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NAWROT v. CPC INTERNATIONAL

April 23, 2003

RALPH NAWROT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CPC INTERNATIONAL, N/K/A BESTFOODS, INC., A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morton Denlow, United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This case is before the Court on remand from the Seventh Circuit to resolve what remains of plaintiff's reasonable accommodation and disability based discrimination claims. Nawrot v. CPC Int'l, 277 F.3d 896, 899 (7th Cir. 2002). Defendant's motion for summary judgment presents three issues: (1) whether a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act for an employer's failure to accommodate plaintiff's disability requires plaintiff to suffer an adverse employment action; (2) whether an employee who does not need an accommodation to perform his essential job functions can state a claim for his employer's failure to accommodate his disability where the failure to accommodate may jeopardize his life; and (3) whether plaintiff claims a failure to accommodate within 300 days of filing his EEOC charge. The answer to the first question is no, and the answer to the other two questions is yes. For the reasons below, this Court denies Defendant's motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

A. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Ralph Nawrot ("Plaintiff" or "Nawrot") filed a three count complaint against his employer, CPC International n/k/a Bestfoods, Inc.("Defendant" or "Bestfoods"). Count I alleges that Bestfoods failed to reasonably accommodate his disability and discriminated against him because of his disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Count II alleges that Nawrot's termination constituted retaliation for seeking an accommodation in violation of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. Count III alleges Nawrot's termination was based on his age, violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623 et seq. The district court granted Bestfoods' motion for summary judgment on all counts. Nawrot v. CPC Int'l, 99 C 630, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8973, at *28 (N.D. Ill. June 22, 2000), The court held that Nawrot's ADA claims failed because he was not disabled within the meaning of the ADA. Id. at *18-19. The court also concluded that Nawrot failed to demonstrate that Bestfoods' proffered explanation for termination was pretextual and entered summary judgment for Defendant on the termination-based counts. Id. at 28.

On appeal the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision that Nawrot's termination was proper, but reversed the district court's decision as to whether he was disabled. Nawrot v. CPC Int'l, 277 F.3d 896, 905 (7th Cir. 2002). Nawrot demonstrated that he was a qualified individual with a disability that "substantially limits his ability to think and care for himself." Id. at 903, 905 The Court of Appeals remanded "for the district court to resolve whatever remains of Nawrot's reasonable accommodation and disability-based discrimination claims in light of [this] decision." Id. at 899. Furthermore, Nawrot is not claiming disparate treatment or disparate impact. The only issue remaining is whether Nawrot's reasonable accommodation claim can withstand Bestfoods' motion for summary judgment.

B. BACKGROUND FACTS

For the purposes of this motion, the following facts are undisputed. Bestfoods is an Illinois consumer foods manufacturer and distributor. Pl. Am. R. ¶ 1.*fn1 Nawrot began working for Bestfoods in 1976. Pl. Am. R. ¶ 3 He was promoted to warehouse supervisor in 1983 and was terminated in August 1998. Pl. Am. R. ¶¶ 12, 3. Bestfoods became aware that Nawrot was diabetic in 1980, and knew that his blood sugar levels required monitoring and that he needed to control these levels by eating certain foods. Pl. Am. R. ¶ 4-5.

In September 1996 Nawrot suffered a diabetic reaction at work, and by 1997 his diabetes worsened. Def. Ans. ¶ 1-2. In February 1997 he took a medical leave to manage his diabetes and care for his health. Nawrot, 277 F.3d at 905. By this time, he required insulin injections three times per day and blood sugar level tests ten times each day. Def. Ans. ¶ 2. Without monitoring and maintaining his blood sugar levels, Nawrot was susceptible to diabetic attacks during which he is unable to think clearly or care for himself. Def Ans. ¶ 23, 28. He may make rude or nonsensical statements and behave inappropriately. Def. Ans. ¶ 23. Worse yet, if he falls into a diabetic reaction, Nawrot could become seriously ill or die. Def. Ans. ¶ 28. Nawrot had several "close calls" before suffering reactions in 1997 and 1998. Def. Ans. ¶ 29.

Given his condition, Nawrot requested an accommodation. Def. Ans. ¶ 1. Nawrot and his doctor made several requests to take breaks in order to monitor and maintain his blood sugar levels. Def Ans. ¶ 3. Specifically, Nawrot requested breaks to "take glucose and bring himself back to normal, if he feels a diabetic reaction coming on." P. App. Att. B. It was "imperative that he cease what he is doing and perform necessary measures to treat it so that he may continue to meet the responsibilities of his job." P. App. Att. B. His treatment includes eating certain foods throughout the day, but Nawrot was not allowed to eat or drink on the floor of the plant. Def. Mis. ¶ 25. Instead he was required to go to the plant office or locker room. Id.

Nawrot's doctor wrote two letters to Bestfoods in March 1997 requesting that Nawrot be allowed breaks to take glucose as needed. Def Ans. ¶ 3; P. App. Att. B. Nawrot asked his supervisor for an accommodation in January 1997' and in November 1997 when his supervisor actually witnessed one of Nawrot's reactions. Def. Ans. ¶ 5. Nawrot also asked the plant's Human Resources Manager for an accommodation on two occasions in February 1997. Def. Ans. ¶ 6. In April and October of 1997 he requested an accommodation from the Corporate Chief of Human Resources in New York. Def. Ans. ¶ 7. Nawrot asked the Plant Manager on three occasions for an accommodation in September 1997, May 1998, and July 1998. Def. Ans. ¶ 8. He even personally handed a letter to the Chief Executive Officer in April 1998 explaining his request to stop working if he feels the onset of an insulin reaction. P. App. Att. C at ¶ 13; Def. Ans. ¶ 9. Finally, after receiving no accommodation and being terminated, on October 23, 1998 Nawrot filed discrimination charge with the EEOC under the ADA and the ADEA. Pl. Am. R. ¶ 3.

For the purposes of this motion only. Bestfoods concedes that it did not accommodate Nawrot's disability. Def. Ans. ¶ 21, 25; Def. Sup. Rep at 3. Hence, Nawrot was never able to use his meter at work increasing his risk of diabetic reaction, and he was not allowed to eat or drink on the plant floor. Def. Ans. ¶ 21, 25. Bestfoods admits that Nawrot performed his essential job functions with or without accommodation. Def. Ans. ¶ 32. Therefore, factual disputes as to whether Nawrot received an accommodation or responses to his requests are immaterial for purposes of this motion.

Bestfoods contends that even if it failed to accommodate, Nawrot does not state a claim because Nawrot did not suffer an adverse employment action resulting from his disability and because Nawrot did not require an accommodation to perform his essential job functions. The only adverse employment action was Nawrot's termination which was done for "legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons." Nawrot, 277 F.3d at 907. Bestfoods terminated Nawrot for misconduct, harassing and stalking a fellow employee, and aiding her in the arbitration against Bestfoods. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

A. LEGAL ...


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