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Fry v. Sheahan

August 12, 2009


Judge James B. Zagel


This case arises out of alleged work-related discrimination against and refusal to accommodate Plaintiff Tracey Fry, who is disabled as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended ("ADA"). Fry began her employment with Defendant Cook County Sheriff's Department in July 2000. She alleges that Defendants failed to accommodate her March 2003 request to limit her job duties to desk work only and to less than twenty minutes total of being on her feet per day. Defendants now move for summary judgment on the one-count complaint, which I grant for the reasons stated herein.

I. Standard of Review

Summary judgment should be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable party could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Pugh v. City of Attica, Ind., 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

Once the moving party has set forth the basis for summary judgment, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party who must go beyond mere allegations and offer specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). The nonmoving party must offer more than "[c]onclusory allegations, unsupported by specific facts" in order to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 773 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990)). A party will be successful in opposing summary judgment only if it presents "definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion." EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 233 F.3d 432, 437 (7th Cir. 2000). I consider the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002). I will accept the nonmoving party's version of any disputed fact only if it is supported by relevant, admissible evidence. Bombard v. Fort Wayne Newspapers, Inc., 92 F.3d 560, 562 (7th Cir. 1996).

II. Preliminary Issues

As an initial matter, Defendants request that most of Plaintiff's statements of additional fact be stricken because they are "replete with conclusory assertions unsupported by admissible evidence." Specifically, Defendants request that paragraphs 3, 6-17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25, and 30 be stricken or disregarded from the record. I disregard paragraph 15 ("It seemed to me that they were intentionally trying to make my work life miserable so that I would quit.") because it is conjecture and mere speculation that cannot be relied upon to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Abioye v. Sundstrand Corp., 164 F.3d 364, 368 (7th Cir. 1998) (affidavits must be based upon personal knowledge). Insofar as paragraphs 17, 19, 20, and 24 are based upon inadmissible hearsay, I further strike the facts contained in those paragraphs. See Winskunas v. Birnbaum, 23 F.3d 1264, 1268 (7th Cir. 1994) (plaintiff must "ward off the grant of the motion [for summary judgment]" by presenting "evidence of evidentiary quality; hearsay is "incapable of creating a genuine issue of material fact."). To the extent necessary, I address the remaining statements of additional facts in the Factual Background and Discussion sections, infra, Parts III IV.

Defendants also contend that Plaintiff's response to Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts fails to comply with the local rules. Plaintiff admitted to the facts set forth in paragraphs 1-8, 10-12, 17, 19-21 and 23-24. I deem those paragraphs admitted. With regard to paragraph 9, Fry's denial is well-taken. The portion of Fry's transcript cited and included in the record does not support Defendants' statement that Fry's supervisor informed Fry "that she could not work as an Administrative Assistant I located in the Interlock of Division V of the Cook County Jail with the restrictions contained in Plaintiff's doctor's notes." Defendants cite to Fry's deposition transcript at pages 14 - 16 but have only included page 16. On that page, Fry testifies that Kurtovich took her doctor's note and said that she could not "return to work until [she] was either not sick or [until she] had no restrictions." For purposes of ruling on this motion, this is the version of the events contained in paragraph 9 on which I will rely.

I also sustain Fry's objection to Defendants' paragraphs 13-15 to the extent that those paragraphs call for the legal conclusion that Defendants' actions "attempt[ed] to accommodate" or "accommodate[d]" Fry. Subject to that qualification, Fry has admitted the remaining factual assertions in these paragraphs.

Fry failed to respond to paragraph 16, which I deem admitted.

Fry denies paragraph 18, which states "Plaintiff did not return to work after March 22, 2003," citing Defendants' own statement of fact contained in paragraph 24, which states "Plaintiff accepted defendants' offer and returned to work October 29, 2007 in the accommodated position." Though inartfully drafted, the undisputed fact is that Fry did not return to work after March 22, 2003 until October 29, 2007. I strike the legal conclusion from paragraph 24 that Fry returned to an "accommodated position."

Finally, with regard to paragraph 22, which states that Fry was unable to work from October 2003 until October 2007 because she was disabled while waiting for and ultimately receiving a kidney and pancreas transplant, I accept as true that for at least a portion of that time (from March 2003 through most of 2004) Fry was physically capable of performing the duties required by an administrative assistant subject to the restrictions she and her doctors requested.*fn1

III. Factual Background

Plaintiff began working for Defendant in July 2000. In 2003, Fry was employed as an Administrative Assistant I located in the Interlock of Division V of the Cook County Jail, Grade 12. In this capacity, Fry's job duties included data entry, telephone operations, filing, and manning the counter. Part of her job included collecting information from the files for various ...

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