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Moody v. Cook County

June 1, 2007

LARRY MOODY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Larry Moody ("Plaintiff" or "Moody") filed this action against Defendant Cook County ("the County") alleging that the County failed to accommodate his disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. and discriminated against him because of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), et seq. Genuine issues of fact exist as to whether the County could reasonably accommodate Plaintiff's disability by assigning him to a position in the paint shop without bumping other employees out of their positions, creating a new position or reallocating essential functions of the position. As to Plaintiff's Title VII claim, however, Plaintiff's evidence that two Caucasian employees with arthritis currently perform the work in the paint shop is insufficient to convince a reasonable jury that the County refuses to accommodate him because of his race.

Statement of Facts

The County hired Moody as a painter in the Buildings and Grounds Department of the Bureau of Health Services of Cook County on March 4, 1994. (Def. ¶ 5.)*fn1 The County of Cook Standard Job Description for a Painter ("Job Description") provides the minimum job qualifications, job description and job duties for a painter in Cook County ("Painter"). (Def. ¶ 10.) The Job Description states that being a Painter involves considerable standing, walking, lifting, pushing and other types of physical exertion. (Def. ¶ 13.) The Job Description further requires that a Painter must possess the physical stamina to stand, walk and climb throughout the day. (Def. ¶ 14.)

Anthony Giovannetti, Painter Foreman, supervised Moody from 1994 until the present. (Def. ¶ 7.) John Alsterda is the Director of Buildings and Grounds at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital ("Hospital"). (Def. ¶ 8.) As Director of Buildings and Grounds, John Alsterda is responsible for the maintenance of the facilities and the grounds at the Hospital, the regulatory compliance for the facilities and for addressing budget and personnel issues. (Def. ¶ 9.) John Alsterda also determines for all employees within his department, whether a medical restriction can be accommodated in consultation with Employee Health Services, the Human Resource Department and the employee's individual supervisor. (Def. ¶ 20.) Dr. Patricia Kelleher is the Director of Stroger Hospital Employee Health Services. (Def. ¶ 16.) Dr. Kelleher testified that the Hospital's practice when an employee requests work restrictions is for Employee Health Services to review the restrictions and check with the applicable department to see if it can accept the work restrictions. (Def. ¶ 17.) In cases where a department accepts the work restrictions, the employee returns to work pursuant to the accepted restrictions and is reviewed every few weeks to determine if the accommodated position is appropriate for both the employee and the department. (Def. ¶ 18.) If a particular department does not accept the work restrictions, the employee is referred to Human Resources to determine whether the employee can be reassigned to an open position at the Hospital. (Def. ¶ 19.)

Moody is a member of the painters union where he is classified as a journeyman painter.

(Plf. ¶ 3.)*fn2 Prior to 2002 and through the present Moody has suffered from severe osteoarthritis of the knees. (Plf. ¶ 9.) Moody went on non-duty disability leave from his job as a Painter for the first time in 2003. (Def. ¶ 23.) Moody spoke with Giovannetti in early 2004 about returning to work after his disability leave. (Plf. ¶ 15.) Although Moody officially returned from his first non-duty disability leave on May 4, 2004 without restrictions, Giovannetti, Alsterda and Kelleher understood Moody's limitations. (Def. ¶ 24; Plf. ¶ 11.) According to Giovannetti, Moody's Foreman, the County made an accommodation because there was work in the shop and they could utilize him despite the restrictions. (Plf. ¶ 11.) Giovannetti planned on having Moody work primarily in the paint shop and assigned Moody work that did not involve climbing, kneeling or standing for extended periods of time. (Def. ¶¶ 25-26.) Generally, work in the paint shop consists of sign making, mixing paint, doing inventories, doing stock work, standing and varnishing woodwork and painting or finishing small furniture. (Def. ¶ 37.) When Moody returned to work Giovannetti assigned him to do wood finishing, painting small items in the shop, learning the signage machine and hanging signs outside of the shop. (Def. ¶ 27.)

George Graves and Michael LaFrey, who are both Caucasian, worked in the paint shop at that time. (Def. ¶ 28.) Graves has been a Painter for 24 years and worked mainly in the paint shop for the last 16-17 years. (Def. ¶ 29.) Graves currently has arthritis in his knees, shoulders and hands. (Def. ¶ 30.) On any particular week, Graves will have between three to twenty-five job related functions outside of the paint shop and leaves the shop ten to twelve times a week to perform work related duties. (Def. ¶ 38.) LaFrey has been a Painter since 1982 and has been assigned to work primarily in the paint shop for the last 13-14 years. (Def. ¶ 31.) LaFrey currently has arthritis, which limits the duties he can perform. (Def. ¶ 32.) LaFrey cannot carry 100-pound objects across the room, periodically has trouble with his balance and has a different walk. (Def. ¶ 32.) LaFrey occasionally leaves the paint shop, perhaps once every six months to assist on an emergency job. (LaFrey Dep. at 11, 15-16.) LaFrey rarely climbs on a ladder to perform his work. (LaFrey Dep. at 15, 19.)

On June 2, 2004, Giovannetti received a job request to re-label the cabinets in the architect's office. (Def. ¶ 40.) Giovannetti assigned the job to Moody. (Id.) To complete the assignment, Moody needed to remove the existing labels with a razor scraper or charm knife, remove the old adhesive and apply new labels. (Id.) Giovannetti and James Judge, the Assistant Foreman, estimated that the cabinets were six and a half feet high. (Def. ¶¶ 41-42, 45.) Moody described the cabinets as eight or nine feet high. (Plf. ¶ 26.) After removing a number of the labels -- which Moody estimated at "over 100" and Judge estimated as much less -- Moody returned to the paint shop and told Giovannetti that he could not complete the job because he could not reach the top cabinets without a ladder. (Def. ¶ 54, Plf. ¶ 27.) A disagreement between Moody and Giovannetti followed which, according to Moody, culminated with Giovannetti telling him to "Get the f--- out of here." (Plf. ¶ 28.) Moody then went to Employee Health Services and informed a doctor there that he would have to go back on disability. (Def. ¶ 52.)

Dr. Gregory Clark has been Moody's doctor since approximately 2000. (Clark Aff. ¶ 2.) On February 28, 2006, Dr. Clarke released Moody to return to work on limited duty with the following restrictions: no standing for more than five minutes, no climbing, no lifting of more than ten pounds, or walking for longer than two minutes. (Def. ¶ 58.) On May 8, 2006, the County gave Moody an Employee Health Disposition Form which indicated that the County would not accept the restrictions imposed by Dr. Clarke on February 28, 2006. (Def. ¶ 67.) Dr. Clarke then provided Cook County with revised restrictions that consisted of no standing for more than five minutes and sitting from three to five minutes in between standing, walking no more than a maximum of one block and no lifting more than fifty pounds. (Def. ¶¶ 68-69.) John Alsterda reviewed the revised restrictions in consultation with Employee Health Services and Giovannetti and determined that the County could not agree to the restrictions. (Def. ¶ 70.) Moody currently remains under the same restrictions from his doctor. (Def. ¶ 74.)

Discussion

Summary judgment is proper 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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate only when no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

I. ADA Claim

The ADA prohibits discrimination against "a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). A plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that he: (1) is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) is qualified to perform the essential functions of his job either with or without reasonable accommodation ("a qualified individual"); and (3) has suffered from an adverse employment decision because of his disability. See Dvorak v. Mostardi Platt Associates, Inc., 289 F.3d 479, 483 (7th Cir. ...


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