The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, Senior District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Mary Seisser ("Seisser") has sued her ex-employer Platz Flowers
and Supply, Inc. ("Platz"), claiming that she was discharged or
"constructively discharged"*fn1 because of her poor vision in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12101
to 12117).*fn2 Platz has moved for summary judgment under
Fed. R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56. Both sides have complied with this
District Court's LR 56.1,*fn3 and Platz's motion is now fully
briefed and ready for decision. For the reasons set out in this
memorandum opinion and order, the motion is denied.
Summary Judgment Standards
Familiar Rule 56 principles impose on Platz 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)). As Pipitone v. United States, 180 F.3d 859, 861 (7th
Cir. 1999) has more recently quoted from Roger v. Yellow Freight
Sys., Inc., 21 F.3d 146, 149 (7th Cir. 1994):
A genuine issue for trial exists only when a
reasonable jury could find for the party opposing the
motion based on the record as a whole.
That "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)). However, neither "the mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties"
(Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct.
2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)) nor the existence of "some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" (Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct.
1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)) will defeat a summary judgment
What follows in the Facts section (and in any later factual
discussion) is culled from the parties' submissions. And as with
every summary judgment motion, this Court accepts nonmovant
Seisser's version of any disputed facts where it is arguably
supported by the record.
Seisser was hired by Craig Thoren ("Thoren") to work for Platz
in 1978 (S.Resp. ¶ 1). In 1985 Seisser followed Thoren from Elgin
to Morton Grove, Illinois when he was promoted to General Manager
(id. ¶ 2). While she initially acted as an "office supervisor,"
in 1991 Seisser became Thoren's assistant (Seisser Dep. 12-13).
As such, her duties related to "insurance benefits, collections,
accounts receivable, writing promissory notes, [and] doing any of
the special projects that [Thoren] needed done" (id. 13).
In 1995 Thoren became Platz' CEO (S.Resp. ¶ 2). In that same
year Seisser had a toe and part of her foot amputated as a result
of an injury (S.St. ¶ 4). That procedure also revealed a heart
problem that necessitated heart surgery as well (id. ¶ 5).
Undiagnosed diabetes was the cause of both the heart problem (P.
St. ¶ 7) and Seisser's subsequently impaired vision (Seisser Aff.
¶ 5). During that period Platz and Thoren adequately accommodated
Seisser's health problems.*fn4
By October 1995 Seisser's vision problems had made work
difficult for her (S.St. ¶ 7), and her eyesight ultimately
deteriorated to a point where she was legally blind (P. St. ¶
8).*fn5 Platz reimbursed Seisser for her purchase of a
magnifying screen for her computer and later purchased her a
larger computer monitor (S.Resp. ¶ 19). While Seisser was again
working full time by January 1996 (Seisser Dep. 33), a portion of
her duties were then performed by Thoren (P. St. ¶¶ 21-23). In
that same month Seisser asked Thoren to have the Department of
Rehabilitative Services ("DORS") evaluate her disability and her
duties to determine what if anything could be done to assist her.
Thoren's response "was a flat outright no" (Seisser Dep.
Thoren testified that Seisser's poor eyesight resulted in
performance problems. For example, she misfiled items, injected
typographical errors into correspondence and miscoded bills
(Thoren Dep. 35, 36-37, 39).*fn9 Thoren also said that Seisser
suffered from a "general slowing in what she was able to do
before" (id. 35). For her part Seisser said that her vision
problems "prevent[ed][her] from performing certain tasks"
(Seisser Dep. 90), but even though she admitted making more
mistakes than before, she estimated that she "could perform 80 to
90 percent of [her] job functions" (id. 94).
On October 31, 1997 Thoren initiated a conversation with
Seisser to discuss her future with Platz (S.St. ¶ 14). Thoren
told Seisser "I want you to take an early retirement" (id. ¶ 15).
When asked by Seisser if there were any other options, Thoren
said "no" (id. ¶ 16).*fn10 Seisser believed that ...