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MATTHEWS v. COMMONWEALTH EDISON CO.

September 30, 1996

JAMES E. MATTHEWS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH EDISON COMPANY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAMS

 Plaintiff James Matthews brought this cause of action against his former employer Commonwealth Edison Company ("ComEd") alleging that he was discriminated against in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). ComEd moved for summary judgment on both counts pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Matthews cross-filed for summary judgment on his ADA claim. For the reasons set forth below, ComEd's motion for summary judgment on Matthews' ADA and ADEA claims is granted and Matthews' cross-motion for summary judgment on his ADA claim is denied.

 Background

 The following facts are uncontested. James Matthews began working for ComEd in 1966 at its Waukegan station. In 1977 he was promoted into a management position at ComEd's Zion nuclear power generating station. Between 1977 and 1991, Matthews held a variety of management-level positions including Quality Control Inspector, Radiation Waste Supervisor and Electrical Maintenance Engineering Assistant. (Pl. 12(m) PP 3-6.) In 1991, Matthews was working as an Electrical Maintenance Supervisor. In July of that year, Matthews suffered a severe heart attack and was forced to leave ComEd temporarily due to his medical condition. (Pl. 12(m) P 7.)

 Matthews returned to work on January 14, 1992. (Id.) Because of his heart condition, Matthews' doctor instructed him to avoid stressful situations and to ease into a full-time work schedule. (Id.) ComEd did not object to these conditions; but instead, catered to Matthews' new work-related restrictions. (Id.) Since Matthews' previous position as Electrical Maintenance Supervisor was stressful and could not be restructured into a part-time position, ComEd offered Matthews the job of Department Training Coordinator ("DTC") in the Electrical Maintenance department. (Def. 12(m) P 24.) Matthews accepted the DTC position without objection and agreed that it was a reasonable alternative to his previously held job. (Pl. 12(m) P 7.)

 Pursuant to his doctor's instruction, Matthews gradually returned to a full-time work schedule in the DTC position. He started out working only two hours per day. Matthews eventually increased his working hours to four hours per day and then six hours per day. (Pl. 12(m) P 10.) Seven months after his return to work, Matthews worked standard eight hour days, but his heart continued to trouble his health. Accordingly, Matthews' doctor recommended that he cut back to working six hour days. (Id.)

 In the meantime, by the Spring of 1992, ComEd found itself in a fiscal crisis. Due to several court judgments and decisions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ComEd was forced to refund hundreds of millions of dollars to its customers as well as reduce its rates. (Def. 12(m) P 49.) At the same time, the value of ComEd's stock dropped and its earnings sharply declined. (Id.) In reaction to these adverse business conditions, ComEd undertook several measures to reduce operating costs, including a reduction in workforce ("RIF"). By the time the RIF was completed, ComEd had reduced its workforce by 1,250 employees. (Pl. 12(m) P 50.)

 At the heart of this dispute is the manner in which ComEd selected which employees would be affected by the RIF. Pursuant to the RIF plan, Zion Station Manager Robert Joyce met with top management at the plant and sought to determine who should be terminated. (Pl. 12(m) P 22.) The group determined that employees would be terminated based on their performance and contribution to their respective departments rather than seniority. (Pl. 12(m) P 23.)

 Production Superintendent, William Kurth gave Assistant Superintendent Robert Johnson a list of employees to consider for termination. Matthews' name was on the list. Kurth instructed Johnson to evaluate the listed employees and rank them. (Pl. 12(m) P 24.) Johnson, in turn, asked Elijah Campbell, Matthews' direct supervisor, to rank the Electrical Maintenance employees in order of most to least valuable in the Electrical Maintenance department. (Pl. 12(m) P 25.)

 Campbell ranked Matthews at the bottom of the list. Campbell ranked Matthews as the least valuable employee in the Electrical Maintenance department because Matthews had the poorest employee evaluation results in that department during the 1991 performance review period. (Pl. 12(m) P 26.) The stated reason for Matthews' poor work performance was his inability to contribute to the Electrical Maintenance department. (Id.) Campbell stated that Matthews' inability to contribute was caused by his part-time schedule and six month absence. Both of these impediments to improved performance were caused by Matthews' heart condition. (Pl. 12(m) PP 26-28.)

 Campbell returned his list of employee rankings to Johnson, who then discussed who should be terminated with Kurth. Afterwards, Kurth completed "separation justifications" for 25 employees. (Pl. 12(m) PP 31-33.) Matthews' separation justification stated that Matthews was working only six hours per day, that Campbell had ranked him as the least valuable contributor in the Electrical Maintenance department, and that Matthews appeared to have been a marginal performer. (Pl. 12(m) P 34.) Matthews was fired from his position as DTC in August 1992. At the time, he was 48 years old. (Pl. 12(m) P 7; Def. 12(m) P 5.)

 Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists when, in viewing the record and all reasonable inferences drawn from it in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). The movant has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). If the moving party meets this burden, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts which demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

 Analysis

 Matthews sued ComEd for age discrimination under the ADEA and disability discrimination under the ADA. Presently before the court are motions for summary judgment with respect to both the ADEA and ADA claims. Both parties have moved for summary judgment on Matthews' ADA claim, however, only ComEd moves for summary judgment on the ADEA claim. The court first addresses the ADA issue.

 The ADA Claim

 The ADA makes it unlawful for covered employers to discriminate against a "qualified individual with a disability" in regard to job application, hiring, advancement, discharge, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment because of that person's disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). The ADA defines a qualified individual with a disability as "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). A plaintiff must also satisfy the requisite skill, experience and other job-related requirements of the job he seeks. 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(m).

 To survive summary judgment, Matthews must provide evidence that (1) he suffers from a disability as defined by the ADA; (2) he can perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) his employer discriminated against him because of his disability. White v. York Int'l Corp., 45 F.3d 357, 360-61 (10th Cir. 1995). ComEd concedes that Matthews has produced evidence of the first two elements -- that he is disabled as defined by the ADA and he can perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodation. (Def. Mem. at 13 n.4.) However, the parties dispute whether Matthews has met his burden under ...


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