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Sizemore v. Potter

January 16, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge


For the reasons stated below, the court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 27) and enters judgment in favor of Defendant on the remaining claim of disability discrimination (Count 1). Plaintiff's disability discrimination claim is dismissed with prejudice, and the case is terminated in its entirety.


Plaintiff Geraldine Sizemore ("Sizemore") began working for the United States Postal Service ("USPS" or "the Postal Service") in 1966. In December of 1998, Sizemore injured her knee on the job when she tore her left meniscus. After pursuing a series of administrative actions through the Postal Service's office of Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), in addition to a failed settlement agreement, Sizemore filed her Complaint in July of 2005. Sizemore originally alleged disability discrimination, retaliation, and breach of contract claims against John Potter, Postmaster General of the USPS ("Defendant"). Sizemore has voluntarily dismissed her retaliation and breach of contract claims (see Dkt. No. 18) and now limits her contentions to allegations that postal officials discriminated against her on the basis of a physical injury to her left knee, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Rehabilitation Act"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA").


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper "if 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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In its analysis, the court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolve all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423 F.3d 763, 773 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). It is not for the court to make credibility determinations or to weigh conflicting evidence. Id. However, the party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on the pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Info. Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005).

In order to assist the court in its summary judgment determination, Local Rule 56.1 requires the moving party to file "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue and that entitle the moving party to judgment as a matter of law." N.D. Ill. R. 56.1(a)(3); Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 682 (7th Cir. 2003). In return, the non-moving party is required to file "a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." N.D. Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B). The non-moving party is also required to submit any additional facts which would require denial of the summary judgment motion. N.D. Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(C). Failure of a non-movant to properly respond may result in the court deeming admitted the uncontroverted statements set forth in the movant's 56.1(a)(3) submission. N.D. Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(C); Raymond v. Ameritech Corp, 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted).

In his Reply in Support of Summary Judgment, Defendant notes that Sizemore's responsive filings violate various provisions of Local Rule 56.1, and Defendant asks the court to strike or ignore Sizemore's improper factual assertions. (Dkt. No. 40 at 1-2). The court agrees that Sizemore failed to provide proper evidentiary support for a number of her responses to Defendant's Rule 56.1(a) Statement of Material Facts ("SMF" Dkt. No. 29), in violation of 56.1(b)(3)(B), and that Sizemore asserts additional facts in her Rule 56.1(b) Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts ("SMF Resp." Dkt. No. 36) and in her Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 37) that should have been set forth in a 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement. The court also notes with disapproval that Sizemore failed to procure court approval before filing her 23-page memorandum, in violation of Local Rule 7.1. However, because these violations do not affect the analysis that follows, the court finds no prejudice to Defendant and denies Defendant's request to strike.


Sizemore has alleged violations of both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. As a federal employee, however, Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act is the governing statute for Sizemore's disability claim. See Mannie v. Potter, 394 F.3d 977, 982 (7th Cir. 2005). In order to prevail on her discrimination claim, Sizemore must demonstrate: "(1) that she suffers from a disability as defined in the statutes; (2) that she is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job in question, with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) that she has suffered an adverse employment action as a result of her disability." Scheerer v. Potter, 443 F.3d 916, 918 (7th Cir. 2006). In determining whether a plaintiff has met his or her prima facie burden under the Rehabilitation Act, courts refer to ADA case law, provisions, and standards. 29 U.S.C. § 794(d); see also Scheerer, 443 F.3d at 919; Jackson v. City of Chicago, 414 F.3d 806, 810-11 (7th Cir. 2005).


Defendant first argues that the undisputed evidence in this case demonstrates that Sizemore does not qualify as "disabled" under the terms of the Rehabilitation Act. (Dkt. No. 28 at 8-10). "The Rehabilitation Act defines an individual with a disability as 'any person who (i) has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.'" Branham v. Snow, 392 F.3d 896, 902 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 705(20)(B)).

As a preliminary matter, the court addresses the physical or mental impairment at issue in this case. Sizemore alleges in her Complaint that she injured her knee in December of 1998, and that "subsequent to said injury, the postal officials started discriminating against [her] and treating her differently than they treated her prior to her injury." (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12). Sizemore further alleges that Defendant denied and ignored her doctor's recommendation that she "be given work that to [sic] allow her to stay off of her feet" and, "with reasonable accommodations, such as not standing on her feet continuously," she could have performed the essential functions of her job. (Compl. ¶¶ 12(a), 15). Although Sizemore alleges that the discrimination "caused her to suffer mental and psychological injuries," (Compl. ¶ 12(h)), the Complaint includes no claim that Sizemore was discriminated against for any physical or mental impairment other than the injury to her left knee. Any argument regarding Defendant's alleged failure to accommodate any other physical or mental impairment is therefore outside the scope of the Complaint and will not be entertained by the court.

On the question of whether Sizemore is an individual with a disability, Defendant argues that Sizemore's physical impairment (her "disabling knee condition") did not substantially limit any of her major life activities, thus Sizemore does not qualify as an individual with a disability under the Rehabilitation Act. (Dkt. No. 28 at 8-10). In response, Sizemore argues that (1) "the injury to Ms. Sizemore's left knee substantially limits her ability to perform the major life activity of work;" and (2) in the alternative, the USPS regarded her as having such an impairment. (Dkt. No. 37 at 12, 15). In support of the latter argument, Sizemore points to the September 15, 2000 EEO affidavit of her supervisor, ...

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