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Malone v. Illinois Dep't of Corrections

September 14, 2009

DANA L. MALONE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; CENTRAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES; STATE EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Dana Malone has sued the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS), and the State Employees' Retirement System (SERS), asserting a claim for retaliation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794(d). The defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of Malone's claims. For the following reasons, the Court grants defendants' motion in part, and denies it in part.

Facts

Because the defendants have moved for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to Malone and draws reasonable inferences in her favor. See, e.g., Nat'l Athletic Sportswear, Inc. v. Westfield Ins. Co., 528 F.3d 508, 512 (7th Cir. 2008).

Malone was employed by IDOC in a position entitled Youth Supervisor II. IDOC is a state agency that oversees and manages correctional facilities in Illinois. In 1993, Malone suffered an injury at work and was unable to perform her duties as a Youth Supervisor II. After she was placed on disability and awarded worker's compensation benefits, Malone applied for the Alternative Employment Program (AEP), administered by CMS, the state agency responsible for employee placement. The program places state employees with disabilities in jobs they can perform with their medical restrictions. Malone was first admitted into the AEP in 1994 and was enrolled again in 2001.

Once an employee is enrolled in AEP, CMS issues her an AEP grade. The AEP grade is the mechanism by which AEP refers a participant to an available position. AEP grades typically expire after three years. While in AEP, an employee remains on leave with her employer-agency. If the employee's AEP grades expire, the employee returns to her former position with her agency if medically able to do so, retires if eligible, resigns, or is discharged.

In November 2002, Malone filed a lawsuit against several IDOC employees, alleging discrimination and failure to accommodate her disability. Malone v. Shallcross, No. 02 C 8126, 2004 WL 2534382 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 8, 2004) (Malone I). Another judge of this court ultimately granted defendants' motion for summary judgment in that case. Id.

After losing her lawsuit, Malone tried to obtain placement in IDOC. She contends that IDOC and CMS employees refused to speak with her or answer her questions about her employment status. When Malone's AEP grades automatically expired in 2004, she says, no one informed her of this development or of other employment options she could have pursued, including applying for positions directly with IDOC.

In March 2005, Malone filed an EEOC charge claiming retaliation, naming IDOC as the respondent. In her charge, Malone stated that "after becoming disabled I was supposed to have been placed in Respondent's Alternative Employment program" but was "never . . . notified of any positions that have been available and for which I can perform the duties. Respondent has not clarified my employment status, and I have been left on leave for the past eleven years. This has continued because of my prior charges of discrimination." Pl. Ex. 2. After receiving a right-to-sue notice from the EEOC, Malone filed this lawsuit in July 2005.

IDOC and CMS contend that prior to January 1, 2005, there was no policy or procedure in place through which CMS informed agencies or AEP participants of the expiration of employees' AEP grades. Beginning in June 2005, CMS informed participants whose grades had previously expired that they were no longer eligible to participate in AEP. Malone was not informed that her grades had expired until October 2005, after repeated phone calls to various CMS and IDOC employees.

In January 2007, a SERS employee directed the State's Attorney's Office to collect a $17,807.18 debt from Malone. That debt had previously been discharged in bankruptcy. On February 13, 2007, Malone received a letter demanding that she contact the State's Attorney's Office to arrange payment. SERS took no further action with respect to the matter. SERS admits that it had no authority to attempt to collect the discharged debt.

Discussion

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To determine whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002). A genuine issue ...


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