aux in and out” for all regular, lunch, and bathroom breaks, because, according to Wicik, she had not been required to “aux in and out” for such breaks previously and CCHHS did not have a policy that required this. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34. Finally, at some point, the Chief Operating Officer of the Oak Forest Hospital told Wicik that she would not be promoted because of complaints she had made. Id. at ¶ 17.

         At some unspecified point, Wicik was diagnosed with “stress urinary incontinence, ” which caused her to take several breaks throughout the workday. Id. at ¶ 37. While she was working at the Call Center under Harper, Wicik received a doctor's note and sought an accommodation from Harper-that she be allowed to take bathroom breaks without “aux[ing] in and out.” Id. at ¶ 38. Harper denied this request without discussing the request with Wicik, and Harper did not offer any alternative accommodations. Id. at ¶ 39.

         EEOC issued Wicik a Right to Sue letter on June 26, 2017, after which Wicik filed a four-count complaint alleging: violations of the ADA based on Defendants' failures to accommodate her high blood pressure and urinary incontinence, and discriminatory treatment on account of her disabilities (Count I); a violation of the FMLA because Defendants interfered with her request for FMLA benefits by discouraging her from applying for leave (Count II); retaliation in violation of Title VII for filing her Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC (Count III); and indemnification by Defendant Cook County (Count IV).[2] Wicik seeks compensatory damages and an order requiring Defendants to give her a position “commensurate with her skills and experience and allow[] for an accommodation of her disability.” Id. at ¶¶ 58, 67, 76, 82.


         Defendants' seek dismissal of the complaint Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), which challenges its legal sufficiency. For a claim to survive a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), it must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible on its face when the complaint contains factual content that supports a reasonable inference that the defendants are liable for the harm. Id. In the complaint, a plaintiff must include “enough detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, and, through his allegations, show that it is plausible, rather than merely speculative, that he is entitled to relief.” Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1083 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Lang v. TCF Nat'l Bank, 249 F. App'x 464, ...

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