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Leffel v. Valley Financial Services

May 15, 1997

JO ANN LEFFEL,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

VALLEY FINANCIAL SERVICES AND VALLEY AMERICAN BANK AND TRUST COMPANY,

DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division.

No. 94 C 459 Robert L. Miller, Jr., Judge.

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, and ESCHBACH and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

ROVNER, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED MAY 16, 1996

DECIDED MAY 15, 1997

Jo Ann Leffel lost her job as a branch manager with Valley American Bank in 1993. She filed this suit contending that she was discharged in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. sec. 12101 et seq., because she suffers from multiple sclerosis. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that Leffel had not produced evidence that she was meeting her employer's legitimate expectations or that her medical condition had influenced the decision to discharge her. We affirm.

I.

Leffel began work for Valley American Bank in 1980. Beginning in 1988, she served as the manager of the downtown Mishawaka, Indiana branch of that Bank. *fn1 She earned average to above average marks on her annual reviews, and not until 1993, shortly before her discharge, was she ever subject to a reprimand or formal discipline by the Bank. In her December 1992 performance review, Leffel was given an overall performance rating of 2, with a 2 indicating that the employee's work "meets, or in some aspects exceeds [the] requirements of the position" and a 3 indicating that her work "frequently exceeds [the] job requirements in several aspects; [that the employee performs] better than satisfactory employees with similar responsibilities; [that she] attains good accomplishments and end results[; and that] [m]inimum direction [is] required." Leffel received ratings of 2, 3, or 4 ("consistently performs well above most employees on a comparable level") with respect to all performance attributes except for timeliness. In that category she was rated a 1, indicating that her performance was "barely adequate," required monitoring, and would be cause for dismissal in the absence of improvement.

In March of 1993, Sheila Ann Swinehart, a part-time teller at the downtown branch, contacted Margaret Andrysiak, Director of Human Resources for the Bank, to express concern about Leffel. Among other things, Swinehart told Andrysiak that there was a lack of communication between Leffel and her staff and that Leffel appeared to be "overly medicated." That phone call led to a breakfast meeting with Leffel's staff (to which she was not invited) and a decision by Bank management to place Leffel on probation.

On March 15, 1993, Leffel was called to a meeting with Bank vice-president Jerome Kearns, Debra Peffley (Bank Center Administrator and Leffel's supervisor), and Andrysiak. Kearns read to Leffel a list of ten perceived problems with Leffel's performance, including excessive absenteeism, failure to submit reports on a timely basis, failure to return phone calls from other departments, failure to communicate information to her staff, and a reluctance to attend compulsory meetings. R. 47 Ex. K. Kearns then reviewed with Leffel a second list of twelve items that specified what was expected of Leffel in the way of improvement in these and the other problem areas discussed. Id. Ex. M. Leffel was ultimately called upon to sign a third document acknowledging that she was being placed on probationary status effective the following day and would be terminated if she failed to meet the level of performance expected of her. Id. Ex. L. That document also listed "other options" of which Leffel might avail herself, including an unpaid leave of absence, paid medical leave, or resignation. Ibid.

During that meeting, Leffel disclosed that she suffered from multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Leffel had been diagnosed with the disease in 1979, but prior to this time it had not affected her work and with two exceptions she had not revealed the diagnosis to her co-workers. She had, however, disclosed her condition on a medical form when the Bank had altered its insurance plan the previous December, and Leffel suggests that Andrysiak may have been made aware of it in after a representative of the Bank's insurer disclosed it to one of Andrysiak's subordinates. Leffel also had the impression that everyone present at the March 15 meeting was already aware that she had MS, although Kearns and Peffley later indicated that this was the first they had heard of it. Andrysiak apparently had already been informed of Leffel's MS, as Leffel suggests, although Andrysiak claimed to have forgotten until "reminded" of it at this meeting. She maintained she had never passed that information along to Kearns and Peffley. In any event, according to Leffel, she was directed over her own objection to disclose her MS to her staff. She did so the following day.

At that same meeting, Leffel was also given paperwork for her physician to sign in the event she elected to seek long-term disability leave. Leffel later gave the papers to her doctor, who refused to sign them, believing that Leffel retained the ability to work. Leffel herself maintains that she remained fully able to work and needed no accommodation to remain in her job.

On April 8, 1993, Kearns, Peffley, and Andrysiak met once again with Leffel to discuss her performance during the probationary period. At that meeting, Leffel was given and asked to sign a report discussing her conduct relative to the list of performance expectations she had been given at the March 15 meeting. R. 50 Ex. 22. In some areas (absences, for example), no shortcomings were noted. Problems were noted in other areas, however. For example, Leffel was still not returning business-related telephone calls in a timely fashion. Moreover, in certain respects, Leffel had conducted herself in a fashion that the Bank deemed paranoid. Leffel appeared unwilling to deal with her assistant, Carolyn Teeter, whom the Bank had made responsible for monitoring Leffel's performance. Moreover, apparently in response to the concerns raised about her timely reporting for work, Leffel had also begun to log her arrival and departure using the safe deposit time clock, which the Bank regarded as distracting and unacceptable. The report summary stated:

Problems still continue at D.T. Mishawaka under Joann's [sic] leadership. She is resentful if the support staff goes to Carolyn. Joann herself complains about Carolyn to support staff which must stop immediately. Joann is paranoid about every phone call, each conversation with a fellow employee and tries to talk Carolyn into accepting another job. Joann does not feel she is acting strangely or doing anything wrong; and, feels that the Bank does not want her to go on long-term disability. A routine call from a sick employee upsets Joann if she learns that the ...


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