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Nunn v. Illinois State Board of Education

August 29, 2006

MAY F. NUNN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This is an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit.

The Illinois State Board of Education moves for Summary Judgment.

Motion allowed.

FACTS

Pro se Plaintiff May Nunn was employed by Defendant Illinois State Board of Education (the "ISBE") and its predecessor from 1964 to 2003. Nunn worked as a Principal Performance Consultant in the System of Support from 2001 until her discharge on March 25, 2003. At the time of her discharge, Nunn's primary responsibility was to facilitate the improvement of student achievement in districts and schools deemed needing improvement or corrective action. Nunn spent approximately forty percent of her time on-site at school district facilities and sixty percent of her time in the ISBE's offices.

In late 2002 and early 2003, Nunn began exhibiting behavior the ISBE considered inappropriate for the workplace. Nunn's co-workers observed her rocking in her seat, weeping and sobbing at her workspace, skipping around cubicles in her work area while chanting, moaning, crying out, stamping her feet, and running through the office chanting "Praise Jesus" while shaking her hands in the air.

Nunn also exhibited unusual behavior while working outside the office. During an ISBE presentation, Nunn made several references to God and to prayer. At a meeting between ISBE staff and staff from the South Cook Intermediate Service Center, Nunn chanted praises to God and isolated herself in the corner of the room with eyes closed while chanting. In her deposition, Nunn variously admitted the foregoing conduct or stated that she could not remember whether it occurred.

After receiving reports of Nunn's conduct, the ISBE decided to limit her travel. At about this same time, some of Nunn's co-workers told ISBE's human resources office and legal office that they were concerned for their safety. The ISBE also began to have doubts about Nunn's ability to perform her job duties. It arranged for her to undergo an independent medical evaluation with psychiatrist Dr. Philip E. Bornstein.

In Februay 2003, Dr. Bornstein diagnosed Nunn as suffering from bipolar affective disorder manic type with severe psychosis (auditory hallucinosis). Dr. Bornstein opined that Nunn's symptomology had gone on at least six to twelve months and had been escalating. Dr. Bornstein further indicated that Nunn's condition substantially interfered with her ability to properly behave in the workplace and that she was not functional. Dr. Bornstein noted that Nunn had no insight into her disorder and recommended that she not be allowed to remain in the workplace because her condition would likely worsen and result in greater workplace disruption. He recommended that Nunn be allowed to return to work only after receiving adequate treatment and medical clearance.

On March 3, 2003, the ISBE told Nunn that she would not be able to return to work until she received medical clearance. An ISBE official, Assistant Superintendent Lynne Haeffele Curry, informed Nunn that she had one year to return to work and that she could use paid time off via accumulated sick days to work toward her return to work. Nunn indicated that she was not sick and would not use sick time or take leave. The ISBE gave Nunn until March 6, 2003, to decide whether she was willing to take a leave or use her paid sick time. Nunn refused to take time off or get treatment.

The ISBE sought Nunn's discharge and a pre-disciplinary meeting was held on March 14, 2003. Nunn was discharged from the ISBE effective March 25, 2003. Nunn sued the ISBE, alleging that it fired her because of her disability. The ISBE moves for summary judgment contending that Nunn cannot establish a prima facie case under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, et seq. (the "ADA") and, alternatively, that Nunn's conduct provided a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating her.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment is proper when the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show ...


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