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Winsley v. Cook County

April 29, 2008


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


Plaintiff Marsalette S. Winsley filed a three count complaint against defendant Cook County d/b/a Cook County Department of Public Health. Count I alleges defendant violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. Count II alleges defendant violated her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. by treating her differently and discriminating against her because of her race. In count III, plaintiff alleges defendant violated Title VII and the ADA when it retaliated against her for requesting accommodations and filing an EEOC charge. Defendant moves for summary judgment on all counts. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.


The following facts are not disputed. Since October 2001 plaintiff worked as a Public Health Nurse I for defendant. She was assigned as a Genetics and Perinatal Hepatitis Coordinator in Oak Park. In July 2003, plaintiff took a leave of absence to have a hysterectomy and kidney surgery. While plaintiff was on leave, the Genetics and Perinatal Hepatitis Coordinator position was given to a Caucasian nurse. Upon her return in December 2003, plaintiff was reassigned as a Family Case Manager (a "field nurse") in Maywood, but was still classified as a Public Health Nurse I.

As a field nurse, plaintiff facilitated care for pregnant women and their newborns in certain communities of the western suburbs. Plaintiff would go to the homes of her clients to conduct developmental assessment of the children; make sure the children were vaccinated; and, if they showed signs of delayed development, arrange for early intervention. Driving is a requirement of this job position. Attendance is also a requirement of the job.

On March 23, 2004, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident. Plaintiff did not obtain emergency medical attention or go to the hospital at the time of the accident. After the accident, plaintiff contacted her psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Bednarz, by telephone because she was having panic attacks and could not sleep. Plaintiff then went to see her primary care physician because she had some pain in her head and along her left side that lasted for approximately two or three weeks. After an office visit with Dr. Bednarz, in the beginning of April, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"). Although plaintiff already suffered from a general anxiety disorder and had a history of depression, and was being treated with medication and psychotherapy, she claims she was suffering from unusual panic attacks and that her depression worsened after the accident. Dr. Bednarz switched plaintiff's medications over time, but plaintiff cannot recall if he gave additional medication or increased her prescribed dosage of Paxil at the time he diagnosed her with PTSD.

Upon Dr. Bednarz's recommendation, plaintiff took a leave from work from April 6 through the end of the month. In a note dated April 24, 2004, Dr. Bednarz informed defendant that as of April 30, 2004, plaintiff could return to work part-time with minimal work-related driving. Dr. Bednarz placed the driving restriction on plaintiff because she would panic when she got into a car. Defendant honored the requested driving restriction and allowed her to work part-time in the Markham office, which was closer to her house, for approximately six weeks.

On June 2, 2004, plaintiff was informed that she could not continue to work part-time and remain classified as a Public Health Nurse I past the requested accommodation period, and she was expected to resume her previous duties on June 7. In the event that plaintiff was not able to resume her duties, she was required to provide a physician's note and would be demoted to the classification of Registered Nurse I to the only site with vacancies for such an assignment. On June 9, 2004, plaintiff received another communication providing "our original agreement was for a 4 week period of accommodation. This Friday marks the end of 6 weeks and we can no longer continue to grant you the special assignment." The memorandum sent to plaintiff also set forth plaintiff's employment options with defendants as

1. Request a disability leave of absence and pursue benefits through the County's Annuity and Benefits Office.

2. Resume full-time duties of a Public Health Nurse in Maywood, including field duties.

3. Request reassignment with demotion to a clinic nurse position in SDO. . . .

4. Request reassignment to part-time status (20 hours per week) in SDO clinics in the category of Registered Nurse I. This pays the In-house registry rate of $30 per hour without benefits. This option just became available due to a recent resignation. You would be able to continue benefits under COBRA by paying premiums.

All the above options must be decided with the approval of your physician, EAP, and County Medical.

On June 11, 2004, Dr. Bednarz sent a note to defendant, stating that plaintiff was still experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD and continued to have difficulty driving, and plaintiff took the first option ...

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