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Butler v. Village of Round Lake Police Department

October 8, 2008


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


This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant Village of Round Lake Police Department ("Round Lake") for summary judgment. For the following reasons, summary judgment is granted.


Plaintiff Patrick Butler ("Butler") seeks relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 626. The following recitation is derived from undisputed or otherwise admitted portions of Round Lake's 56.1 statement of material facts and Butler's 56.1 statement of additional facts.

In 1997, Butler began working full time as a police officer for Round Lake. He was a cooperative employee who never caused problems or required disciplinary action. In January 2002, Round Lake promoted Butler to the rank of sergeant. As sergeant, Butler's responsibilities included field patrol activities, responding to calls, and enforcing traffic laws*fn1 . By 2004, Butler had achieved status of second in seniority amongst sergeants. Lieutenant Michael Kemmerer assigned shifts to the employees, including Butler; Butler worked nights for six of the seven years he served.

In Fall 2003, Butler started experiencing symptoms associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"). COPD is a medical condition that can interfere with a person's everyday tasks such as dressing, bathing, talking, and sleeping. Butler's condition affected him when he traveled up stairs and jogged short distances. By May 2004, the pain in his chest increased to such a level that it caused advanced breathing difficulties; he became easily fatigued and found it painful to sit in a car. Dr. Min Lin treated Butler for COPD and recommended that he work day shifts to eliminate potential health hazards; on June 1, 2004, Dr. Lin released him to return to work with restrictions that specified no running or fighting.

After experiencing COPD symptoms and the subsequent limitations it caused him while working nights, Butler requested to work day or afternoon shifts or to be reassigned to a different branch within the department. He repeatedly notified Lieutenant Pete Molidor of his physical necessity to work day shifts; Butler was even willing to be demoted from rank as sergeant to fulfill his requests. Molidor recommended that Butler work in the schools as a School Resource Officer ("SRO"), help out with investigations, or participate in Drug Abuse Resistence Education ("DARE") jobs.

On June 15, 2004, Butler wrote Molidor, Kemmerer, and Chief Charles Foy a memo that explained the state of his health and reiterated his request to be assigned day shifts. Foy took Butler's requests to Mayor William Gentes and the Village's attorney; Gentes denied Butler's request and recommended termination. Consequently, Foy denied Butler's request and ordered him to compete a Fitness for Duty application requiring a physical examination by Dr. Peter Allegretti and an eye examination. Allegretti examined Butler on July 9 and concluded that Butler's COPD imposed significant limitations on him with respect to breathing and walking; there was nothing remarkable about his vision screen.

On August 10, Round Lake's attorney wrote Butler a letter denying his request for light duty and declared that he would only be considered for reinstatement after receiving full clearance that he could perform "all the normal duties expected of a police officer." (Pl. Statement of Additional Facts, ¶ 25.) The letter went on to say that "the only alternative you have is to make application for a disability pension." (Id.) Round Lake held a regular meeting on August 2 authorizing the Police Department to hire a replacement for Sergeant Butler. Butler, however, was under the impression that he would return to work once Allegretti cleared him to do so. On August 25, he wrote Foy a letter that reiterated past suggestions for alternative work; the positions Butler suggested were vacant. On September 13, Allegretti provided Butler with a release to return to work with the instruction that he work the day shift. Foy interpreted the report as not being a full release and, therefore, refused to employ Butler. Here again, Foy encouraged Butler to apply for pension benefits.

Butler filed an application for pension benefits on September 16, 2004. On February 7, 2005, Butler attended a Pension Board hearing to testify on behalf of his application for full disability pension. At the hearing, Patrick Quilty represented Butler's legal interests. In support of his application for disability benefits, Butler presented evidence of full disability and restrictions through medical reports prepared by Dr. Scott Field, Dr. William Benge, and Allegretti. Allegretti's report states that Butler was permanently disabled from police service, but may perform duties on a restricted basis*fn2 . Butler testified that he worked as a patrol sergeant and that Dr. Lin restricted him to light duty with no patrol work.

Butler filed this three-count complaint on June 20, 2006 alleging discrimination under the ADA and ADEA. At the completion of discovery, Round Lake moved for summary judgment in its favor. Butler opposes the instant motion.


Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party must identify the specific portions of the total record, which it believes establishes the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgmentis not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the ...

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