Law School Case Brief
Graham v. St. John's United Methodist Church - 913 F. Supp. 2d 650 (S.D. Ill. 2012)
A 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint fails to set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Richard Graham was a victim of a serious beating, which resulted to him suffering a permanent disability of his cognitive processes. In August 2008, he was hired as a part-time custodian at St. John’s United Methodist Church (St. John’s) and was told that he would work 25 hours a week. However, Graham began to assume all custodial duties at the church, and was working for 35 to 40 hours a week. Despite this, however, Graham was allowed to put only 25 hours on his timesheet. Moreover, authority figures like Reverend Sheryl Palmer called Graham “stupid” and “retard” and allowed other members to call him these names as well. Thereafter, certain members of St. John’s and advocates for Graham’s employment asked the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church (IGRC) to investigate Palmer's mistreatment of Graham. Subsequently, in July 2011, the members told Palmer and St. John’s that Graham was ill and scheduled for surgery; however, Palmer unilaterally scheduled Graham to return to work. Graham was subsequently discharged. Graham then filed an 8-count complaint against St. John’s, IGRC, and Palmer, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Illinois Wage and Collection Act (IWPCA), as well as common law actions for intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision. St. John’s moved to dismiss Counts 1 through 4 of Graham’s complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Should St. John’s motion to dismiss Counts 1 through 4 of Graham’s complaint be granted?
Yes, in part.
As an initial matter, St. john moved to strike Graham’s claim for compensatory and punitive damages in Count 4, which was based on retaliation under the ADA. On this count, Graham admitted his error and has voluntarily withdrawn his claim for compensatory damages. Anent Counts 1 and 2 (violation of the ADA and failure to reasonably accommodate in violation of the ADA), the Court held that Graham had sufficiently pleaded that he was regarded as an individual with a disability. Being regarded as having a disability meant that the individual has been subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA as amended because of an actual or perceived impairment. The Seventh Circuit has clarified that in order to proceed under this prong of the ADA, “a plaintiff must allege that the employer believed that the employee had an impairment that substantially limited one or more major life activities.” Graham claimed that Palmer called him a “retard” on multiple occasions as well as allowing other staff members to call him by that epithet. Graham also claimed that Palmer took advantage of his mental impairment by requiring him to work seven days a week and to do both custodial work and personal chores for her. These allegations were sufficient to survive St. John's motion to dismiss on the issue of whether Palmer regarded Graham as an individual with a disability. Moreover, the Court held that Graham met the burden of showing that St. John’s failed to reasonably accommodate Graham in violation of the ADA. As to Count 3 (Hostile Work Environment), the Court held that Graham had not sufficiently alleged that his workplace was so permeated with discrimination and intimidation as to alter the conditions of his employment. Lastly, the Court held that Graham had pleaded sufficient allegations to support a viable claim of retaliation under the ADA, thereby the Court refused to dismiss Count 4 (Retaliation) of Graham’s complaint.
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