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Collins v. Naperville #2-3 Communiy District

October 10, 2006

STEVEN COLLINS PLAINTIFF,
v.
NAPERVILLE #203 COMMUNITY DISTRICT DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Steven Collins is suing his former employer, Naperville #203 Community District ("Naperville"), for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Before this Court are Naperville's motion for summary judgment on both Mr. Collin's disability discrimination claim and his racial discrimination claim and Mr. Collin's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated in the opinion below, defendant's motion is granted and plaintiff's motion is denied.

I. FACTS

The following facts are undisputed. Steven Collins was first diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") in 1997 after an extremely heavy door closed on Mr. Collins' hand, causing him severe damage to his hand and finger and causing his PTSD.*fn1 He has also been diagnosed with anxiety. Over the years, Mr. Collins has worked despite having significant pain in his hand and finger. In May of 2005, he underwent surgery and now his hand is healed completely. However, Mr. Collins' psychiatric disorders still sometimes cause him to breathe with difficulty and experience increased anxiety. He relaxes himself by breathing deeply and closing his eyes or by taking medication such as Valium and Zoloft. If his medication is unavailable and he experiences a triggering event, Mr. Collins simply takes deep breaths and shuts his eyes, thereby relaxing himself. Over the years, Mr. Collins has become accustomed to relaxing himself and has learned to function in his daily life without incident. He is able to cook and clean, care for his pre-teen son and maintain relationships with his wife, sons and father. Mr. Collins continues to relax himself by taking medication, closing his eyes and taking deep breathes, and he receives ongoing psychiatric treatment by health professionals.

Naperville #203 Community District ("Naperville") employs full-time custodians and substitute custodians to service twenty-one schools in its district. Although Mr. Collins originally applied for the position of full-time custodian, he received an unfavorable review during his interview, and was hired by Naperville only as a substitute custodian on November 3, 2004. Mr. Collins was advised that the best way to gain a full-time custodian position was to work as a substitute custodian because it would give Naperville a chance to observe his work performance and become familiar with him. Naperville hires most of its full-time custodians from its pool of substitute custodians. Substitute custodians do not work regularly; they only worked when they are called in to substitute for a full-time custodian or to fill an increased temporary need.

In his role as a substitute custodian, Mr. Collins was called to work when full-time custodians were unavailable or when Naperville had need for more assistance. In 2005, complaints were made about Mr. Collins' job performance. On January 28, 2005, the head custodian at a school where Mr. Collins was working notified Mr. Collins by letter that he had received reports that Mr. Collins had been leaving work three to four hours early on a regular basis. When he approached Mr Collins to talk about the letter, his work performance and some disputed time sheets, Mr. Collins indicated that he was stressed out, was having an attack and had to leave. He told the head custodian at that time that he had PTSD. Afterwards, Mr. Collins was transferred to another Naperville school.

After that incident, Mr. Collins continued to work sporadically for Naperville. Sometimes when he was called for work, he would indicate that he unavailable; other times, he would go to work. On May 31, 2005, Mr. Collins had a second panic attack. This attack was caused by a bad experience with a full-time employee at the school where he was then assigned. The employee, "Tom", brought a dog with him to work, but left the dog in his vehicle. When Mr. Collins attempted to exit the school to go home, Tom told him not to exit out of that door because his dog was outside and it had something against African-Americans. Mr. Collins continued despite the "warning." Once he exited, Mr. Collins noticed a large dog viciously barking at him. Mr. Collins was afraid and began to get anxious. He reentered the building, exited from another door and went home. After this incident, Mr. Collins nonetheless continued to work for Naperville and demonstrated interest in being employed as a full-time custodian.

On June14, 2005, Mr. Collins resigned his position as a substitute custodian. On June 29, 2005, Mr. Collins filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights alleging that he was constructively discharged on the basis of his race and his disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, respectively. He gave the date of June 22, 2005 as the date of his constructive termination.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is only appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Schuster v. Lucent Technologies, Inc., 327 F.3d 569, 573 (7th Cir. 2003).

The movant bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. To successfully oppose the motion, the non-movant must designate these facts in affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions; the non-movant cannot rest on the pleadings alone. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Under the Local Rules, the non-movant must file the opposing affidavits and other materials described above, a memorandum of law in opposition to the motion, and a concise statement responding to each of the movant's facts and alerting the Court to additional material facts.*fn2 See Local Rule 56.1(b).

Where, as here, the non-movant fails to respond to the motion for summary judgment, the movant's version of the facts are deemed admitted.*fn3 See Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B); Smith v. Lanz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) ("[A] failure to respond by the non-movant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission."). Summary judgment then will be entered in the movant's favor if, using the standard outlined above, such a ruling is appropriate. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) ...


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