A tragic story.
A car accident left the Plaintiff blind.
Her employment as a correctional officer was terminated.
Unfortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act provides
Bobbi Miller began her employment as a correctional officer
with the Illinois Department of Corrections ("DOC") on April
11, 1988. She began her employment at the Lincoln Correctional
Center and was subsequently transferred to the Graham
In June of 1986, Miller was injured in an automobile accident
and sustained severe head injuries. In the summer of 1993
— as a result of the head injuries — Miller experienced
substantial loss of vision. Consequently, Miller was placed on
indefinite medical leave upon the recommendation of Dr. Gary
Blackman, an optometrist. In July and August of 1993, and
January of 1994, Miller was examined by her treating physician,
Dr. David Gelber — a neurologist at, the Southern Illinois
University School of Medicine. Dr. Gelber determined that
Miller had approximately 20/800 vision; thus, in the words of
Dr. Gelber, she was "essentially blind in both eyes." Dr.
Gelber also believed Miller's blindness was permanent.
In the Fall of 1993, Miller expressed an interest in
returning to work at the Graham Correctional Center. On March
16, 1994, Miller met with Kenneth P. Dobucki — Warden of the
Graham Correctional Center — to discuss the possibility of
returning to work at the DOC. After listening to Miller's
suggestions, Warden Dobucki expressed concerns about a severely
visually impaired individual working in the DOC and stated that
he would have to discuss the matter with Central Management.
On March 31, 1994, Miller received a letter from Warden
Dobucki notifying her that her request to return to a
correctional officer position was denied. Warden Dobucki
indicated that a visually impaired correctional officer would
pose a threat to the safety and security of the facility.
Warden Dobucki noted further that due to her visual impairment,
Miller could not perform a substantial or significant portion
of her regularly assigned duties as a correctional officer;
thus, she was terminated effective April 15, 1994.
In May of 1994, Miller filed a contract grievance with the
State of Illinois Department of Central Management Services.
The hearing officer found that no contract violation had
occurred. That issue is now on its fourth and final appeal.
In August of 1995, Miller initiated the instant case alleging
that the DOC violated the Americans with Disabilities Act,
42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., by refusing to allow her to return to
work as a correctional officer.
II. Legal Standard — Summary Judgment
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment shall be granted
if the record shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." Black v. Henry Pratt Co.,
778 F.2d 1278, 1281 (7th Cir. 1985). The moving party has the
burden of providing proper documentary evidence to show the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A
genuine issue of material fact exists when "there is sufficient
evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a
verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510-11, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
Unquestionably, in determining whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the evidence is to be taken in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress &
Co., 398 U.S. 144, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Once
the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must
come forward with specific evidence, not mere allegations or
denials of the pleadings, which demonstrates that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Howland v. Kilquist, 833 F.2d 639 (7th
The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") prohibits
employers from discriminating "against a qualified individual
with a disability because of the disability of such
individual." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). A "qualified individual with
a disability" is "an individual with a disability who, with or
without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential
functions of the employment position that such individual holds
or desires." 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8).
Accordingly, in order to recover under the ADA, the plaintiff
must establish three general elements: (1) that he is disabled
within the meaning of the ADA; (2) that he is qualified,
i.e., he is able to perform the essential functions of the job
with or without accommodation; and (3) that the employer
terminated him because of the disability. White v. York Int'l
Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360 (10th Cir. 1995).
A. A Disabled Individual
Regarding the first element, an individual is "disabled" if
he has "a physical or mental impairment that substantially
limits one or more of the major life activities of such
individual." 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A).*fn1 "Major life activities"
are those activities that the average person in society can
perform with little or no difficulty. Haysman v. Food Lion,
Inc., 893 F. Supp. 1092, 1100 (S.D.Ga. 1995). Such activities
include functions such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking,
breathing, learning, and working. 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(i). An
individual is "substantially limited" in a "major life
activity" if he cannot perform the activity or is
"significantly restricted" as to the condition, manner, or
duration under which he can perform the activity as compared to
the average person in the general population. 29 C.F.R. §
Here, Miller essentially is blind in both eyes.*fn2 Thus, she
obviously is substantially limited in the major life activity
of seeing. Accordingly, Miller has established the first
element of an ADA claim — she is disabled for purposes of the
B. A Qualified Individual
Next, Miller must establish that she is a "qualified
individual." To review, in order to be considered a "qualified
individual," Miller must show that she can perform the
essential functions of the position at issue with or without
reasonable accommodation. The position at issue here is that of
a correctional officer in the DOC. Accordingly, the next step
in the Court's analysis is to determine: (1) the essential
functions of the correctional officer position and (2) whether
Miller can perform those functions with or without reasonable
The "essential functions" are the "fundamental job duties of
the employment position" in question. 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(n)(1).
In determining what functions are essential, the Court may
consider, among other things:
(1) the employer's judgment as to which functions
(2) written job descriptions;