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Wyche v. Illinois Dep't of Human Services

June 3, 2008

SHARON D. WYCHE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge George M. Marovich

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Sharon D. Wyche ("Wyche") filed a complaint in which she alleged that defendant the Illinois Department of Human Services ("IDHS") violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation, by terminating her employment, by harassing her and by retaliating against her for filing a charge of discrimination. Before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.*fn1

Wyche began working for IDHS on November 4, 1998. At IDHS, Wyche was supervised by Debra Baker-Dade ("Dade"), who supervised a number of employees that performed the type of work Wyche performed. The local IDHS office where both Dade and Wyche worked was run by Janet Hampton ("Hampton"), who was assisted by Patricia Lambert ("Lambert").

Wyche's job was to process food stamp applications and to make determinations with respect to medical and cash assistance. By all accounts, Wyche performed her duties well, but her attendance was not stellar.

Wyche did not have a particularly easy life. From 2000 to 2005, Wyche dated a co-worker who physically abused her. Wyche abused alcohol, and she used marijuana approximately once per week. Wyche sometimes used cocaine. Wyche often drank before coming to work in the morning. Dade estimated that Wyche was under the influence of alcohol at work approximately 65% of the time. Dade did not, however, discipline Wyche for being under the influence of alcohol at work because it did not affect Wyche's ability to perform her duties. In fact, Dade once told Wyche that she was one of Dade's best workers.

Wyche testified that during the years 2002, 2003 and 2004, she "had trouble sleeping." She testified, "I didn't want to get up. It was very hard for me to get up. I was--didn't--I wasn't feeling well enough to get up and I was overwhelmed with thinking about the day ahead of me." Wyche also testified that she informed her doctors that she had nightmares.

In early 2003, Wyche attempted suicide. According to Wyche's undisputed testimony (none of her medical records are in the record), a doctor diagnosed Wyche with depression and prescribed two anti-depressants, Lexapro and Doxepin. Doxepin also helps one to sleep. It is not clear from the record how long Wyche continued to take Lexapro and Doxepin. The medication made Wyche sleepy. Sometimes, Wyche used alcohol to stay awake.

Despite performing her job duties well, Wyche had problems with attendance. In each of Wyche's performance reviews between 1999 and 2004, Wyche's supervisors criticized her for using her leave time unwisely. At various times, Wyche was given verbal warnings about her attendance and tardiness.

All IDHS employees were allowed a certain amount of paid time off, which IDHS calls available benefit time. For example, each employee accrued one sick day on the first of each month. Each employee accrues three personal business days at the start of each year. Wyche, based on her seniority, earned 1.5 vacation days on the 16th day of each month. If an employee becomes sick after exhausting all of his or her available benefit time, he or she is given up to five additional excused absence days.

As part of a collective bargaining agreement between IDHS and the AFSCME union (of which Wyche was a member), IDHS enforced an "Affirmative Attendance Policy." The policy set out, among other things, the consequences to employees of their unauthorized absences. The IDHS classified unauthorized absences in one of two ways, depending on whether the employee called in to inform his or her supervisor of his or her absence. If the employee failed to call the supervisor, the IDHS classified the absence "XA." If the employee called the supervisor about the unauthorized absence, the IDHS classified the absence "UA." The Affirmative Attendance Policy allowed the IDHS to discharge an employee who, within any 24-month period, accumulated six XA's, i.e., the unauthorized absences for which he or she did not call his or her supervisor. The policy also allowed the IDHS to discharge an employee who, within any 24-month period, accumulated eleven UA's, i.e., the unauthorized absences for which he or she called his or her supervisor, or a combination of UA's and XA's.

During the year 2003, IDHS granted Wyche three leaves of absence. It is undisputed that the leaves were granted pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act, but it is not clear from the record whether the leaves were due to Wyche's depression or some other condition. The first leave extended from March 5, 2003 to April 7, 2003. The second leave was from June 24, 2003 to July 3, 2003, and the final leave was from August 19, 2003 to September 16, 2003.

In addition to the leaves of absence, the IDHS agreed at some point (and the timing is not included in the record) to give Wyche some leeway with respect to her arrival time. Wyche's normal hours were 8:30 to 5:00. IDHS agreed that so long as Wyche arrived to work by 9:30 ...


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