The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennelly, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Drucy Palao has brought suit against Fel-Pro, Inc., for
violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), Family
Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Fel-Pro has moved for summary judgment on Palao's claims. It
argues (1) that her ADA claim fails because she was not disabled
as the statute defines that term; (2) that her FMLA claim fails
because she exceeded the 12 weeks of leave allowed by law
(thereby negating Fel-Pro's obligation to rehire her); and (3)
that she failed to exhaust administrative remedies with regard to
her PDA claim. For the reasons stated below, the Court agrees and
grants Fel-Pro's motion for summary judgment as to all counts.
Palao began work at Fel-Pro in March of 1987. Fel-Pro
manufactured gaskets and sealants in a facility in Skokie,
Illinois, where Palao worked as an operator of various machines
and as a parts inspector. On December 20, 1997, she was fired.
Fel-Pro claims that Palao was fired for failing to return to work
after 12 months. Palao claims that Fel-Pro refused to reinstate
her in violation of the ADA, FMLA, and PDA because she had become
disabled, taken medical leave, and become pregnant.
From 1987 until 1995, Palao worked as a machine operator and
inspector, apparently without any physical difficulty. In 1995,
Fel-Pro implemented a new management system, referred to as the
"cell team concept of production." Under this system, employees
rotated through several different positions. It was thought that
the cell team concept improved morale by limiting monotony,
reduced repetitive stress injuries, and made absences easier to
cover. Palao was assigned to the STP cell. The different
positions in the STP cell included four machine presses and an
Palao's shoulder pain required her to undergo surgery, which
took place on March 14, 1996. She returned to work approximately
eleven weeks later, on June 7, 1996. At that time, her doctor's
restrictions were as follows: no lifting of more than 15-20
pounds, no repetitive activity, no overhead work, and no pushing
or pulling. Palao returned to work in the inspector-only position
within the STP cell.
At some point shortly thereafter, Palao informed Fel-Pro that
she was pregnant. Fel-Pro claims that Palao informed the company
of this on June 10, 1996, when she asked to have her shifts
changed, partly because of sleeping difficulties brought on by
pregnancy. Palao claims to have told Fel-Pro prior to June 10,
1996 that she was pregnant and that she would be taking maternity
leave beginning sometime in December, 1996.
Palao continued working in the inspector-only position under
her doctor's restrictions until August 30, 1996. In early
September, Fel-Pro's recruiter, Amy Fox, met with Palao to
evaluate her qualifications and skills, apparently as part of an
effort to place Palao in another position for which she was
qualified. Fel-Pro maintains that the cell team concept involved
the phasing out of the inspector-only position that Palao was
filling. Palao accepted a temporary position in Quality Assurance
with the understanding that it would run until her maternity
On November 26, 1996, Palao's doctor issued a work release
stating that Palao's work restrictions were permanent in nature.
Palao continued to work in Quality Assurance until December 20,
1996. Afterwards, she was on maternity leave until February 17,
1997. At that time, she attempted to return to work but was
informed that there were no available positions for which she was
In considering whether there are genuine issues of material
fact for trial, we are required to consider all evidence and draw
all reasonable inferences in favor of Palao, the non-moving
party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In employment
discrimination cases such as Palao's, this standard is applied
strictly, as these cases often involve credibility ...