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Dooley v. Abbott Laboratories

April 17, 2009

SHARON DOOLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ABBOTT LABORATORIES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Virginia M. Kendall, United States District Judge

Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Sharon Dooley ("Dooley"), filed suit against her former employer, Defendant Abbott Laboratories ("Abbott"), alleging various discriminatory employment practices. Specifically, in Counts I and III, respectively, Dooley claims that Abbott violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., by failing to accommodate her disability, narcolepsy, and by retaliating against her. In Count II, Dooley claims that Abbott violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., when it eliminated her position and did not hire her for other open positions. Count IV of her Complaint stated a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but she has abandoned that claim. Abbott moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated, Abbott's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

STATEMENT OF UNDISPUTED FACTS

Abbott, a large health care company, hired Dooley on January 3, 1995 as a secretary within its Corporate Health and Safety Division. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 1, 4.)*fn1 In March 1998, Dooley received a promotion to the position of Private Fleet and Division Health and Safety Coordinator. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 6.) After Abbott spun-off one of its divisions, Dooley began reporting to the Warehousing Manager of the Distribution Center/Warehouse Frank Merlock ("Merlock") in August 2004. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 7.) At that point, her shift was scheduled to begin at 7:00 a.m. each day. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 14.)

As Private Fleet and Division Health and Safety Coordinator, Dooley oversaw Abbott's shuttle operations within Lake County, Illinois. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 9.) Abbott's Health Systems Division conducted shuttle operations to coordinate moving bulky hospital equipment between Abbott's various warehouses and distribution centers as part of its supply chain strategy. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 38.) To facilitate moving the equipment, the shuttle operation leased three truck cabs and seventeen trailers. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 41.) After the 2004 spin-off, Abbott's shuttle operations in Lake County consisted of Dooley, four leased drivers and one leased dispatcher. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 39-40.) In her role, Dooley reviewed the hours of the leased drivers, reviewed and reported fleet expenses, verified compliance with Department of Transportation, OSHA and HazMat regulations, acted as a back-up dispatcher, maintained departmental records and investigated complaints. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 10.)

Dooley Requests Accommodations for Narcolepsy

On September 17, 2004, Dooley informed Merlock that she suffered from narcolepsy -- a condition characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 15.) She explained that as a result of her condition, on some mornings it was physically impossible for her to open her eyes for periods of time ranging from fifteen to forty five minutes. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 2.) She told Merlock that she had difficulty making it to work in time for the start of her shift on mornings when she could not open her eyes. (Id.) She then asked Merlock for a flexible work schedule, where she could arrive to work at some time between the hours of 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. and work for the eight hours after her arrival time each day. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 15; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 7.) Merlock explained that giving her a variable start time would have a negative effect on the shuttling operation because the operation needed the coordinator to be on-site to function, so allowing her to have a variable start time could result in downtime for the other members of the operation while they waited for her to arrive. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 17; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 7.) Instead of offering her a variable start time, he moved her start time to 8:30 a.m. to give her more time to get to work. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 16.)

Abbott examined Dooley's job responsibilities and changed her title to Transportation Environmental, Health and Safety Administrator on February 14, 2005, although her duties remained the same. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 8.) She continued to report to Merlock, but she also reported to Team Leader Sue Bye ("Bye"). (Id.; Dooley Dep. at 116:10-13.)

On March 2, 2006, Dooley again requested that her shift begin whenever she arrived at work between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m and end eight hours thereafter. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 18.) In response, Merlock again explained the difficulties that giving her a variable start time would have on the shuttling operation. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 19.) Instead of offering her a variable start time, he allowed her to choose any fixed start time between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. (Id.) Although Dooley could have chosen to a start time of 9:00; she chose to keep her start time of 8:30 a.m. (Dooley Dep. at 89:14-17.) Despite agreeing to that arrangement, Dooley arrived late for work on seventeen different occasions during the first half of 2006. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 20.) Dooley received her first written warning for tardiness from Abbott on August 18, 2006. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 21.)

In the fall of 2006, Dooley requested that her shift begin whenever she arrived at work between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. for the third time. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 22.) In support of her request, she submitted a note from her physician that warned "forcing [Dooley] to achieve a strict schedule potentially places her and others on the road at increased risk" because of her narcolepsy. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 23.) Dooley's previous requests for a variable start time did not include a doctor's note warning of the risks associated with scheduling her for a fixed start time each morning. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 24.) In November 2006, after receiving the documentation from Dooley's physician, Abbott granted her request for a variable start time and allowed her to start her shift at any time between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 25.) Additionally, Abbott informed Dooley that it would remove the written warning from her personnel file. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 26.)

After Abbott gave Dooley permission to start her shift at any time between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m., she claims that Abbott subjected her to harassment. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 27.) For example, some of Dooley's co-workers asked her why she arrived at work early on some days but not on others. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 31.) When she responded that she had narcolepsy and received a flexible starting time as an accommodation, two of her co-workers asked her further questions about her condition. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 34.) However, nobody made derogatory remarks to her about narcolepsy or her accommodation. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 37.) Periodically, Dooley would get her blood drawn for medical testing during her lunch hour. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 29; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 16.) On one occasion, she returned to work late after having her blood drawn. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 29; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 16.) After that incident, Bye required notice if Dooley planned to have her blood drawn during her lunch break on that day. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 29-30.) Additionally, Bye indicated that she needed to learn Dooley's job responsibilities. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶. 33.) Once she began learning Dooley's responsibilities, Bye always wanted to know when Dooley was leaving her desk to attend meetings or investigations. (Id.; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 16.)

Elimination of the Shuttle Operations

The lease and maintenance contracts on the shuttle operation's three truck cabs and seventeen trailers were scheduled to expire in January 2007. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 41.) During the spring months of 2006, in anticipation of that expiration date, Merlock had Dooley and Howard Longo ("Longo"), one of her co-workers, prepare a report that compared the cost of operating the shuttling service in-house to the cost of outsourcing the shuttle operation to a third party trucking company. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 42.) After collecting bids from three third party companies, Dooley and Longo reported their findings to Merlock in March 2006. (Pl.56.1 Resp. ¶ 43; Longo Aff. ¶ 4.) Once he analyzed their report and factored in other costs that outsourcing would eliminate, Merlock determined that Abbott would save over $100,000 annually by outsourcing the shuttle operations to a third party trucking company. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 44-45.) Because of the amount of money that Abbott could save, Merlock considered eliminating Abbott's in-house shuttle operation to be an "obvious decision." (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 46.) In October 2006, Merlock informed his supervisor Wayne Long ("Long") of the potential savings Abbott could achieve by hiring a trucking company to move the medical equipment. (Id.)

On November 17, 2006, Merlock sent an outsourcing proposal to Elizabeth Bennett ("Bennett"), Abbott's Director of Global Logistics. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 47.) On December 15, 1008, Abbott's Divisional Vice President of Global Supply Steve Lichter ("Lichter") approved Merlock's proposal to outsource the shuttle operation to a third party trucking company. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 48.) Lichter did not know that Dooley suffered from narcolepsy or that Abbott had provided her with an accommodation for the condition in the form of a flexible starting time. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 49.) On January 8, 2007, Merlock told Dooley that Abbott had decided to eliminate its shuttle operation. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 51.) In response, Dooley began actively searching for another position within Abbott through the company's internal job posting website, which all Abbott employees could access. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 54, 75.) Around the time that Abbott decided to eliminate its in-house shuttle operation, Abbott posted four available Distribution Center Servicer positions that reported to Merlock on the website. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 55.) However, Dooley did not apply for any of those available positions. (Id.)

On February 12, 2007, Merlock informed Dooley and five other contractors that Abbott had decided to eliminate their positions as a result of the decision to outsource the shuttle operation. None of the other employees had requested an accommodation for a disability. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 53.) (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 52-53.) On ...


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