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Follis v. Memorial Medical Center

September 11, 2009

LINDA FOLLIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, A CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This cause is before the Court on Defendant Memorial Medical Center's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 16). For the reasons stated below, the Motion is allowed in part and denied in part.

APPLICABLE LAW

A motion for summary judgment must be granted "'if 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.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Herman v. Nat'l Broad. Co., 744 F.2d 604, 607 (7th Cir. 1984). Once the moving party has produced evidence showing that it is entitled to summary judgment, the non-moving party must present evidence to show that issues of fact remain. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). "Summary judgment is appropriately entered 'against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" McKenzie v. Ill. Dept. of Transp., 92 F.3d 473, 479 (7th Cir. 1996) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).

To successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must do more than raise a "metaphysical doubt" as to the material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586. Instead, she must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587 (emphasis in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'"

Id. Finally, "[a]lthough [the court] must, for purposes of summary judgment review, draw any inferences from the record in favor of the plaintiff, [it is] not required to draw every conceivable inference from the record. [It] need draw only reasonable ones." See Tyler v. Runyon, 70 F.3d 458, 467 (7th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks omitted).

FACTS

Plaintiff Linda Follis is a 55-year-old woman who worked for Defendant Memorial Medical Center (MMC) as the Mammography Department's manager from August 1, 2005, through January 12, 2007. In January of 2007, MMC terminated Follis, and she claims that MMC failed to accommodate a disability she suffered and discriminated against her based on her age and a request she made for leave.

When Follis first started working as the Mammography Department manager, a woman named Kathy Ambs supervised her. Kevin England, the Vice President of Clinical Support Services, supervised Ambs. Ambs left MMC in the fall of 2006, and England asked Follis and others to help him interview candidates to fill her position as Director of Radiology. During this process, Follis participated in an interview of Marjorie Calvetti, who at that time worked in MMC's radiology department as an education coordinator. Before Calvetti interviewed for Ambs' position, Follis and Calvetti had interacted on several occasions. Follis believed that they had different leadership styles, and she worried that she and Calvetti would not work well together.

After interviewing Calvetti, Follis prepared a written evaluation of her for England. She wrote that Calvetti was rigid and controlling, unresponsive to customer needs, arrogant, sometimes clueless, and overly self-focused. She also suggested that Calvetti lacked deep and broad leadership experience.

Despite Follis' evaluation, Calvetti became the new Director of Radiology on October 10, 2006. Ten days later, Calvetti told Follis that "[a]nybody who thinks I'm too young . . . or can't do this job doesn't know what I'm made of." Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit A, Follis Deposition, at 12. At the time, Calvetti was 32, and Follis was 52.

After Calvetti started as Director of Radiology, Follis attended a meeting at which she and another MMC employee who reported to Calvetti, Kelly Herter, were present. During the meeting, Herter asked Calvetti if she could leave work early, assuming that her work was done and the unit appropriately staffed. Calvetti told Herter, "Yes, if you're staffed; but if you go shopping and buy shoes and don't bring me any, then you'll be in trouble." Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit A, Follis Deposition, at 12-13. Follis believes Herter is younger than she is.

Follis never asked to leave work early, but she did request permission to arrive late. Before Calvetti became her supervisor, in December of 2005, Follis began experiencing a loss of strength in her lower extremities. By December 30, 2005, she could not support herself while standing, and MMC doctors diagnosed her with postacute transverse myelitis. This condition impairs her spinal cord and affects the functionality of her lower extremities. Through treatment and medication, Follis regained the ability to support herself, but walking continued to be difficult. She walked slowly, with a spastic leg and dragging right foot. Sometimes she needed to stop and rest, and she could not cross the skyway connecting the MMC building to another clinic building without doing so. Her condition also led to occasional falls.*fn1

The parties dispute the extent to which Calvetti was aware of Follis' condition. Follis contends that she discussed her condition with Calvetti on numerous occasions, and Calvetti had observed her slow walking pace. Calvetti contends that she knew only that Follis had a rare condition that required her to engage in physical therapy and sometimes led to "slow starts in the morning." Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit C, Calvetti Deposition, at 80. Because Follis is the non-movant, the Court assumes for purposes of this Motion that Calvetti and Follis had discussed Follis' condition numerous times, and Calvetti had observed Follis walking with difficulty. It is undisputed that Follis never initiated an accommodation request through MMC's Human Resources Department pursuant to MMC's ADA Reasonable Accommodation Policy.

At a staff meeting on Halloween, Calvetti told Follis that she was concerned that Follis had been arriving at work late, and she informed Follis that she expected her to be at work at 7:00 a.m. Follis told Calvetti that she occasionally needed a little bit of extra time in the morning to allow her medication to adjust her increased spasticity and asked if she could have a flexible work schedule allowing her to arrive after 7:00 a.m. on occasion. Calvetti denied her request, stating that she needed Follis to provide a good example for the rest of her staff.

Also at this Halloween meeting, Calvetti and Follis discussed treat bags Follis had made for some members of the Radiology Department. Follis wanted to reward her staff and prepared treat bags for them. She did most of the work on these bags at home, but she finished them at work, during her breaks and over lunch. She gave the bags to her subordinate employees. At the meeting, Calvetti indicated that staff members who had not received bags were upset. Additionally, she stated that she understood that Follis had prepared the bags on hospital time. Before this meeting, Follis heard from a co-worker that Calvetti had asked about the bags. At the meeting, Follis told Calvetti that if Calvetti had something to say to her, Calvetti should say it directly to her instead of speaking to other people about it.

Later, in November, Follis and Calvetti again discussed Follis' arrival time, because Follis had arrived late that morning after falling in her driveway. Calvetti did not inquire about Follis' health after this fall, but she offered to allow Follis to begin reporting to work at 8:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. Follis declined Calvetti's offer because an 8:00 a.m. arrival time did not fit with her husband's schedule, and the two drove to work together each morning. Follis also thought it was important to be at work when her staff was present, and some staff members started at 7:00 a.m. Follis reiterated her desire for a flexible start time, but Calvetti again refused this request.

At another meeting in November, Calvetti told Follis that she had received a number of phone calls from women asking why MMC had no digital mammography equipment. Follis told Calvetti that she would investigate, and she discovered that another MMC employee had been encouraging women at her church to contact MMC and request digital mammography equipment. On November 14, 2006, Calvetti and England asked Follis to develop a business plan for bringing digital mammography equipment to MMC. Follis had already begun working on a digital transition plan, and she continued to do so after this meeting, but Calvetti was disappointed in the level of progress Follis made.

On November 15, 2006, in a meeting of Follis' staff, one of the staff members asked MMC CEO Ed Curtis if MMC would get digital mammography equipment by the end of the year. Curtis indicated that MMC was recruiting a full-time doctor for mammography, and it would not make any decisions on digital equipment until the new physician started. Calvetti believed that Follis missed an opportunity at this meeting to tell her staff of the ongoing transition planning.

Calvetti was also concerned about a phone conversation Follis had with another employee. In December, Follis planned to attend a conference, but she ran into a staffing dilemma. One of her employees, Jackie Thomas, was in the hospital with stomach problems. Another of her employees, Vicky Franzen, was to attend the conference as well. Follis then received a voicemail from another of her employees, Jennifer Stone, who indicated that she seemed to be recovering from an illness that had kept her home, and she intended to be at work the next day. Follis thought Stone still sounded ill, however, and she worried that if Stone was not in fact able to return to work the next day, the office would be short four employees. Follis considered not attending the conference to prevent this shortage, but she first called Stone at home to ask whether Stone was confident she could return to work the next day. Follis told Stone that Thomas was also out, with stomach problems that required her to be in the hospital. Stone then complained to Calvetti that Follis had breached Thomas' confidentiality by discussing her medical condition, and Calvetti met with Follis to discuss the issue.

On December 15, 2006, Follis submitted a request to the Employee Health Department for permission to use intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Employee Health Department granted her request on December 15, 2006. Eleven days later, Follis advised Calvetti that ...


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