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Dickerson v. Belleville Area Community College District 522

September 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. Patrick Murphy United States District Judge


MURPHY, District Judge

Plaintiff Robert E. Dickerson has a mental impairment that he claims qualifies him as a disabled person under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12111, et seq. He was employed by Defendants*fn1 as a permanent, part-time custodian from November 3, 1999, until he was terminated on September 10, 2008. Plaintiff claims that Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of an actual and/or perceived disability and retaliated against him for exercising his rights under the ADA. Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) Plaintiff is not disabled as defined under the ADA and (2) any adverse employment action was due to Plaintiff's unsatisfactory job performance. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted.


In August 2007, Plaintiff applied for four open positions as a full-time custodian. In February 2008 -- after the positions were awarded to employees that Plaintiff claims have inferior experience and qualifications to his own -- Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming that Defendants violated the ADA by refusing to award him one of the available full-time positions. On September 10, 2008, Plaintiff was terminated from his part-time position.*fn2 Plaintiff thereafter filed another Charge of Discrimination, which includes retaliation allegations, with the EEOC based on the termination.


The standard applied to summary judgment motions filed under Rule 56 is well-settled and has been succinctly stated as follows.

Summary judgment is proper 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. In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, [the court] must view the record in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Because the primary purpose of summary judgment is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims, the non-movant may not rest on the pleadings but must respond, with affidavits or otherwise, setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. The evidence must create more than some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is insufficient; a party will be successful in opposing summary judgment only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion.

Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 931-32 (7th Cir. 2001) (internal citations and quotations omitted). The Court is mindful of this standard in its recitation of the facts above. Additional facts will be discussed in relation to the legal standards applicable to discrimination and retaliation claims brought under the ADA.

Discrimination Claim

The ADA anti-discrimination provision provides: No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

42 U.S.C. § 12112(a).*fn3 For these purposes, "disability" is defined as "(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment." 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2). To prove disability discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff may proceed under the direct or indirect methods. Buie v. Quad/Graphics, Inc., 366 F.3d 496, 503 (7th Cir. 2004). The two types of permissible evidence under the direct method are direct evidence and indirect evidence. Id. Direct evidence "'essentially requires an admission by the decision-maker that his actions were based upon the prohibited animus,'" while indirect evidence "is evidence that 'allows a jury to infer intentional discrimination by the decision-maker.'" Id., quoting Rogers v. City of Chicago, 320 F.3d 748, 753 (7th Cir. 2003).

A plaintiff also may proceed under the indirect method of proof, "which first requires him to establish a prima facie case of discrimination" by showing that: "(1) he is disabled under the ADA; (2) he is qualified to perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) he has suffered from an adverse employment decision because of the disability." Buie, 366 F.3d at 503; accord Squibb v. Memorial Medical Center, 497 F.3d 775, 780 (7th Cir. 2007). Where a plaintiff's discrimination claim centers on alleged disparate treatment, courts analyze the prima facie requirements as a four-part test, wherein a plaintiff must show: (1) he is disabled with in the meaning of the ADA; (2) he was meeting his employer's legitimate employment expectations; (3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated employees without a disability received more favorable treatment. Lloyd v. Swifty Transportation, Inc., 552 F.3d 594, 601 (7th Cir. 2009), citing Mobley v. Allstate Ins. Co., 531 F.3d 539, 548 (7th Cir. 2008); see also Bodenstab v. Cook County, 569 F.3d 651, 657 n.2 (7th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 1059 (2010). The substance of the elements -- and generally the result they produce -- is the same, but the four-part test tracks more closely the elements for a retaliation claim and enables courts to consider the claims together under the indirect method. See generally Lloyd, 552 F.3d at 601.

Once a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer "to articulate a nondiscriminatory reason for each adverse employment action." Buie, 366 F.3d at 503. If the employer meets its burden, then the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer's "proffered reasons were a pretext for intentional discrimination." Id.*fn4 To show "pretext," which means "a dishonest explanation" -- "a lie rather than an oddity or an error," the plaintiff must prove that the employer's explanation is "unworthy of credence." Bodenstab, 569 F.3d at 657. As long as the employer honestly believes its reasoning, it does not matter that the decision was "mistaken, ill considered or foolish." Id. The second prong of the prima facie case (i.e., job performance) and the pretext question merge where the employer argues that its reason for not promoting or terminating the plaintiff is based upon ...

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