United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Edmond E. Chang, United States District Judge.
Hindia worked as a Deputy Sheriff for the Cook County
Sheriff's Office for almost three years. But after Hindia
suffered an anxiety attack in 2016, the Sheriff's Office
deemed him unfit for duty and put him on non-pay status.
Eventually, during a Union grievance process, Hindia signed a
settlement agreement agreeing to take a position as a
civilian administrative assistant in the Cook County Records
Department. He later sued the Sheriff's Office (referred
to as the “Sheriff” for convenience's sake)
under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §
12117, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§
791, 794, alleging that the Sheriff failed to reasonably
accommodate his disability and discriminated against him
based on his disability. R. 1, Compl. Now, the Sheriff moves to
dismiss the claims, arguing that Hindia released his claims
under the settlement agreement. R. 14, Mot. Dismiss.
explained in further detail below, the Court construes the
Sheriff's motion as one for early summary judgment. The
Court therefore views the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986); see also Alexander v. City of Chicago, 994
F.2d 333, 336 (7th Cir.1993).
March 2016, Hindia suffered an anxiety attack from acute
stress while on duty as a Deputy Sheriff. R. 17-1, Hindia
Decl. ¶ 1. He was later taken to the hospital.
Id. ¶ 2. After being released, the Sheriff
directed Hindia to meet with a doctor for a medical and
mental-health evaluation. Id. Based on this
evaluation, Hindia was deemed unfit for duty and placed on
non-pay status. R. 28, Exh. C, Kramer Decl. ¶ 3. Hindia
then worked with his union (the Teamsters) and the
Sheriff's Human Resources Department (HR) to effectuate a
transfer to a civilian position within the Sheriff's
Office. Id. ¶ 3-4. A Union attorney, Nicole
Chaney, negotiated and drafted the settlement agreement
covering Hindia's transfer. Id. ¶ 7. Chaney
worked with Peter Kramer, Special Counsel of Labor affairs
for the Sheriff, to put the agreement together. Id.
¶ 9. As part of the transfer process, Hindia completed a
Skills Assessment test with HR in November 2016. Id.
meantime, Hindia remained on non-pay status. By January 2017
his financial situation became dire: his bank account balance
was almost at zero, he struggled to keep up with his bills
and living expenses, and he was maxed out on his credit
cards. Hindia Decl. ¶ 3. Eventually, Hindia's wife
divorced him because he could no longer provide for her.
Id. ¶ 4.
in February 2017, Hindia was called to a meeting with HR.
Hindia Decl. ¶ 5. At the meeting were Nicole Chaney, the
Union attorney; Mark Robinson, a representative from the
Sheriff's Office; and an attorney for the Sheriff's
Office (Hindia does not remember the attorney's name).
Id. When Hindia arrived at the meeting, he was
provided with a copy of the settlement agreement that Chaney
had drafted and negotiated with Kramer; this was the first
time that Hindia had seen a written draft of the agreement.
Id. ¶¶ 6, 10. During the meeting, Hindia
was not given the chance to make any changes to the
agreement, nor were the terms negotiated in his presence.
Id. ¶ 7. He was also not made aware of any
negotiations that occurred outside of his presence.
settlement agreement provides that, if Hindia agreed to
resign from his current position, then he would be
transferred from his inactive position as a sworn officer to
a full-time civilian administrative assistant in the
Sheriff's Records Department. R. 14-1, Settlement
Agreement at 1. The agreement says that the parties to the
settlement are Hindia, the Union, and the Sheriff's
Office, including its Department of Corrections and its
Department of Records. Id. The settlement agreement
also describes what claims are being released:
This transfer shall be in full settlement of any existing
claims/disputes that Hindia and/or Teamsters possess with
respect to Isam Hindia's fitness-for-duty and/or Isam
Hindia's probationary status as a sworn correctional
officer at the CCDOC and any such pending claims are hereby
extinguished. By signing this Agreement, Hindia hereby
accepts the aforementioned position as a civilian and
acknowledges and agrees that this settlement resolves any and
all such disputes and claims which have been or could have
been asserted by him, or on his behalf, prior to the
execution date of this settlement, including any and all
disputes and claims pertaining to Hindia's
Fitness-For-Duty Assessment and IME as a sworn correctional
officer in and around 2016 and Hindia further hereby waives
any claim he may/may not have had to backpay as a result of
his absence from work due to said Fitness-For-Duty.
was told by one of the meeting's attendees that, under
this agreement, he would not be waiving any right to
file a legal action in court at a later date. Hindia Decl.
¶ 8. Hindia thus understood the release language to mean
that he was waiving his rights only to file a union
grievance, and that any pending union grievance would be
dismissed. Id. No. one at the meeting told Hindia
that he was waiving his right to file a court case
under the ADA, nor any other type of discrimination lawsuit.
Id. ¶ 9. Hindia was also told that his
employment would be terminated if he did not agree to the
settlement. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. So Hindia signed
the agreement that very day, which he attributes at least in
part to stress from his financial situation, and because he
believed he did not have a choice but to sign the agreement
right then and there. Id.
eventually filed this lawsuit against the Sheriff, bringing
claims under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. The Sheriff
argues that Hindia released his claims pursuant to the
settlement agreement. Mot. Dismiss. at 2. In response, Hindia
argues that the agreement does not release his rights to file
a federal employment case, and even if the agreement purports
to do that, Hindia signed the agreement unknowingly and
involuntarily. R. 17, Pl.'s Resp. Br.
moving to dismiss, the Sheriff invokes Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1), which requires dismissal of cases for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. But the Sheriff's
argument is not really that Hindia's case does
not fit within this Court's subject matter jurisdiction.
Instead, the Sheriff is actually arguing that Hindia has
settled and released the claims, see Mot. Dismiss at
2 (“This Court should therefore enter judgment in favor
of Defendant as to Plaintiff's Complaint because it is
barred by a prior settlement agreement and release.”),
which is not a subject matter jurisdiction problem. A motion
for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), not Rule
12(b)(1), provides the proper vehicle for challenging a
complaint based on an affirmative defense, like release of a
claim. See United States v. Rogers Cartage Co., 794
F.3d 854, 860 (7th Cir. 2015). That said, when a Rule 12(c)
motion relies on material outside the pleadings-like the