United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HONORABLE EDMOND E. CHANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
2017, Torzewski went on medical leave from work to obtain
treatment for alcoholism. When he tried to come back to work
after his leave, his employer, COSCO Shipping Lines North
America, told him that his position had been relocated to a
different state, and that he had to accept the relocation or
else resign. Torzewski refused both options and was
eventually fired. He then filed this lawsuit, alleging
violations of the American With Disabilities Act, the Family
and Medical Leave Act, and the Illinois Human Rights Act. R.
27, First Am. Compl. COSCO has moved to dismiss all of the
claims. R. 34, Def.’s Mot. Dismiss. For the reasons
explained below, COSCO’s motion is granted as to the
retaliation claims but otherwise is denied.
started working for COSCO in August 2012. First Am. Compl.
¶ 6. While working there, Torzewski consistently met or
exceeded performance expectations, and, by 2017, he was
promoted to serve as a Director of Sales for North America.
Id. ¶¶ 7-8. In this position, Torzewski
worked remotely from a home office in Chicago, Illinois.
Id. So far, so good.
then, in April 2017, things took a turn for the worse.
Torzewski showed up drunk to a sales conference in Houston,
Texas and was sent back to Chicago. First Am. Compl. ¶
9. A few days later, he was hospitalized for eight days and
underwent alcohol detoxification treatment. Id.
¶ 10. He later went on a medical leave of absence,
pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), while
receiving treatment. Id. ¶ 11. During this
time, he was approved for short-term disability benefits.
Id. After being discharged from the hospital,
Torzewski began in-patient treatment for alcohol dependence
at a different facility. Id. ¶ 12.
was done with his in-patient treatment, Torzewski contacted
COSCO’s Human Resources Manager, David Marcano, letting
him know that Torzewski was ready to return to work. First
Am. Compl. ¶ 14. Marcano did not reply. Id. So
three days later, Torzewski followed up with another email.
Id. ¶ 15. This time, Marcano replied asking
Torzewski to send a release to return to work without any
restriction from his doctor. Id. ¶ 16.
Torzewski complied. Id. ¶ 17.
June 20, 2017, Mr. Marcano called Torzewski and told him that
he could return to work but that his position had been
relocated to COSCO’s corporate offices in Secaucus, New
Jersey, and that the company would not provide him with any
relocation assistance. First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18-19.
And if Torzewski did not agree to the relocation, Marcano
told him that his employment would end. Id. ¶
20. Marcano also asked Torzewski to send him a letter of
resignation, but Torzewski refused. Id. ¶¶
22-23. During this phone call, Torzewski also learned that no
other sales director had been relocated to New Jersey.
Id. ¶¶ 23-24.
another phone call on July 7, 2017, Marcano again told
Torzewski that Torzewski would have to move to New Jersey if
he wanted to keep his job. First Am. Compl. ¶ 24. This
time, Torzewski asked for a reason for the relocation, but
Marcano’s response was that “this is our company
and we can do what we want, you don’t need a
reason.” Id. ¶ 25. Torzewski explained
that he could not just pick up and move to a new state
because he had just signed a new apartment lease and because
his healthcare providers and support group were in Chicago.
Id. ¶ 26. In response, Marcano told Torzewski
that he would have to find new healthcare providers and a
support group in New Jersey if he wanted to keep his job.
Id. ¶ 27. Again, Marcano asked Torzewski to
resign, and again Torzewski refused. Id. ¶ 28.
around one month after the July phone call, Marcano sent
Torzewski a letter explaining that during Torzewski’s
time on FMLA leave, COSCO had undergone a business
restructuring that required Torzewski to be present in the
New Jersey office on a regular basis. First Am. Compl. ¶
29. The letter further stated that if Torzewski did not
report to work in New Jersey by August 14, 2017, then the
company would accept the no-show as Torzewski’s
voluntary resignation. Id. Torzewski responded to
Marcano’s letter, acknowledging receipt and complaining
that the relocation was a violation of his FMLA rights.
Id. ¶ 30. Needless to say, Torzewski did not
show up to work on August 14. In mid-September, COSCO
retroactively terminated Torzewski’s employment,
effective August 14. Id. ¶ 31.
lawsuit, Torzewski alleges that COSCO violated his rights
under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family
and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Illinois Human Rights
Act (IHRA) by failing to accommodate his disability, failing
to reinstate him, wrongfully terminating him, and then
retaliating against him when he complained. First. Am. Compl.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint
generally need only include “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain
statement must “give the defendant 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) (alteration in original) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). The Seventh Circuit has
explained that this rule “reflects a liberal notice
pleading regime, which is intended to ‘focus litigation
on the merits of a claim’ rather than on technicalities
that might keep plaintiffs out of court.” Brooks v.
Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514
motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of
Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009).
“[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
The allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth
are those that are factual, rather than mere legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.