Calabotta v. Phibro Animal Health Corporation
OPINION entered by Judge Sue E. Myerscough on 2/9/2018. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, d/e 6 is DENIED. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(4)(A), the Defendant shall answer or otherwise plead within 14 days of the entry of this order (by 2/23/2018). (SEE WRITTEN OPINION) (MAS, ilcd)
Friday, 09 February, 2018 04:36:12 PM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
DAVID F. CALABOTTA,
PIBRO ANIMAL HEALTH CORP.,
SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, U.S. District Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant’s1 Motion to Dismiss (d/e 6).
Defendant argues that Plaintiff David F. Calabotta has not met the
administrative prerequisites to sue under the Americans with
Disability Act (“ADA”) because he did not file his claim with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) within 180
days. Therefore, Defendant argues Plaintiff’s complaint must be
dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defs.
Mot. (d/e 6). Because the Court finds that Plaintiff only needed to
The parties disagree on whether the Defendant should be identified as Pibro
Animal Health Corp. or Prince Agri Products, Inc. The Court does not have the
proper factual record to resolve the dispute at this time and it is not material to
the resolution of this motion.
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file his claim with the EEOC within 300 days, Defendant’s Motion is
The facts as stated in the complaint must be accepted by the
Court as true when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Tamayo v.
Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008). This action
arises from claims of disability discrimination under the ADA, 42
U.S.C § 12113(b)(4). Plaintiff does not allege state law claims.
Plaintiff was employed by Defendant from 2008 until August 19,
2016. Compl. ¶¶ 10 and 37 (d/e 1). In 2014, Plaintiff’s wife was
diagnosed with breast cancer, and her condition continued to
deteriorate through 2015 and 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 15 and 16. At work,
“Plaintiff was open about his wife’s health issues and discussed her
condition and prognosis with his co-workers and superiors.” Id. at
¶ 16. Plaintiff alleges he was discriminated against “on account of
his association with a person with a disability by, among other
things, failing and refusing to consider him for the position of
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product Management in or
about July and August 2016 and terminating his employment on
August 19, 2016.” Id. at ¶ 48.
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On June 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination
with the EEOC. Compl. at ¶ 4 (d/e 1). The parties agree that
Plaintiff filed his charge more than 180 days, but less than 300
days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred. On
July 7, 2017, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue. Id.
Plaintiff filed this complaint on September 18, 2017.
II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE
This Court has subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff
brings a claim based on the ADA, a federal law. See 28 U.S.C. §
1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the
United States”). Venue is proper because the events giving rise to
the claim occurred in Adams County, Illinois. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1391(b)(2) (a civil action may be brought in a judicial district
where a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to
the claim occurred).
III. LEGAL STANDARD
A motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. Christensen v. Cnty. of
Boone, 483 F.3d 454, 458 (7th Cir. 2007). To state a claim for
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relief, a party need only provide a short and plain statement of the
claim showing he is entitled to relief and giving the defendant fair
notice of the claims. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081
(7th Cir. 2008).
When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court construes the pleading in the light most favorable to the
pleader, accepting all well-pleaded allegations as true and
construing all reasonable inferences in pleader’s favor. Id.
A plaintiff must exhaust all administrative requirements before
filing a suit in federal court under the ADA, including the
requirement that the plaintiff timely file a charge with the EEOC.
Normally, the charge must “be filed within one hundred and eighty
days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). However, where the plaintiff “has initially
instituted proceedings with a State or local agency with authority to
grant or seek relief from such practice” the plaintiff’s time to file
with the EEOC is extended and must be filed “within three hundred
days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” Id.
(emphasis added). See also, 42 U.S.C. § 12117 (stating that the
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procedures set forth in § 2000e-5 apply to claims brought under the
ADA). State or local agencies with such authority are designated as
fair employment agencies or “FEP agencies.” 29 C.F.R. § 1601.70.
However, the EEOC regulations clarify that, “[a] jurisdiction having
a FEP agency without subject matter jurisdiction over a charge (e.g.,
an agency which does not cover sex discrimination or does not
cover nonprofit organizations) is equivalent to a jurisdiction having
no FEP agency.” 29 C.F.R. § 1601.13.
Here, the parties agree that the relevant state agency, the
Illinois Department of Human Rights, is authorized to grant relief
from unlawful employment practices. Therefore, Illinois is generally
“considered a ‘deferral’ state whose residents are not required to file
with the EEOC until 300 days after the act of discrimination so long
as they meet the statutory prerequisite for the extended filing
period.” Gilardi v. Schroeder, 833 F.2d 1226, 1230 (7th Cir. 1987)
(citing Lorance v. AT & T Technologies, Inc., 827 F.2d 163, 165 n. 2
(7th Cir. 1987). Further, Plaintiff did not need to actually file with
the Illinois Department of Human Rights in order to benefit from
the 300-day filing period because the EEOC and the Illinois
Department of Human Rights have a worksharing agreement.
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Under this agreement, state proceedings were considered initiated
and terminated upon receipt of Plaintiff’s charge by the EEOC. See
Sofferin v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 923 F.2d 552, 554 (7th Cir. 1991)
(explaining worksharing agreement). Therefore, so long as the
Illinois Department of Human Rights was an agency “with authority
to grant or seek relief” from the unlawful practice alleged by
Plaintiff, the 300-day time period applies.
Defendant argues that Plaintiff was required to file his charge
within 180 days because the Illinois Department of Human Rights
does not have “authority to grant or seek relief from” an
associational disability discrimination claim. See Defs. Memo. at 45 (d/e 7). Defendant points to a number of cases where courts have
found that the 180-day time period applies, despite the existence of
an FEP agency, where the FEP agency had no jurisdiction over the
defendant-employer at all. In this Circuit, the Northern District of
Illinois has held that the 180-day filing deadline applied to a
plaintiff’s discrimination charge even though Illinois has an FEP
agency. Vitug v. Multistate Tax Comm’n, 860 F. Supp. 546, 550–51
(N.D. Ill. 1994), aff'd, 88 F.3d 506 (7th Cir. 1996). The Vitug court
reasoned that because “the Illinois Human Rights Act does not
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apply to employers such as [the defendant], which have fewer than
fifteen employees within the state of Illinois,” the Illinois
Department of Human Rights lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s
discrimination charge. Id.
Defendant also points to a number of cases outside the
Seventh Circuit with similar holdings. See Dezaio v. Port Auth.,
205 F.3d 62, 64 (2d Cir. 2000) (“Unfortunately for plaintiff it is the
shorter period that applies to his case because his employer, the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is not subject to the
discrimination laws of New York.”); Harter v. Cnty. of Washington,
et. al., No. CIV.A. 11-588, 2012 WL 1032478, at *5 (W.D. Pa. Mar.
27, 2012) (finding that the 180-day filing period applies where the
employer, a county judge, is not subject to Pennsylvania state antidiscrimination laws); Moore v. Dartmouth Coll., No. CIV. 99-37-M,
2001 WL 1326584, at *4 (D.N.H. Sept. 28, 2001) (finding the 180day filing period applies because the state statute’s “jurisdiction
does not extend to educational or non-profit organizations, like
Dartmouth”); Benn v. First Judicial Dist. of Pa., No. 98-5730, 2000
WL 1236201, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 2000) (noting, after Plaintiff
conceded, that the 180-day period applied because the employer
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was the federal government). See also, MacDonald v. Grace Church
Seattle, 457 F.3d 1079 (9th Cir. 2006) (finding 180-day time period
applied where state statute excluded nonprofit religious employers
like the defendant); Morris v. Eberle & BCI, LLC, No. CIV. 1:1306113 NLH/, 2014 WL 4352872, at *4 (D.N.J. Sept. 3, 2014)
(finding the 180-day time period applied where state statute was
not enforceable against employer located on federal enclave);
Cummings v. Brookhaven Sci. Assocs., LLC, No. 11 CV 1299 DRH
ETB, 2011 WL 6371753, at *7 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 20, 2011) (finding the
180-day time period applied where state statute was not enforceable
against employer located on federal enclave).
However, these cases are distinguishable from the present
case because they involve the much simpler determination of
whether a state statute confers jurisdiction over an employer. See
EEOC v. Dolgencorp, LLC, 206 F. Supp. 3d 1309, 1316 (E.D. Tenn.
2016),2 (“Unlike the simple determination that a state does not
protect against a general type of discrimination, or that a state's
Plaintiff refers to this case as EEOC v. Atkins in his response brief.
However, “Atkins” was the name of the intervening plaintiff, not the
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discrimination laws do not extend to a particular defendant or
location, the avenue defendant is asking the Court to travel would
require applicants, the EEOC, and courts to resolve complex state
law issues before deciding which filing deadline applies.”). Here, the
Court is confronted with the more complex issue of whether a state
law can be construed to include a specific type of disability claim.
As the Plaintiff notes, Illinois courts have not explicitly
addressed whether the Illinois Human Rights Act covers
associational disability claims and the potential for such a claim is
not necessarily foreclosed by the lack of express designation in a
statute. Pl. Resp. at 9-10 (d/e 13); see, e.g. Loeffler v. Staten Island
Univ. Hosp., 582 F.3d 268, 280 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding that plaintiff
can bring an associational discrimination claim under the
Rehabilitation Act despite no express language authorizing such a
claim because the Rehabilitation Act broadly authorizes “[a]ny
person aggrieved by any act or failure to act by any recipient of
Federal assistance” under the Rehabilitation Act to bring suit),
citing 29 U.S.C. § 794a(a)(2). Illinois Courts have instructed that
the Illinois Human Rights Act is to be liberally construed to achieve
its purpose of preventing discrimination in the workplace. See
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Sangamon Cty. Sheriff's Dep’t v. Illinois Human Rights Comm’n,
233 Ill. 2d 125, 140, 908 N.E.2d 39, 47 (2009). Further, like the
Rehabilitation Act, an “aggrieved party” under the Illinois Human
Rights Act includes any “person who is alleged or proved to have
been injured by a civil rights violation.” 775 ILCS 5/1-103(B). A
claim of associational disability, while not expressly allowed by the
statute, is not specifically foreclosed by it either when the statute is
read liberally to achieve its purpose. This Court is not holding that
such a claim necessarily exists under the Illinois Human Rights
Act, merely that it would be possible for a court to hold that such a
Plaintiff argues that the Court should avoid using an analysis
that will involve complex state law determinations. Instead, Plaintiff
urges the Court to interpret § 2000e-5(e)(1) to allow for the longer
300-day time period whenever the state statute generally covers the
category of discrimination alleged. Plaintiff argues the 300-day time
period applies here because the Illinois Department of Human
Rights has the general authority to grant or seek relief from claims
of disability discrimination. See Pl. Resp. at 4 (d/e 13); 775 ILCS
5/2-103(Q) (defining unlawful discrimination to include
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discrimination on the basis of disability). Even though the Illinois
Human Rights Act differs from the ADA in that it does not explicitly
authorize claims of associational disability discrimination, it does
cover the practice of disability discrimination generally. 775 ILCS
5/2-102); 775 ILCS 5/2-103(Q). Therefore, Plaintiff argues, the
Illinois Department of Human Rights has the power to grant or seek
relief from any claims of disability discrimination in the workplace.
If the Court does not take this general approach, complainants
and the EEOC will necessarily have to deal with complicated issues
of state law to determine whether a claim has any potential of being
allowed under state law. The Supreme Court’s policy rationale in
E.E.O.C. v. Commercial Office Prod. Co., 486 U.S. 107, 124 (1988),
which interprets the same statute, supports a general approach. In
light of the fact that discrimination statutes involve “a remedial
scheme in which laypersons, rather than lawyers, are expected to
initiate the process,” the Supreme Court advised that courts should
avoid interpreting complicated issues of state law that would
confuse lay complainants. Id. at 124. In Commercial Office Prod.
Co., the Supreme Court held that a plaintiff who files a
discrimination charge that is untimely under state law is still
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entitled to the 300-day federal filing period. Id. at 123. The
Supreme Court reasoned that using state limitations periods would
confuse lay complainants and “embroil the EEOC in complicated
issues of state law.” Id.
Relying on the Commercial Office Prod. Co. policy rationale,
two district courts facing similar issues to the one here found the
300-day filing period applied. In Moher v. Chemfab Corp., 959 F.
Supp. 70, 72 (D.N.H. 1997), the District of New Hampshire held
that “a complaint about discrimination within one of the generally
protected areas, such as disability, that is filed with [the FEP
agency] within 300 days of the last discriminatory action, will be
considered timely filed for purposes of the EEOC filing deadline.”
Citing Commercial Office Prod. Co., the Court found that “whether a
state agency has ‘authority to grant or seek relief’ with respect to a
discrimination complaint is a matter properly decided based upon
a general view of the enabling legislation establishing the state
agency.” Moher, 959 F. Supp. at 72. Therefore, while a claim for
reasonable accommodation of a disability was not actionable under
the state statute, the plaintiff’s reasonable accommodation claim
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was still timely since it was filed with the EEOC within the 300-day
More recently, in EEOC v. Dolgencorp, LLC, 206 F. Supp. 3d
1309 (E.D. Tenn. 2016), the EEOC brought an action on behalf of a
former employee of defendant and asserted claims under the ADA,
including failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. Id. at
1311. Dolgencorp held that the 300-day time period applied
because the FEP agency had general authority to decide disability
claims, even though the failure to accommodate claim was not
explicitly recognized under the state law. Id. at 1312-13.
Dolgencorp found that the plain language of § 2000e-5(e) allowed
for an interpretation that the state agency only needed to have the
power to grant or seek relief from the practice of disability
discrimination generally, not a specific type of claim within that
This Court agrees with the holdings of Moher and Dolgencorp
and holds that the 300-day time period under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e5(e) applies so long as the state or local agency has authority to
grant or seek relief from the general category of discrimination
alleged by a complainant. Here, where the Illinois Department of
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Human Rights had the authority to grant or seek relief from
disability discrimination, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s disability
claim was timely filed with the EEOC because it was filed within
300 days of the alleged unlawful discrimination.
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (d/e 6) is DENIED. Pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(4)(A), Defendant shall
answer or otherwise plead within 14 days of the entry of this order.
ENTERED: February 9, 2018
FOR THE COURT:
s/ Sue E. Myerscough
SUE E. MYERSCOUGH
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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