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Perkins v. Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago

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

October 8, 2019

MICHELLE M. PERKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDERAL HOME LOAN BANK OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HONORABLE EDMOND E. CHANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Michelle Perkins brings this employment discrimination action pro se against Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. Perkins alleges that the Bank failed to reasonably accommodate her disability and terminated her employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12117. R. 1, Compl.[1] The Bank moves to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Perkins's claims are time-barred, and even if they are not, the complaint fails to adequately allege a violation of the ADA. R. 22, Mot. to Dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, the Bank's motion (which is really an early summary judgment motion) is granted because Perkins filed this lawsuit too late.

         I. Background

         In asserting the statute of limitations defense, the Bank relied on documents that were not part of the pleadings, so the Court alerted Perkins that this part of the Bank's motion was really an early summary judgment motion and invited her to submit evidence in response to it.[2] R. 25. So to determine whether Perkins filed her Complaint on time, the Court will consider the exhibits attached to the Bank's motion as well as the exhibits attached to Perkins's response brief. The Bank's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim was properly brought under Rule 12(b)(6). For purposes of both motions, the Court accepts as true the factual allegations in the Complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         In February 2017, Perkins began working for the Bank as an IT Security Administrator. Compl. ¶ 13. Roughly two months later, in early April 2017, she was let go from her position. Id. Perkins alleges that the Bank failed to reasonably accommodate her disability and terminated her employment.[3] Id. ¶ 12.

         Later in April 2017, Perkins filed a Charge of Discrimination form against the Bank with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). R. 23-2, Def.'s Br., Exh. B, EEOC Charge. In the form, she alleged that she had “been discriminated against because of [her] disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Id. The bottom of the page features her digital signature: “Digitally signed by Michelle Perkins on 04-12-2017 05:58 PM.” Id.

         A few months later, on November 16, 2017, the EEOC returned a Notice of Right to Sue on Perkins's EEOC Charge. R. 23-3, Def.'s Br., Exh. C, Notice of Right to Sue. The following box was checked: “The EEOC is terminating its processing of this charge.” Id. Near the top of the form was a “Notice to the Person Aggrieved” highlighting that Perkins would have 90 days to bring an ADA claim:

“This is your Notice of Right to Sue, issued under…the ADA…based on the above-numbered charge. It has been issued at your request. Your lawsuit under…the ADA…must be filed in a federal or state court WITHIN 90 DAYS of your receipt of this notice; or your right to sue based on this charge will be lost. (The time limit for filing suit based on a claim under state law may be different.)”

Id. (emphasis in original).

         Perkins had been represented by an attorney up until this point, and after the Notice of Right to Sue was received, the attorney advised her to seek Illinois state agency review of the charge of discrimination. R. 29-1, Pl.'s Resp. Br., Exh. A. To pursue that path, on November 30, 2017, Perkins's then-attorney sent a written request to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR), seeking review of Perkins's charge of discrimination. Id. In the meantime, neither Perkins nor her attorney pursued the ADA claim in federal court.

         Perkins did not hear back from the IDHR until nearly ten months later, on September 4, 2018. R. 29-2, Pl.'s Resp. Br., Exh. B. On that date, Perkins's attorney informed her that the IDHR investigator had told him that “Illinois courts do not have authority to force Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago [FHLBC], a federal agency, to litigate cases in state court.” Id. The attorney thanked Perkins for her patience and concluded to Perkins that they had “90 days to file a federal law suit from the date the IDHR investigator sent [the attorney] her report.” Id. In response, Perkins wrote: “I must say I am little disappointed because the jurisdiction finding was not brought up sooner. The whole reason you instructed me to switch from EEOC was because it was winnable on the state level. How come you didn't know they were a Federal agency to begin with?” Id. Perkins then informed the attorney that she could not afford his $4, 500 retainer and could thus no longer pursue the case with attorney representation. Id.

         The Complaint was filed pro se on September 20, 2018.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under 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) (cleaned up).[4] 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 ...


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