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Sanchez v. City of Chicago

February 28, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge


This matter is before this Court on Defendant the City of Chicago ("the City")'s motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the City's motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The following facts are taken from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements.*fn1 From late December 2004 until early June 2005, Plaintiff Gregory Sanchez ("Sanchez") worked as a probationary Communicable Disease Control Investigator II ("CDCI II") with the City. A CDCI II conducts personal interviews with individuals infected with communicable diseases "in a manner that best contributes to the interruption of their transmission." In June 2005, Sanchez was fired, and he admits that the primary issue behind the decision to fire him was his reluctance to perform interviews.

I. Sanchez's Employment with the City

Prior to being hired as a CDCI II, Sanchez informed his interviewers that he had AIDS as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"), and they said they "would work with him." He did not inform the City that he had depression.

As a probationary CDCI II, Sanchez had to pass an exam for each of 10 training modules and a comprehensive exam, as well as have his work monitored and evaluated by his supervisor. During the module training, Sanchez informed his supervisors that he felt overwhelmed. His supervisors encouraged him to continue. They testified that they did not consider his ADHD to be "that big of an issue" because Sanchez was doing well in the modules. Sanchez asked for, and the module trainer provided to him, more time to study, a quiet room, and visuals during training. Sanchez successfully passed all 10 of the training modules on the first try, scoring an average of at least 91%, including a 96% on the syphilis test. He passed the comprehensive exam with a score of at least 90%. Following module training, Sanchez participated in Introduction to Sexually Transmitted Disease Intervention ("ISTDI") training, which included a two week interview training period. ISTDI training involved practicing syphilis interviews and taking tests. Sanchez again felt overwhelmed by the ISTDI training and informed his instructor that he had ADHD. He told his instructor that he used colored pens and sticky notes, and his instructor permitted him to use those aids. Sanchez completed ISTDI training on time and was rated at least competent (defined as "consistently meets the expectations of skill use in typical situations. He or she performs at the appropriate beginning to intermediate level") in all categories. The CDCI II trainers testified that once a probationary employee completes module training and ISTDI training, he has accumulated all of the knowledge he needs in order to perform the job.*fn2

After completing training in late February 2005, Sanchez began working at the City of Chicago's Lakeview Clinic. Sanchez could conduct interviews with patients with HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea; could work independently on cases concerning individuals infected with HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia; and could complete the paperwork in connection with those types of cases. He had difficulty only in a single area - the interviewing and the paperwork related to syphilis cases.

Difficulties arose shortly after Sanchez's arrival at Lakeview. Sanchez conducted no in-clinic interviews, and the parties dispute the extent to which Sanchez refused to perform "field" interviews. Sanchez admits his co-workers complained that he was unwilling to perform his share of interviews.*fn3 Sanchez believed he needed to observe more interviews before he would be ready to perform them, and he claims that one of his supervisors told him he needed to shadow more interviews before he could perform one. His supervisor, Edmund Morris, spent hours explaining syphilis to Sanchez and asked other employees to help Sanchez by demonstrating interviews. Three employees demonstrated full and partial syphilis interviews for Sanchez, and he observed interviews of persons with other communicable diseases.

His supervisors believed that his continued reluctance to perform interviews meant that he was heading for dismissal. In April 2005, frightened that he would lose his job, Sanchez spoke to his vocational counselor, his doctor, and his psychiatrist, stating that he had "nothing documented" about the "learning disorder/ADHD and HIV/neurapathy [sic]" and asked them to write him a "specific diagnosis and a letter that will request...needs or accommodations."

On April 20, 2005, Sanchez submitted a City of Chicago "Request for Reasonable Accommodation" in which he asked for 1) visual aids to assist with paperwork in syphilis interviews, 2) a smaller caseload for syphilis cases, to be increased over time, 3) closer supervision including more job shadowing in areas of inexperience (syphilis cases), and 4) free time off for medical appointments. Accompanying this request was a letter from his psychologist in which his psychologist told the City that Sanchez suffered from ADHD, some symptoms of which may be due to his HIV infection. His psychologist did not inform the City that he suffered from anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress.

On May 3, 2005, Sanchez met with Freda Weaver, Director of Field Operations, and Tasneem Shakir, the Employee Relations Supervisor in the Chicago Department of Public Health. They agreed that Sanchez would be transferred to the 31st Street Clinic, a clinic with a smaller caseload where Sanchez could have more supervision.

They also agreed to allow Sanchez to copy and color code his files but would not permit him to bring them home, and they told him he could bring a one-page "cheat sheet" to interviews. Finally, they suggested that Sanchez use his lunch hour or make specific requests under the City's sick leave policy to go to his medical appointments. These agreements were memorialized in a May 10, 2005 letter, along with an Enhanced Supervision and Training Schedule.

On May 4, 2005, Sanchez began working at the 31st Street Clinic. He admitted that at that point, the City was hoping he would be able to perform his job with additional assistance. There, he could use color-coded box files and visual aids, and at least as of May 13, he could use a "cheat sheet." Further, his supervisor highlighted her comments on his files. He completed two interviews, one of which was audited by his supervisor. However, Sanchez never completed his interview "cheat sheet" either before or after the two syphilis interviews he conducted at the 31st Street Clinic.*fn4 His supervisors testified that he remained reluctant to perform interviews, although Sanchez submitted a post-deposition affidavit in which he denies this claim.

On June 10, 2005, Sanchez was discharged by Dawn Broussard. All parties agree that the primary issue motivating his dismissal was his reluctance to perform interviews. There is considerable dispute over the persons involved in the decision to terminate Sanchez; while the City maintains that Dawn Broussard terminated him, Sanchez contends that the decision was actually made between Broussard, Lora Branch, Weaver, and Yvonne Cruz (acting as Broussard's replacement during her maternity leave). ...

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