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DORSEY v. CITY OF CHICAGO

June 6, 2005.

FRANCINE DORSEY, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Olivia Dorsey, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: IAN LEVIN, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant City of Chicago's (hereinafter "City") motion for summary judgment in the cause. For the reasons herein set forth, the Court grants the City's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND FACTS

  I. INTRODUCTION

  Olivia Dorsey, (hereinafter "Dorsey"), deceased, began working for the City's Department of Law as a Legal Typist on March 3, 1980. (Bryden Aff. ¶ 3.) In 1988, she became an Administrative Legal Clerk and continued in that position through 1999. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 1.) As an Administrative Legal Clerk, some of Dorsey's principal responsibilities included data entry, collating paperwork, tracking seminar expenditures, and tracking the City's tort judgment report.*fn1 (Id., Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶¶ 12-14.) The City rated Dorsey's work performance principally as "excellent" from 1990 through 1996. (See Pl.'s Ex. 4.)

  Angelina Fuentes (hereinafter "Fuentes") was Dorsey's immediate supervisor from 1997 through 1999. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶ 10.) Sherry Bryden (hereinafter "Bryden") is the Director of Personnel Policies and Utilizations and the Americans with Disabilities Act (hereinafter "ADA") liaison who has worked for the City's Department of Law since 1991. (Bryden Aff. ¶ 1.)

  II. DORSEY'S IMPAIRMENTS

  Dorsey suffered from diabetes for twenty years and had vascular disease or "hardening of the arteries" related to her diabetes. (Ruder Dep. of 5/25/04 at 55:7-14, 65:11-66:3.) She also suffered from chronic lymphedema which caused poor circulation in her legs and prevented her from walking long distances continuously and standing for extended periods of time. (Id. at 55:19-56:2, 303:14-21, 348:8-24, 394:19-395:19, Pl.'s Ex. 36 at P00604.)

  In May of 1997, Dorsey had a heart attack and suffered multiple embolic strokes (hereinafter "stroke") during a coronary angiogram performed at that time. (Pl.'s Ex. 29 at D01168.) The stroke resulted in a significant neurological deficit which "show[ed] up as recent memory loss." (Id.) A mental status examination administered after the stroke indicated that Dorsey had deficits in recall, attention, language and practice. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 7.) Subsequent testing, performed three months later, showed that she had "a definite decline in mental functioning associated with decreased memory, language function, concentration, mental efficiency, and . . . mental flexibility." (Id.) Dorsey was unable to learn in the three to five months following her stroke because her ability to recall recent events was severely limited (Ruder Dep. of 5/25/04 at 324:7-14) and she could not concentrate because it involved short-term memory tasking. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 8.) She was also unable to process and retain new information. (Id.)

  Although Dorsey's stroke caused short-term memory loss, it had little effect on her long-term memory. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 9.)

  III. ADMINISTRATIVE LEGAL CLERK POSITION (1997 TO 1999)

  Dorsey initially returned to work in June of 1997, but because she was having difficulty her performing her Administrative Legal Clerk position, she requested an additional medical leave of absence. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 14, Fuentes Dep. at 100:12-18, Pl.'s Ex. 13 at D00381-83.) The City granted Dorsey's request and extended her leave until September of 1997. (Id.)

  Dorsey returned to full-time work on September 29, 1997 even though Dr. Ruder was concerned that she "still ha[d] some significant memory loss and may have trouble at work." (Pl.'s Ex. 10 at D01316-17.) Upon Dorsey's return to her position as Administrative Legal Clerk, she exhibited difficulty completing her job tasks which included inter alia remembering her computer password and how to perform certain computer tasks such as saving a file from a hard drive to a disk. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 15.)

  Dorsey received a rating between "marginal" and "good" on her performance evaluation for the period of September 29, 1997 through December 31, 1997. (Def.'s Ex. B at 000193.) Fuentes, Dorsey's supervisor during the relevant period, noted inter alia problems with the accuracy of Dorsey's data entry, a marked increase in the number of errors in Dorsey's work output, Dorsey's difficulty using various software programs and her inability to use computer programs with which she had familiarity. (Id.) Fuentes also indicated that Dorsey required close supervision and exhibited difficulty in following specific instructions. (Id.)

  In January of 1998, Dorsey completed a form requesting a reasonable accommodation in which she indicated she needed a larger computer screen for her diabetic retinopathy. (Def.'s Ex. B at D01964-66.) The City granted Dorsey's request and she also received additional lights in her work area, a glare screen for her computer, a back support for her chair, and a foot rest. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s LR56.1(a)(3) St. ¶¶ 29, 32.) Dorsey was also provided with additional computer training. (Id. ¶ 30.)

  Dorsey received a rating of "marginal" on her performance evaluations covering the periods of January 1, 1998 through June 30, 1998 and July 1, 1998 through December 31, 1998. (Def.'s Ex. B at 000194-95.) On these evaluations, Fuentes, again documented inter alia Dorsey's problems with data entry accuracy, her difficulty with using various computer software programs, and her need for close supervision. (Id.) Fuentes noted that Dorsey was unable to retain information after requesting help for a specific problem and she made repeated requests for help for the same problem. (Id.) She also indicated that Dorsey did not "exhibit independent problem-solving skills, and as a result require[d] close supervision." (Id. at 000194.) Fuentes further documented the fact that Dorsey could not "complete routine job functions without assistance or intervention from others." (Id.)

  Fuentes began documenting problems with Dorsey's job performance in the form of "employee incident reports." (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s LR56.1(b)(3)(B) St. ¶ 16.) For example, on December 30, 1998, Fuentes forwarded an employee incident report to her supervisor describing errors made by Dorsey and requesting disciplinary action. (Pl.'s Ex. 17 at D01780-81.) Dorsey was subsequently suspended for one day on January 20, 1999 for "[u]nacceptable work performance, [which included] various mistakes within all areas of [Dorsey's] job responsibilities." (Pl.'s Ex. 18 at D00457, D01951.)

  On May 20, 1999, Fuentes gave Dorsey a memorandum delineating the areas of her job performance that still needed improvement. (Def.'s Ex. H at D00471.) The memorandum indicated there were at least four job performance areas in which Dorsey needed improvement. (Id.) Some of these areas included data entry accuracy, retention of computer training, and proper procedures in requesting leave. (Id.)

  Because Dorsey was experiencing memory problems which were impacting her ability to perform her job,*fn2 she inquired about an accommodation to her Administrative Legal Clerk position. (Pl.'s Ex. 15 at D01621-22, Pl.'s Ex. 21 at D01156-57.) Fuentes gave Dorsey a memorandum dated August 2, 1999 stating that Dorsey would need to obtain a statement from her physician which in essence explained her medical condition and how it impacted her ability to perform her job. (Pl.'s Ex. 21 at D01157.) The memorandum states in pertinent part:
In response to your memo . . . regarding specific medical information being requested from your doctor, listed below are some of the required functions of your job that you had been unable to perform accurately and independently:
While using QuattroPro, you are unable to remember how to update your hard drive from a floppy disk even after repeated instruction.
You frequently transpose numbers while performing simple data entry tasks.
You are unable to retain information regarding general office practices and procedures, i.e., how to open the combination safe, dispensing petty cash, etc.
You exhibit difficulty with routine transactions being entered in CAPS and will often phone others for assistance in completing the transaction.
If you are unable to perform these essential duties due to medical complications (as you've stated) and are requesting medical accommodation, I need . . . you to obtain a statement from your doctor explaining your medical condition and how it prevents you from doing your job, how long . . . this condition [will] last, and what . . . the consequences . . . [are for your] performing . . . [the] above-mentioned duties. You will then need to complete and submit the proper request for accommodation forms. (Pl.'s Ex. 21 at D01157.)
Dr. Henry J. Ruder, M.D., Dorsey's treating physician, provided the City with a medical report dated August 10, 1999. (Pl.'s Ex. 10 at D01310-11.) The medical report states in pertinent part:
This is in response to a memorandum dated August 2, 1999 from Angie Fuentes, Finance Officer, City of Chicago, Department of Law.
Olivia Dorsey reported to me that she has been having troubles at work. I asked her to have her work place send me a memo documenting and reporting things that have been noticed about her work performance.
I received a memo dated August 2, 1999 from Angie Fuentes. This memo outlines at least four problems that were identified by Ms. Fuentes. These problems basically involve memory tasks.
Attached to this note are copies of my correspondence and office notes related to Olivia Dorsey's medical condition. In this packet of data are the return to work letters sent to the City of Chicago. In addition, there is a specific letter dated June 12, 1997 where I state that the patient may exhibit problems with recent memory, and I advised that her work place monitor her carefully for appropriateness and accuracy during her first start-up days. I myself had initiated this and I know that at that same time, I had talked to Angie Fuentes concerning this situation. I am also pretty sure that I talked to Sherry Bryden as well concerning Olivia Dorsey's medical condition and memory loss problems.
In addition, I have documentation in my office notes of having talked to Angie Fuentes on June 24, 1997. I had Olivia's permission to talk to her. Ms. Fuentes reported to me that Olivia [was] "markedly impaired" and could not remember passwords, etc., . . . It was at that time that I dictated an office note. I am sure that I sent a copy of this office note to her work since this is the reason this letter was done on June 24, 1997.
I am quite satisfied that I had really informed Olivia Dorsey's managers concerning her memory loss. I had recommended to them that she would require special effort on their part to help keep her on track and to help her with ...

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