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Marvin D. Manns v. the City of Decatur

July 28, 2011

MARVIN D. MANNS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF DECATUR, ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge

E-FILED

Thursday, 28 July, 2011 10:30:54 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

This case is before the court for ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment (#27) filed by Defendant, the City of Decatur, Illinois (City). This court has carefully reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents filed by the parties. Following this careful and thorough review, the City's Motion for Summary Judgment (#27) is GRANTED.

FACTS*fn1

Plaintiff, Marvin D. Manns, is African American and was hired by the City in April 1982. He began working as a water maintenance worker*fn2 in the City's Water Department in 1990. The general duties of water maintenance worker include servicing water mains, the water valves and the hydrants. Mark O'Connor, the City's Water Distribution Maintenance Supervisor, stated in his affidavit that he supervised Plaintiff for approximately 15 years. O'Connor also stated that the duties of a water maintenance worker "involve a lot of pulling, carrying and lifting." One job assigned to workers in the water distribution area is the job of investigator, or troubleshooter. This person is a first responder and responds to calls regarding problems and issues with water service. During the time he worked as a water maintenance worker, Plaintiff was regularly given the duty assignment of troubleshooter. Troubleshooter was not a full time position, though there was routinely one individual given that assignment on a daily basis. It is undisputed that the person assigned to be the troubleshooter would have to work at a variety of other tasks in addition to his work as a first responder. O'Connor stated in his affidavit that "the troubleshooter needs to use shovels and bars, wrenches and chipping tools, chisels and pipe wrenches."

Plaintiff was injured while on duty for the City in December 2005. Plaintiff was off work for a lengthy period of time. In February 2007, Plaintiff indicated that he wanted to return to work. Plaintiff asked to return to work with a reasonable accommodation for his disabilities and requested that he be allowed to work as troubleshooter on a daily basis. Keith Alexander, Director of Water Management for the City, conferred with Randy Miller, the City's Water Services Manager, and O'Connor, Plaintiff's supervisor, to determine if there was sufficient work for Plaintiff to do in that position. They decided there were not enough light duty troubleshooting tasks available for a full-time position.

In February 2007, Plaintiff was given a functional capacity examination. The examination showed that Plaintiff was at a medium physical capability. Alexander testified that it was his understanding that Plaintiff could perform some manual labor, but not strenuous manual labor. It is undisputed that the restrictions on Plaintiff's physical abilities are permanent in nature. Between 2007 and February 2009, Plaintiff was provided with information regarding openings at the City.

However, he did not receive a placement in any of those positions. On June 17, 2008, Alexander requested permission to hire an equipment operator to perform the duties previously performed by Plaintiff.

In February 2009, Plaintiff and the City settled Plaintiff's worker's compensation claim. In 2009, another functional capacity evaluation was completed for Plaintiff. According to French Wilson, the City's Human Resources Manager, this evaluation showed that Plaintiff was still unable to perform the essential functions of the water maintenance worker position but was capable of performing the functions of a water meter reader. Plaintiff also met with Wilson to review the tasks included in a survey of tasks performed by a water maintenance worker. French asked Plaintiff regarding his ability to perform each task and, based upon his answers, concluded that Plaintiff could not perform far more than 50% of the tasks listed with or without a reasonable accommodation. This survey included numerous tasks which were not listed in the job description for water maintenance worker. Plaintiff testified during his deposition, however, that he agreed that the tasks listed in the survey were "activities that City of Decatur water maintenance workers are called on to do." At his deposition, Plaintiff confirmed that he could not perform many of the tasks listed on the survey.

In July 2009, Plaintiff was offered the position of water meter reader by Ryan McCrady, the City Manager. The water meter reader position is governed by civil service rules which had established a list of eligible applicants for the position. Plaintiff began working as a water meter reader on July 20, 2009. McCrady testified, however, that this position was offered to Plaintiff on the condition that an agreement could be reached with Plaintiff's union, AFSCME, and the Civil Service Commission in order to bypass the civil service rules regarding selection. McCrady testified that Plaintiff also had to agree to accept the pay rate of the water meter reader position as opposed to the higher pay rate of his previous position, water maintenance worker. On August 24, 2009, Plaintiff was asked to sign an agreement which stated that he agreed to accept the lower rate of pay and which also stated that he was unable to perform the essential functions of the water maintenance worker position. Plaintiff testified that his union did not feel that he had to sign any kind of an agreement and that he did not want to sign the agreement because "[n]o other employee has ever had to sign an agreement." Plaintiff also testified that he was willing to keep working as a water meter reader at the lower rate of pay so long as he could file a grievance regarding the reduction in his pay. Plaintiff testified that he thought he had to sign the paper because of his race. He testified that he lost his job because he "wouldn't sign the paper."

As noted, Plaintiff refused to sign the agreement and he was removed from his position as water meter reader on September 1, 2009. On September 2, 2009, Randy Miller recommended that Plaintiff be fired and Alexander and McCrady concurred on September 16, 2009. On September 16, 2009, Plaintiff received a disciplinary form stating that he was discharged from his employment with the City. The form stated that Plaintiff could not perform the essential functions of his position even with reasonable accommodation and that he was offered an alternative position which he "rejected." McCrady testified that he made the decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment. This decision was made after Plaintiff would not sign the agreement regarding the position as water meter reader and a determination was made by Alexander that Plaintiff could not perform the essential functions of the water maintenance position with or without a reasonable accommodation.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 14, 2008, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Plaintiff claimed that, on February 26, 2007, he was released by his doctor to return to work on light duty with a permanent lifting restriction but the City refused to provide him a light duty position. He alleged that he was discriminated against because of his race. On June 1, 2009, the EEOC issued a dismissal and notice of right to sue.

On September 1, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Complaint (#1) in this court. Plaintiff alleged that the City did not allow him to return to his prior position and instead assigned Plaintiff to perform the duties of water meter reader. Plaintiff alleged that the City refused to pay him the salary he received in his prior position. Plaintiff alleged that he was treated differently than similarly situated non-African American employees. Plaintiff alleged that the City discriminated against him on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and in violation of 42 ...


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