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WIGGEN v. LEGGETT & PLATT

November 4, 2004.

TRISH WIGGEN, Plaintiff,
v.
LEGGETT & PLATT, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRY LEINENWEBER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Trish Wiggen (hereinafter "Wiggen") alleges that she was terminated by her employer Defendant Leggett & Platt (hereinafter "L&P") for disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA"). Before the Court is L&P's Motion for Summary Judgment, which is GRANTED.

I. INTRODUCTION

  Wiggen was employed by L&P's Batavia Branch from September 13, 1993 until she was terminated on August 31, 2001. Wiggen also attended DeVry University and devoted approximately 25 hours per week to her senior project. Presently and throughout her employment at L&P, Wiggen suffered from migraine (severe tension) headaches. See Def. SOF ¶¶ 119, 195. The migraine headaches generally occur once a month and typically last two to three days. See id. ¶¶ 124-125. Wiggen is self-sufficient and lives alone. She has no limitations on major life activities. Wiggen occasionally has blackouts, feels nauseated, or dizzy when she has a headache. See id. ¶¶ 126-138.

  In addition to migraine headaches, Wiggen also suffered from sinus headaches in 1998 and from June 2001 through April 2002. See id. ¶¶ 139-141, 151-152. Wiggen also had a growth in her tear duct which caused a fluid backup, adding pressure and aggravating the headaches. See id. ¶¶ 154, 156. During July and August 2001, Wiggen suffered from the combination of migraine and sinus headaches. During that time, Wiggen vomited on a daily basis and had nausea episodes and occasionally would pass out, or be unable to eat, walk, light a cigarette, or drive due to her headaches. See id. ¶¶ 161-62, 164-67. Despite her headaches, Wiggen continued to report to work and keep current with her school assignments. See id. ¶¶ 159-168.

  A. Confrontations and Disruptions

  James Zaerr ("Zaerr"), the branch manager, and Tina Robinson ("Robinson"), the office manager, were Wiggen's supervisors at L&P. See id. ¶¶ 23-24, 30-33. Zaerr received numerous oral and written reports of Wiggen's misconduct. See id. ¶¶ 104-113; Zaerr Aff. ¶¶ 16-25, 34-39, 41, 43-45. Wiggen's working relationship with Robinson was inconsistent and marked by frequent conflict. See Def. SOF ¶¶ 42-43, 103. She had many confrontations with Robinson throughout July and August, which resulted in workplace disruptions. Most of the disagreements revolved around Wiggen's salary and time cards. Robinson and other co-workers documented many of Wiggen's disruptions and confrontations in written and oral complaints to Zaerr. See id. ¶¶ 56-62, 66-67.

  Problems continued despite a meeting between Zaerr, Robinson and Wiggen on August 10. On August 20, co-worker Stacie Lawhorn documented a customer complaint about Wiggen's phone etiquette. See id. ¶¶ 83-84. That same day, Wiggen wrote a memo to Zaerr complaining about Danzer's phone etiquette. See id. ¶¶ 85-86. On August 30, Wiggen argued with several L&P employees. Robinson related one such dispute to Zaerr in a memorandum. See id. ¶¶ 99-100. Wiggen also initiated a confrontation with co-worker Lloyd Awe, and Awe wrote a memorandum to Zaerr complaining about the manner in which Wiggen treated him. Robinson wrote a letter to Zaerr about the dispute. See id. ¶¶ 93-97.

  B. Wiggen's Medical and Discrimination-Related Complaints

  In July 2001, Wiggen informed Robinson that she was having severe migraines and was going to undergo testing. See id. ¶ 169. She did not complain of discrimination because of her headaches. On the same day, Wiggen wrote a letter to Jeff Hugey ("Hugey") at L&P's corporate office, in which she reported that on one occasion in July, Zaerr "informed [her] if [she] ever called [L&P] corporate [offices] for a problem again he would fire [her]." Def. Ex. N. In closing, Wiggen also stated that she "personally believe[s] that both Mr. Zaerr and Mrs. Robinson should be required to attend classes that will inform them what includes harassment and discrimination on the job." Id. The remainder of the letter related to paycheck discrepancy complaints, and there was no mention of Wiggen's headaches.

  On August 30, Wiggen wrote a second letter to Hugey, which she sent only to him. See id. ¶¶ 176-178; Def. Ex. A. For the first time, Wiggen referred to her medical condition, stating: "I am under a doctor's care for a growth (tumor) whatever you want to call it in my head which causes me to have horrible migraine headaches and pain which would make me sound tired, which I am due to lack of sleep which comes from much added stress from here." Def. Exhibit A. She did not complain of discrimination based upon her headaches. Also, on August 30, Wiggen informed Zaerr about her sinus and tear duct problems and the worsening of her headaches, as well as the surgeries she would need to relieve those problems. Id. ¶¶ 172-174. She did not complain of discrimination based upon her headaches.

  Wiggen did not file a charge of discrimination until June 18, 2002, ten months after her termination from L&P. The charge alleges only that:
On or around July 2001 I complained to Respondent about disability discrimination but to no avail. On August 30, 2001, I made Respondent aware of another medical condition that I had and also complained again to Respondent about disability discrimination. On August 31, 2001, I was discharged. I believe that I have been retaliated against due to my prior complaints of disability discrimination . . ." C. Termination
  Zaerr decided to terminate Wiggen, after the "last straw" of the major disruption caused by the confrontation Wiggen initiated with Awe. Zaerr Aff. ¶¶ 38-39. On August 31, 2001, Zaerr terminated Wiggen for disruptions in the workplace and failure to get along with others. See Def. SOF ¶¶ 115. Zaerr relied upon the oral and written complaints regarding Wiggen's conduct, as well as his own personal observations of Wiggen's conduct. Id. ¶ 114. Zaerr contends he was not aware of Wiggen's letter to Hugey until after he had already decided to terminate Wiggen. See Zaerr Aff. ¶ 50. Wiggen purportedly "never complained to [Zaerr] of discrimination based on any health condition or alleged disability." Id. ¶ 52.

  L&P also terminated eleven other employees between January 2000 and December 2001. See Def. SOF ¶ 198. None of those employees had a disability or medical condition nor had they complained about disability discrimination. Id. ¶¶ 197, 204. Two employees were terminated due to a reduction in work force, and two were terminated after a disciplinary process. The remaining employees were ...


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