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Crosby v. Potter

September 23, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel United States District Judge

Judge James B. Zagel


I. Background

Plaintiff Mary Lu Crosby, a retired Postal Service employee, has filed suit against John Potter, the Postmaster General, alleging that she has been discriminated against by the United States Postal Service ("USPS") and was denied wages for work she performed. Previously, I granted the USPS's motion to dismiss Count II (denial of wages) for failure to state a claim. In Count I (the only remaining count), Crosby contends that she suffered retaliation in violation of Title VII when she was not permitted to return to work on either (1) June 22, 2005 after a letter from her doctor informed the Postal Service that Crosby could no longer perform her duties, or (2) July 13, 2005 after she submitted an updated doctor's letter that stated she could return to work with certain restrictions. Defendant Postmaster General now moves for summary judgment on Count I, arguing that Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence that she was retaliated against in violation of Title VII. Defendant's motion is granted.

II. 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 jury 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., 282 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).

III. Factual Background*fn1

Crosby was employed by the United States Postal Service ("USPS") from 1977 through 2005. Crosby was injured at work sometime in 1977 and that same year filed a Workers Compensation claim with the Department of Labor for injuries arising out of that incident. In 1990, the Postal Service approved Crosby for light duty restrictions. In 1993, Crosby became a supervisor in Business Mail Entry ("BME") in the bulk mail office at the post office in Carol Stream, Illinois. She held that position for about twelve years until her retirement in October 2005.

In 2003, Crosby underwent two back surgeries. Following those surgeries, she returned to work in June 2004. While serving as a BME supervisor in 2004 and 2005, Crosby reported to Leo Reese. On June 23, 2004, Crosby initiated an internal EEO complaint against Reese and another supervisor alleging race and disability discrimination for refusing to allow Crosby to return to the BME supervisor position. Crosby withdrew that complaint on July 12, 2004. Crosby returned to her BME supervisor position from June 2004 through June 22, 2005 under her doctor's medical restrictions that she work no more than four hours per day. There was no decrease in her pay. The only change in Crosby's employment was that another employee was brought in to perform some of Crosby's job duties, including lifting.

Dr. Fraser C. Henderson of Georgetown University Hospital began treating Crosby in March 2003. Dr. Henderson wrote letters to the Department of Labor on Crosby's behalf in relation to her pending Workers' Compensation claim. On March 23, 2005, Crosby wrote to Dr. Henderson requesting his assistance in various areas of her claim with the Department of Labor. On May 19, 2005, Dr. Henderson sent a letter to the Department of Labor regarding Crosby's 1977 injury and described the medical problems that Crosby presented when he first met with her in March 2003: "she noted progressive sensory loss, weakness, and pain. Significant problems with stumbling and falling, incontinence several times a week, and vision, hearing, memory and balance problems." Dr. Henderson further wrote that after each of the two surgeries he performed on Crosby, her pain initially subsided, but after a period of several months it returned. As of his last visit with Crosby, on March 1, 2004, Dr. Henderson remarked that "she was experiencing lower back pain radiating down into the left buttock and posterior thigh. She was also experiencing headaches, urinary incontinence, and weakness." Finally, Dr. Henderson concluded, "[t]herefore, in her current position at the postal service I do not believe she would be able to perform her duties."

The injury compensation office at the Carol Stream post office received a copy of Dr. Henderson's May, 19, 2005 letter on either June 5 or June 15, 2005. Reese too became aware of the May 19, 2005 letter from Dr. Henderson.

Dr. Eva Ostrowski, a physician employed by the Postal Service at Carol Stream, reviewed Dr. Henderson's letter regarding Crosby's medical condition and ability to perform her job duties. After reviewing the letter, Dr. Ostrowski informed Reese verbally and in writing that she believed Crosby was not medically fit for duty as a BME supervisor. Dr. Ostrowski's letter to Reese, dated June 22, 2005, indicated that "Ms. Crosby needs to submit another medical statement when she is able to return to work. The statement should include specific restriction and expected duration of her restrictions."

On June 22, 2005, Reese called Crosby into his office and told her to go home and not to return without updated medical information from her treating physician. Reese believed he was required to send Crosby home because of Dr. Henderson's assessment of Crosby's ...

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