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Wagenknecht v. Village Motors

March 2, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rebecca R. Pallmeyer United States District Judge


On September 6, 2002, Plaintiff Cliff Wagenknecht was released from his employment with Defendant Village Motors, LLC d/b/a Libertyville Toyota (hereinafter, "Toyota," or "dealership,") after a foot condition and its treatment resulted in an extended absence from his position as an Assistant Service Manager. Following his termination, Wagenknecht brought suit against Toyota, alleging discriminatory and retaliatory discharge in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (hereinafter, "ADA").

Toyota now moves for summary judgment on both the discriminatory and retaliatory discharge claims. For the reasons given below, the court grants Defendant's motion.


Defendant operates a car dealership in Libertyville, Illinois.*fn1 (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶ 1.)

AutoNation, Inc. is the parent corporation of Libertyville Toyota. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Wagenknecht's Job Duties and Foot Condition Toyota hired Wagenknecht as an Assistant Service Manager (hereinafter, "ASM,") in March 1996. (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶ 6.) Parts and Service Manager Ben Mennella supervised Wagenknecht in this capacity. (Id. at ¶ 7.) As an ASM, Wagenknecht assisted customers who needed service on their vehicles and managed a team of four or five service technicians. (Id. at ¶ 8.) The manner in which Toyota required Wagenknecht to provide customer service is called "active service" and was something Toyota trained Wagenknecht and its other ASMs to do. (Id. at ¶10.) The "active service" routine consisted of:

* greeting the customer at the vehicle or in the service area;

* obtaining the current mileage and other information about the vehicle;

* inspecting the vehicle to determine the problem;

* preparing and printing a work order for the customer's signature;

* providing the work order to the leader of the ASM's team of technicians;

* test driving or inspecting the vehicle when the service work was completed;

* talking to the customer about the completed work; and

* directing the customer to the cashier and their vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 9.) Wagenknecht generally took approximately fifty customers through this "active service" routine each day. (Id.) Wagenknecht testified that the amount of time he might spend standing or walking to guide any particular customer through all of these steps was highly variable. (Wagenknecht Dep., at 17.) On the low end, the process might take only sixty seconds, but for other customers, the "active service" routine might require, in rare instances, over four hours of standing or walking with a single customer. (Id. at 17-24.) Additionally, Wagenknecht could spend as little as a few minutes to well over an hour a day standing and walking while performing various other duties related to his position as an ASM, such as checking on parts for a vehicle, retrieving a customer's car from the parking lot, or going to the dealership's showrooms.*fn2 (Id. at 25-31.)

In April 2001, Dr. Kent DiNucci, Wagenknecht's podiatrist, diagnosed Wagenknecht with hammertoe and stress fractures on his right foot. (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶ 13.) Dr. DiNucci also determined that Wagenknecht had an extended second metatarsal in the left foot, which had damaged Wagenknecht's plantar plate. (Id. at ¶ 14.) On approximately May 1, 2001, Wagenknecht went to work with a walking cast on his right foot and told Mennella that he was having problems with his feet.*fn3 (Id. at ¶ 15.) Over the next couple days, Wagenknecht, Mennella, and President and General Manager Kevin Keefe had discussions regarding limiting Wagenknecht's walking and standing at work. (Id. at ¶¶ 2, 16.) Specifically, Wagenknecht testifies that on May 2, 2001, he asked Mennella if he could move to a desk closer to the printer and have a two-way radio with which to communicate with his team of service technicians. (Wagenknecht Dep., at 76.) Wagenknecht reports that Mennella denied these requests and told him, "We all have to work with pain, get back out there." (Id. at 76-77.) Manella testified he was taken off-guard and did not appreciate the seriousness of Wagenknecht's condition.*fn4 (Mennella Dep., at 19.) Nonetheless, Wagenknecht reduced his walking and standing at work by 75 percent, and still calculated (using a pedometer) that he was walking about a mile and a half a day. (Def.'s 56.1(a) ¶¶ 17-18.)

There is a factual dispute as to when, but Wagenknecht eventually met with Keefe.*fn5 Keefe moved Wagenknecht to another desk that was not in fact closer to the printer, but was the only unoccupied desk available, and other Toyota employees in the area agreed to deliver Wagenknecht's printouts. (Wagenknecht Dep., at 92-94; Keefe Dep., at 57-58; Mennella Dep., at 24-25.) Keefe testified that the dealership did not have any two-way radios, but did ask Wagenknecht's service technicians to walk back to Wagenknecht's desk every fifteen minutes so that Wagenknecht would not have to walk out to them. (Keefe Dep., at 17-18.) Keefe eventually gave Wagenknecht a oneway radio, but Wagenknecht complained that a one-way radio wouldn't really eliminate his need to move and that he would need a second radio. (Wagenknecht Dep., at 92-93.) Later, ...

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