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PEYTON v. OTIS ELEVATOR CO.

October 14, 1999

RENARD W. PEYTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OTIS ELEVATOR COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



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

  MEMORANDUM AND OPINION ORDER

Renard Peyton ("Peyton") has sued his ex-employer Otis Elevator Company ("Otis"), asserting that Otis violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA," 42 U.S.C. § 12101-12117*fn1) (1) by terminating his employment because of his asserted disability of alcoholism, (2) by not accommodating that claimed disability and (3) by failing to rehire him because of that claimed disability. Otis now moves for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56.

Both sides have complied with this District Court's local rules that at the time of the parties' filings were General Rules 12(M) and 12(N), but that have respectively been redesignated as LR 56.1(a) and LR 56.1(b) effective September 1, 1999 in compliance with the directive that all District Courts' rules must be renumbered to conform to the numbering of the Rules to which they relate.*fn2 Otis' Rule 56 motion is now fully briefed and ready for decision. For the reasons set out in this memorandum opinion and order, the motion is granted and this action is dismissed.

Summary Judgment Standards

Familiar Rule 56 principles impose on Otis the burden of establishing the lack of a genuine issue of material fact (Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). For that purpose this Court must "read[] the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party," although it "is not required to draw unreasonable inferences from the evidence" (St. Louis N. Joint Venture v. P & L Enters., Inc., 116 F.3d 262, 265 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1997)). While "this general standard is applied with added rigor in employment discrimination cases, where intent is inevitably the central issue" (McCoy v. WGN Continental Broad. Co., 957 F.2d 368, 370-71 (7th Cir. 1992)), that does not negate the potential for summary judgment in cases where a movant plainly satisfies the Rule 56 standards (Washington v. Lake County, 969 F.2d 250, 254 (7th Cir. 1992)). In those terms summary judgment is appropriate if the record reveals that no reasonable jury could conclude that Peyton was treated in a statutorily prohibited discriminatory fashion (see Fuka v. Thomson Consumer Elecs., 82 F.3d 1397, 1402 (7th Cir. 1996) and cases cited there). And as the ensuing discussion demonstrates, that standard dooms Peyton's claims.

What follows in the Facts section (and in the later factual discussion) is culled from the parties' submissions. And as with every summary judgment motion, this Court accepts nonmovant Peyton's version of any disputed facts where his position is arguably supported by the record.

Facts

Otis first hired Peyton in 1991 but terminated his employment that same year because of unexcused absences (O.56.1(a) ¶¶ 4-6). Peyton was hired again by Otis on February 26, 1997 as an elevator construction helper (id. ¶ 3) At that time Peyton knew of Otis' policies that all employees must notify Otis and call off of work when they are going to be absent or late and that unexcused absences could result in termination (id. ¶¶ 7-9)

On March 21 and April 4, 1997 Peyton failed to appear for work and did not phone Otis to call off of work (id. ¶ 10). Peyton consequently received an oral warning for absenteeism for the first infraction and a written warning for the second (id. ¶¶ 11-12). At some point during the same time frame Peyton also met with an Otis field operations manager who told him that more unexcused absences would result in Peyton's termination.*fn3 At that meeting the manager had a letter of termination in his hand, but it was torn up after the oral warning (O.56.1(a) Ex. 3 ("Peyton Dep.") 64). Even though the manager specifically asked Peyton "what the problem was, [] I told him I can't tell him. I couldn't tell him" (id).

On April 29, 1997, less than a month after his second unexcused absence, Peyton failed to appear for work on time, but he says that he called off of work by 10 a.m. (P. 56.1(b) ¶ 10). Over the phone he told Otis that the reason for his absences was that "he couldn't stop drinking" (P. 56.1(b) ¶ 17). That was the first time that Otis had notice that Peyton might have a condition that could possibly be labeled as a disability (O.56.1(a) ¶ 16). That same day Otis terminated Peyton's employment (id. ¶ 14).

Peyton also claims that after he was terminated he requested an accommodation from Otis by calling the company to seek treatment for his drinking problem, and that Otis referred him to a treatment center (P. 56.1(b) Ex. A at 74). Peyton received inpatient treatment from that center, plus outpatient treatment from another facility (id. at 87-88). During the summer of 1997, after the completion of his inpatient care and during his outpatient treatment, he reapplied to Otis (id. at 100-02) but Otis declined to rehire him (O.56.1(a) ¶ 22).

Positions of the Parties

Otis claims Peyton was terminated and not rehired because of his unexcused absences, while Peyton asserts both decisions were reached solely on account of his alcoholism. Peyton further claims that Otis had a duty to accommodate his presumed disability once Otis became aware of its existence.

As this Court has observed in Tomasello v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 8 F. Supp.2d 1090, 1092 (N.D.Ill. 1998) (quotation marks, footnote and citations omitted), ADA's general prohibition against disability ...


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