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KOLPAS v. G.D. SEARLE & CO.

March 17, 1997

PAMELA V. KOLPAS, Plaintiff,
v.
G.D. SEARLE & CO., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOLDERMAN

 JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, District Judge:

 Plaintiff, Pamela V. Kolpas, filed a two-count complaint against defendant, G. D. Searle & Co., alleging employment discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ยง 12101 et seq., (Count I) and retaliatory discharge (Count II). Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment on both counts pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

 STATEMENT OF FACTS1

 Defendant hired plaintiff in October 1993 to work as its supervisor of accounts payable. Plaintiff was responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the Accounts Payable department. Plaintiff's supervisor was Enanu Wondirad. At the time of plaintiff's hiring, Wondirad told plaintiff that she ordinarily could work forty to fifty hours per week. Plaintiff, however, was required to regularly work between sixty to seventy hours per week and more than seventy hours per week during busy times.

 On June 20, 1994, plaintiff began a short-term medical leave of absence. In accordance with defendant's short-term leave policy, plaintiff received approval from defendant's Occupational Health department. Plaintiff has a medical heart condition, mitral valve prolapse, that led her to take the short-term medical leave. She was originally diagnosed with the condition in 1990. Mitral valve prolapse can cause chest pain and headaches resulting in anxiety. Because of the condition, plaintiff must monitor her intake of caffeine and cannot participate in rigorous sports. Plaintiff admits that her condition does not interfere with her ability to work or hold a job or in any of her activities. She adds, however, that she was advised by her doctor to work a normal work week.

 Upon receipt of plaintiff's letter, Holley searched on defendant's bulletin board, which is available to all employees, for open financial positions. Holley found two open positions in finance, Senior Consolidations Accountant and Senior Financial Analyst International. Defendant says that the two jobs required well over forty hours of work per week. In addition, both jobs were higher graded jobs than plaintiff's position so placement of plaintiff in either job would have been a promotion. On October 11, 1994, Holley spoke with plaintiff about the openings. She informed plaintiff of the two available positions and told plaintiff that both jobs required well over forty hours of work per week. According to defendant's policy, of which plaintiff was aware, when a position is posted on the bulletin board it is the employee who files an application for the position. Plaintiff did not apply for either of the two positions identified by Holley because she assumed that Holley would send her an application. Despite the fact that plaintiff never received an application, she did not request that Holley send her an application.

 On October 31, 1994, plaintiff's physician, Dr. Cottrell, wrote a letter to defendant stating that defendant should take action to minimize plaintiff's stress at work and offered to discuss issues with defendant.

 Pursuant to defendant's short-term medical leave policy, an employee's return to work is conditioned on defendant's receipt of a release to return to work, submitted by a physician. Absent a release, the employee is terminated by defendant's Employee Relations department. Plaintiff claims that she was only informed in a letter from defendant that when an employee reaches the end of their short-term disability eligibility period and they remain disabled, they are terminated from active employment with defendant. This letter, dated October 11, 1994, states that defendant required plaintiff to have been released by her physician in order to return to work. Plaintiff's physician would not release her back to work, plaintiff alleges, because he recommended plaintiff be transferred to a less stressful department.

 On December 16, 1994, the ending date of plaintiff's short-term medical leave, she was terminated by defendant's Employee Relations department. Defendant states that plaintiff's termination was due to her not providing their Occupational Health department with a doctor's release to return to work. Plaintiff argues that the decision was made because defendant refused to reasonably accommodate her disability. Plaintiff currently works for Ralin Medical Company in their accounting department.

 STANDARD OF REVIEW

 Under Rule 56(c), 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 that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the non-movant must be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). This court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.

 A party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue, however, may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact which requires trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). There is no issue for trial "unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the ...


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