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Owens v. St. Agnes Healthcare

September 28, 2007

HELEN OWENS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ST. AGNES HEALTHCARE AND ST. AGNES NURSING CENTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Elaine E. Bucklo United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Helen Owen filed a three count complaint against defendants St. Agnes Healthcare and St. Agnes Nursing Center (collectively "St. Agnes") alleging violations of the Americans with Disability Act ("ADA"). Specifically, Owens alleges discrimination based on disability, that St. Agnes failed to accommodate her purported disability, and retaliatory discharge. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all counts. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion is granted.

I.

St. Agnes is a nursing facility which provides long-term care to elderly patients. Owens first became employed by St. Agnes as a certified nursing assistant ("CNA") in April of 2000. As a CNA, Owens' responsibilities included feeding, dressing, bathing, transporting, and generally assisting patients within the facility. Owens worked the night shift, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. (the "11-7 shift").

In October 2004, the management at St. Agnes began receiving complaints from staff members regarding Owens. The written complaints stated that Owens was being uncooperative, disrespectful to the staff, leaving her work station without permission, making false accusations against various staff members, and improperly eating at the nurses' station. In response, the assistant director of nursing, Betty McKenzie and CNA supervisor Ann Davidson met with Owens on November 3, 2004. When confronted with the complaints Owens defended herself by saying that people were framing and harassing her and that everyone sleeps on the job. The next day, the director of nursing, Herminia Sobremisana, and Davidson met with Owens again. Owens reiterated that she was being framed and told them there was a mafia at St. Agnes. She also told them she had filed a lawsuit against Governor Ryan, and that the government was coming after her. At that time, management decided Owens should be subject to closer supervision on the job and gave her the option of transferring to another shift that would facilitate supervision, for management was generally not present during the night shift.

On November 9, 2004, Owens began working a day shift from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. ("the 3-11 shift"). She did so for seven days that month and then went on medical leave. Medical records indicate that in November Owens was treated for a back sprain and was given a return to work verification form indicating she was able to return to work on November 27. Owens then visited the hospital again in early December for her back injury. Ultimately, she was told by doctors that she could return to work on January 3, 2005 and she was on leave from St. Agnes until that date.

During Owens' medical leave, on or about December 1, the management at St. Agnes received another written complaint regarding Owens. This complaint was signed by seventeen employees who worked with Owens on the 11-7 shift and stated that they would not be willing to work with plaintiff again. The complaint alleged that Owens had exhibited threatening behavior towards staff, including threats that she was able to "kill" them and not go to jail because she was schizophrenic; used obscene language directed towards staff; made false accusations that a staff member was killing patients and had sent a respiratory therapist to have sex with her; falsely accused staff of pouring urine on her patients; accusations that her supervisors were running a mafia at St. Agnes; threatened to sue St. Agnes if she lost her job; and had a lack of cooperation in patient care.

On December 29, while still on leave, Owens contacted St. Agnes and informed them that she would only be able to work the 11-7 shift. Upon her return on January 3, St. Agnes terminated her employment based on Owens' misconduct identified in the written complaint by staff. In response, Owens filed a grievance with her union. At a meeting with union and St. Agnes representatives, the parties agreed to reinstate Owens on the condition that she not work the 11-7 shift. Owens agreed to work the 7-3 shift beginning on January 17.

Owens worked January 17, failed to work the next day, worked again on January 19, and then called in on January 20 to inform St. Agnes that she was too sick to work and did not know when she would be returning. She did not provide any medical records to that effect. On January 21, St. Agnes decided to terminate Owens' in light of her poor attendance and the previous employee complaints. A formal letter of termination was sent to Owens via certified mail on January 25.

Owens filed a formal charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Owens alleged discrimination based on disability and retaliation for having complained of discrimination. She did not identify her disability. The EEOC issued a right to sue on March 29, 2005. Owens then filed the present complaint.

II.

Summary judgment is appropriate where the record shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Timmons v. Gen. Motors Corp., 469 F.3d 1122, 1125 (7th Cir. 2006); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). I must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). I must also remain mindful of Owens pro se status. See Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir. 1998); Philipper v. Dorn, No. 98 C 7722, 1999 WL 558123, at *6 (N.D. Ill. 1999) (Pallmeyer, J.).

III.

"To make out a claim under the ADA, an ...


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