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ROBB v. HORIZON CREDIT UNION

September 14, 1999

MARY C. ROBB, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HORIZON CREDIT UNION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCUSKEY, District Judge.

ORDER

Plaintiff Mary Robb brings this action against her former employer, Defendant Horizon Credit Union ("Credit Union"), based on the Credit Union's decision to fire her in March of 1996. Specifically, she alleges that the Credit Union violated the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). In addition, Plaintiff alleges a third count of retaliatory discharge under Illinois law. The Credit Union moved for summary judgment on all counts on October 15, 1998(# 23). For the following reasons, that motion is GRANTED as to all counts.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Until March of 1996, Plaintiff worked for the Credit Union. At that time, Steve Senger ("Senger") was its president, but Plaintiff reported directly to the Credit Union's comptroller, Craig Althoff ("Althoff").

In the years leading up to 1996, Plaintiff suffered from depression intermittently, and was treated by her general physician with anti-anxiety drugs. Although Plaintiff had generally been able to manage her depression and stress, she lost that ability sometime in late 1995. At that time, her husband had been on strike for many months, causing him to become physically and verbally abusive. In addition, Plaintiff was raising her young grandson. To make matters worse, Plaintiff was upset to learn that her son, who was serving in the military, would soon be shipped to Bosnia.

That month, Plaintiff's doctor diagnosed her with depression, and referred her to a psychiatrist, Dr. Rohi Patil. Dr. Patil noted that Plaintiff was suffering from a stressful personal life, sleeplessness, vomiting, diarrhea, and migraine headaches. He also noted that she was suicidal, and put her in the hospital. Thus, on January 2, 1996, Plaintiff's husband informed the Credit Union that Plaintiff had been hospitalized and would be unable to return to work for some time.

During Plaintiff's hospitalization, Senger called Dr. Patil to ask him when Plaintiff could return to work. He also called Plaintiff to ask whether her illness was work-related, and to find out how long she would be in the hospital. Plaintiff felt that during this call, Senger was angry and annoyed with her, and his tone scared her. Eight days later, Plaintiff spoke with Senger again, and they discussed Plaintiff's medical leave and vacation benefits.

At some point after Plaintiff went on medical leave, Senger asked Althoff to document his conversations with Plaintiff. Althoff could not recall ever making notes like that for any other employee, but he complied with Senger's request. He recalled that Senger made this request sometime after Althoff told Senger that Plaintiff's doctor had referred her to a psychiatrist.

On January 26, 1996, Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital, but returned a few days later for previously scheduled bladder surgery. By March 11, Plaintiff's situation had improved, and she returned to work. Plaintiff asserts that at that time, she was able to perform all of the tasks of her job, but was still taking medication to treat her depression. Upon her return, her co-workers did nothing to welcome her back, and instead gossiped that Plaintiff had suffered a "nervous breakdown." Although Senger and Althoff had talked about making Plaintiff's return to work normal, they did nothing to ensure that the other employees would make her comfortable. Senger recalled saying hello to her that first day back, but nothing else.

On March 15, Plaintiff went to a co-worker's office to discuss work, and spoke with her for about five minutes. At some point, after the conversation turned to grandchildren, Senger appeared. Within seconds, he told Plaintiff to go back to her department. Later that afternoon, Senger scolded Plaintiff for having a personal conversation at work, and warned her not to do it again. He then ordered her to write a memorandum stating that she understood this direction. Plaintiff asked Senger to allow her to wait until the next morning to write the memorandum, but he insisted that it be done that day. When she gave him the memorandum later that day, Senger was not satisfied, and told her so.

Shortly after that incident, Althoff showed Plaintiff telephone records and asked her to explain certain calls she had received on the Credit Union's toll-free line during the last three months of 1995. Plaintiff admitted that she received a personal call from her son. Senger also reviewed the records, but did not look to see whether other employees had made personal calls as well. He knew that Plaintiff's son had business with the Credit Union, and that some of his calls might have been related to that business rather than to personal matters. Moreover, Senger knew that other employees received personal calls at work on the toll-free number. In those instances, the employee would simply reimburse the Credit Union for the cost of the call. Senger did not know whether Plaintiff had paid for the one call she admitted was personal.

The following week, Plaintiff had a doctor's appointment scheduled during business hours. In advance of the appointment, Althoff gave Plaintiff permission to leave work early that day and make up the time by coming in early the following morning, a privilege that workers in Althoff's department frequently enjoyed. When Senger learned of this arrangement, however, he overrode Althoff's decision, even though he knew that other employees were allowed comparable privileges. In addition, around that time, Senger changed Plaintiff's lunch hour, even though Plaintiff had been taking her lunch at the same time for years.

On March 25, Senger and Althoff met with Plaintiff. Senger told Plaintiff that they had come to a "crossroads," and that he did not like the memorandum she had written earlier that month. He then gave her three options: write a memorandum of apology, resign, or be terminated. Plaintiff wrote the memorandum. The next day, Senger called Plaintiff into his office. Senger was upset with her second memorandum, which stated that Senger made her write it to avoid being fired. He told her to gather her personal belongings and return her keys, and that he was firing her.

In his deposition, Senger admitted that he knew of no instance since her return that month in which Plaintiff was late, had been rude, or had not gotten along with co-workers. He also had no indication that she had not been loyal to the Credit Union or had a bad work attitude. Nevertheless, he issued no warning, nor did he ask Althoff for his opinion before firing Plaintiff. He stated that he did this ...


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