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Charles Brown v. Ges Exposition Services

September 26, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman


Plaintiff Charles Brown has sued GES Exposition Services and Viad Corp.*fn1 for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") (Counts I and II), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., Title VII (Count IV), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and for retaliatory discharge in violation of Illinois common law (Count III). Before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons provided in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court grants the motion.


Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed or have been deemed admitted pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, which this Court strictly enforces. Defendant GES Exposition Services ("GES") provides logistical services for setting up and tearing down large conventions and trade shows. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 7.) Viad Corp. is the parent company of GES, and Brown does not allege that Viad Corp. had any involvement in the events giving rise to his complaint. (Id. ¶ 8.)*fn2 In 1994, Brown began working for GES and eventually held the position of "Teamster Foreman." (Id. ¶ 10; see Defs.' Ex. 1, 10/19/06 EEOC Charge.)

On February 1, 2006, plaintiff reported to GES that he suffered a work-related injury. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 20.) On February 7, 2006, GES terminated Brown and stated that he failed to report a work-related injury in a timely manner, which, according to GES, violated GES policy and a previous settlement agreement between GES and Brown. (Id. ¶ 21; 2/7/06 Letter from S. Arslanovski to C. Brown.)*fn3

On October 16, 2006, Brown filed an EEOC Charge of Discrimination. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 23.) On the form, he checked the boxes for "Race" and "Retaliation" and stated that "[b]eginning in July 2005 and continuing through the remainder of my employment, I was subjected to retaliation in that I was accused of refusing to do work and threatened with termination and I was given job assignments that aggravated my injury;" "[i]n February 2006, I was accused of not reporting an on-the-job injury and discharged;" and "I believe I have been discriminated against because of my race, Black, and retaliated against for having filed a previous charge of racial discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended." (Defs.' Ex. 1, 10/16/06 EEOC Charge.)

On December 12, 2006, Karen H. Jacobs, an arbitrator for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Voluntary Labor Panel, sustained Brown's grievance regarding his termination and reinstated him with back pay because she concluded that GES failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Brown violated GES policy or the settlement agreement. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 24; Defs.' Ex. 20, 12/12/06 Arbitrator's Decision 6-8.) On December 21, 2006, Brown returned to work at GES. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 25.) Brown provided a doctor's note to GES saying he was restricted to light-duty work because he could not lift, push or pull anything over ten pounds with his right arm, which he was required to do at times as Teamster Foreman. (Defs.' Ex. 9, Brown Dep. 68-69; Defs.' Ex. 21, 12/19/06 Cole Report.) GES maintains a light-duty program in which employees are assigned to perform light-duty assignments for a period of 120 days. (Id. ¶ 27.) This initial 120-day period can be extended by an additional sixty days if a request for such an extension is granted. (Id.) GES told Brown that it did not have any light-duty positions available at that time. (Defs.' Ex. 9, Brown Dep. 69.)

In late February 2007, GES notified Brown that it had a light-duty position in the Graphics Department. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 28.) On March 1, 2007, Brown returned to work. (Id. ¶ 29.)

On June 13, 2007, Brown submitted a letter to GES from his doctor that stated Brown had permanent restrictions at the light/medium level functional capacity. (Id. ¶ 30; Defs.' Ex. 25, Letter from B. Cole to J. Filut of 6/13/07.) On that date, Brown was advised that he was terminated because GES had no light duty positions for him to fill. (Pl.'s Ex. 3, 5/28/08 EEOC Charge; see Pl.'s Ex. 4, Brown Aff. ¶¶ 11, 15 (stating that GES terminated him in June 2007); Pl.'s Ex. 10, Letter from S. DiSola to C. Brown of 6/14/07 (stating that June 13, 2007 was the last day Brown was eligible to work in a temporary modified duty position).) After that date, Brown was no longer scheduled to work in the Graphics Department. (Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 31.) GES does not have any Teamster employees scheduled to work in light-duty positions on a permanent basis. (Id. ¶ 32.)

On May 28, 2008, Brown filed an EEOC charge of discrimination, which alleged that his June 13, 2007 dismissal was due to his race and disability and in retaliation for his October 16, 2006 charge of discrimination. (Id. ¶ 34.) It is undisputed that Brown filed the May 28, 2008 EEOC charge 350 days after he last worked for GES. (Id.) On September 24, 2009, Brown received a notice of right to sue from the EEOC on both his October 19, 2006 and May 28, 2008 EEOC charges. (Compare Compl. ¶ 3, with Answer ¶ 3.)


Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, (1986). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of identifying those parts of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and present specific facts to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

I. ADA and Title VII Claims (Counts I, II, and IV)

Brown has sued GES for failure to make a reasonable accommodation and discrimination under the ADA and race discrimination under Title VII. GES moves for summary judgment as to Brown's ADA and Title VII claims because they are ...

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