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Kielbasa v. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

November 3, 2005

RICHARD KIELBASA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, AND RENEE CIPRIANO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR OF THE ILLINOIS ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan H. Lefkow

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Richard Kielbasa ("Kielbasa"), brings this action against the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency ("IEPA"), alleging failure to reasonably accommodate his disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. This court has jurisdiction over the claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(a), 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a), and 29 U.S.C. § 791. Before the court are cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants IEPA's motion for summary judgment and denies Kielbasa's motion for summary judgment.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To determine whether any genuine fact exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c) Advisory Committee's notes. The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of proving there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In response, the non-moving party cannot rest on bare pleadings alone but must use the evidentiary tools listed above to designate specific material facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324; Insolia v. Philip Morris Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 598 (7th Cir. 2000). A material fact must be outcome determinative under the governing law. Insolia, 216 F.3d at 598-99. Although a bare contention that an issue of fact exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 492 (7th Cir. 2000), the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party as well as view all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).On cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must consider the merits of each motion and assess the burden of proof that each party would bear on an issue at trial. Santaella v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997). The mere filing of cross-motions for summary judgment does not establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact. M. Snower & Co. v. United States, 140 F.2d 367, 369-371 (7th Cir. 1944).

FACTS

In 1986, Richard Kielbasa began what by all accounts has been a distinguished career as an employee with the IEPA. (Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 5). Kielbasa began his career as a Vehicle Emissions Compliance Inspector ("VECI"). Id. at ¶ 7. In 1992, in recognition of his exemplary performance, Kielbasa was promoted to the supervisory position of Vehicle Emissions Compliance Supervisor ("VECS"). Id. at ¶ 12. In that position, Kielbasa was generally responsible for supervising State inspectors at test facilities, reviewing the inspectors' paperwork, adjusting grievances and overseeing customer relations, as well as issuing evaluations of the test facilities' employees. Id. at ¶¶ 36-38.

The IEPA has issued a VECS position description, however, which exhaustively sets forth the "specific job requirements" for the VECS position, as well as the position's "duties and responsibilities." Id. at ¶ 38. The VECS position description does not specifically define which of the responsibilities of the VECS position are essential. Id. The VECS position description does state, however, that 20% of the position entails "operat[ing] a motor vehicle" and "travel[ing] between the vehicle emissions testing stations in the geographic sector and the Field Services Section headquarters to observe job performance of subordinates, pick-up and deliver materials and supplies such as statistical surveys compiled by subordinates, time cards, compliance postcards and office supplies." Id. In addition, the position description states that the position "[r]equires a valid drivers license and several hours of travel weekly." Id.

Within eight months of his promotion to VECS, Kielbasa, like his other VECS colleagues, was assigned a state vehicle to perform his duties. Id. at ¶ 81. On average, Kielbasa put approximately 1700 miles per month on his state vehicle, routinely spent at least 20% of his time traveling between his assigned test facilities and, on days when he was visiting test facilities, spent a couple of hours a day in the State vehicle. Id. at ¶ 114.

On or about October 1997, Kielbasa began noticing a deterioration in his peripheral vision. Id. at ¶ 92. Shortly thereafter, in November 1997, Kielbasa was diagnosed with a tumor on his optic chiasm. Id. at ¶ 99. Kielbasa immediately underwent surgery and began receiving steroids in an attempt to regain his vision. Id. at ¶¶ 100, 102. Kielbasa initially experienced dramatic improvement. Id. at ¶ 103. In fact, by December 1997, Kielbasa's vision had sufficiently improved that he was able to personally operate his State vehicle and perform all of his VECS duties. Id. at ¶ 104. From December 1997 through June 1998, Kielbasa was able to drive himself 50% - 70% of the time to his assigned test facilities, while receiving rides from friends and family when his vision did not permit him to drive. Id.

By July 1998, however, Kielbasa's vision once again began to deteriorate, ultimately leaving him, irreparably, legally blind. Id. at ¶ 107. Kielbasa promptly notified his supervisor Ron Wohrle ("Wohrle") of the recurrence of his condition and requested permission to make alternative arrangements for traveling to and from his assigned test facilities. Id. at ¶¶ 109, 118-122. While their remains some disagreement as to who initially proposed the arrangement, Kielbasa and Wohrle ultimately agreed that Kielbasa would continue to receive rides from friends or family and when possible to travel with one of the Quality Assurance Auditors ("Auditors"), who themselves were assigned to his test facilities. Id. Wohrle then authorized Auditors Wes Streblo, Rich Barton, and Vince Parmigiani to give Kielbasa rides as needed. Id.

Then, in the Fall of 1999, Kielbasa and Wohrle again met to discuss Kielbasa's deteriorating eyesight and how Kielbasa would get to his assigned test facilities. Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶¶ 24-26. While it appears that Wohrle initially proposed that Kielbasa remain in a single IEPA office helping with technical and operational problems, Kielbasa expressed a strong desire to continue in his VECS position, and Wohrle ultimately relented. Id. Wohrle and Kielbasa agreed, as they had during their earlier meeting during the summer of 1998, that Kielbasa would arrange to travel with one Auditor each day and that Kielbasa would establish a schedule for the Auditors so that they would know which day Kielbasa would ride with them. Id.

Thus, beginning in January 1999 and continuing until April 2000, Kielbasa received regular rides with Auditors to his assigned test facilities. Id. Around this same time, the IEPA also granted Kielbasa's formal request for reasonable accommodation for a large screen computer monitor with enhanced software, a close circuit television, and a portable close circuit televison. Id. at ¶ 20. As a result of the accommodations afforded Kielbasa by the IEPA, Kielbasa was able to successfully perform nearly all of his duties as a VECS. Pl. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 196. Indeed, in both 1999 and 2000, Kielbasa received the identical "Accomplished" rating on his performance evaluation that he had received in 1998 while still, at least on many occasions, driving himself to his assigned test facilities. Id. at ¶¶ 210-212.

On April 10, 2000, however, Lynda Martin ("Martin"), the EEO/AA/ADA Manager for the IEPA, informed Kielbasa that he could not continue as a VECS due to his inability to drive himself to his assigned test facilities. Id. at ¶ 165. Martin advised Kielbasa that the Auditors' driving of Kielbasa to test facilities when they were not going there for their own work-related reasons violated the IEPA's collective bargaining agreement governing the Agency's relationship with the Auditors, as well as the Auditors' job descriptions, and therefore the arrangement had to be terminated immediately. Id. at ¶¶ 165-167; Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 45. As a result, Kielbasa was reassigned to the Elk Grove Office of the IEPA, though he remained in rank and title a VECS. Def. L.R. 56.1 ¶ 47.

Soon thereafter, Kielbasa filed a grievance and requested that he be permitted to continue with the driving arrangement previously approved by Wohrle. Id. at ¶ 48. In the alternative, Kielbasa requested permanent assignment to an IEPA office near his home. Id. The IEPA informed Kielbasa that if placed at a location near his home he would be unable to retain his VECS position but that a VECI position was open and available. Id. at ¶ 49. Kielbasa accepted the VECI position on ...


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