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Jan A. Danek v. County of Cook D/B/A John Stroger

November 29, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:


On August 31, 2010, Plaintiff Jan Danek filed the present one-count Complaint against his former employer Defendant Cook County for violating the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), specifically 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1), (b). Before the Court is Defendant's summary judgment motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant's motion and dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety.


I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

Local Rule 56.1 assists the Court by "organizing the evidence, identifying undisputed facts, and demonstrating precisely how each side propose[s] to prove a disputed fact with admissible evidence." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000). "The Rule is designed, in part, to aid the district court, 'which does not have the advantage of the parties' familiarity with the record and often cannot afford to spend the time combing the record to locate the relevant information,' in determining whether a trial is necessary." Delapaz v. Richardson, 634 F.3d 895, 899 (7th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue." Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009). "The opposing party is required to file 'a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." Id. (citing N.D. Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)). Also, Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) requires the nonmoving party to present a separate statement of additional facts that requires the denial of summary judgment. See Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008).

The purpose of Local Rule 56.1 statements is to identify the relevant admissible evidence supporting the material facts, not to make factual or legal arguments. See Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006) ("statement of material facts did [] not comply with Rule 56.1 as it failed to adequately cite the record and was filled with irrelevant information, legal arguments, and conjecture"). Therefore, the Court will not address the parties' legal and factual arguments made in their Local Rule 56.1 statements and responses. See System Dev. Integration, LLC v. Computer Sciences Corp., 739 F.Supp.2d 1063, 1068 (N.D. Ill. 2010). Moreover, the requirements for responses under Local Rule 56.1 are "not satisfied by evasive denials that do not fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted." Bordelon, 233 F.3d at 528. The Court may also disregard statements and responses that do not properly cite to the record. See Cady, 467 F.3d at 1060; Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., LLC, 401 F.3d 803, 809-10 (7th Cir. 2005).

II. Relevant Facts

Danek worked for John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County ("Stroger Hospital") as a medical translator. (R. 33, Def.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 1.) More specifically, the Cook County Health and Hospital Commission ("CCHHS") -- that Defendant Cook County created to run Stroger Hospital -- employed Danek as a Polish medical interpreter for the Interpreter Services Department until September 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 8.)

On August 4, 2008, Danek asked for a month's vacation leave from August 11, 2008 to September 11, 2008. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 10.) Danek's supervisor, Anibal Rodriguez, verbally denied this vacation request. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 12.) On August 11, 2008, Rodriguez sent Danek a written memorandum explaining why he denied Danek's vacation request, including that: (1) employees in the department may only take a maximum of two weeks vacation leave at one time; (2) another Polish interpreter was already scheduled to be off during the same time period, and two Polish interpreters cannot take vacation leave at the same time; and (3) the department was short-staffed. (Id.)

After Rodriguez verbally denied Danek's vacation request, Danek completed an FMLA leave of absence form on August 7, 2008 based on his chronic depression and lower back pain. (Id. ¶ 13; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 9, 31-33.) Danek stated on the FMLA form that he wanted to take three-months of FMLA leave beginning on the same date that he had wanted to begin his vacation, August 11, 2008. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 13.) Danek's doctor, Dr. Richard Novak, completed a FMLA "Certification of Physician or Practitioner" for Danek to accompany his leave of absence form. (Id. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 10.) Thereafter, on August 7, 2008, Danek reported to the Employee Health Services office and submitted Dr. Novak's certificate and his FMLA request form. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 16; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 11.) Melinda Intoy, a nurse practitioner who was working in the Employee Health Services office, met with Danek that day and performed his physical examination. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 16; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 11.) Danek then took a copy of his FMLA request form to Rodriguez and to the Department of Human Resources. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 17; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 14.) After Danek returned to work from his Employee Health Services visit on August 7, 2008, he told other employees that he was taking time off to go to Mexico. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 20.)

On August 8, 2008, Danek appeared for his appointment with attending physician Dr. Vesna Sefer at Employee Health Services, but after his appointment began, Danek became dizzy and had elevated blood pressure, so Dr. Sefer referred him to Stroger Hospital's Emergency Room. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 22, 23; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 18, 24.) Later that day, Danek left Stroger Hospital against medical advice because he did not feel like he "was in bad shape." (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 25.) Danek did not return to the Department of Interpretive Services on August 8, 2008. (Id. ¶ 26.) Moreover, Danek did not appear at the Employee Health Services Office for his next scheduled appointment on August 12, 2008, after which Dr. Sefer called Danek twice, but received no response. (Id. ¶ 28.) Also, on August 13, 2008, Employee Health Services sent a letter to Danek about his missed appointment, but the office did not receive a response from Danek. (Id. ¶ 30.) Thereafter, Dr. Sefer contacted Danek's primary care doctor, Dr. Novak, on August 13 and 18, 2008 to inquire if Danek was alright. (Id. ¶ 31.) Dr. Sefer left Dr. Novak two messages asking Dr. Novak to call back, but Dr. Sefer did not speak with Dr. Novak. (Id.)

Danek was scheduled to work on Monday, August 11, 2008, but he did not appear for work or call in nor did he respond to being paged. (Id. ¶ 27.) Specifically, during the week of August 11, 2008, Rodriguez called and paged Danek repeatedly, but Danek did not respond. (Id. ¶ 32.) On August 20, 2008, Lorraine Jackson of the Department of Human Resources informed Rodriguez that Danek's FMLA request had not yet been approved and was still under review. (Id. ¶ 34.) In fact, the Department of Human Resources -- the department that reviewed County employees' FMLA leave requests -- never approved Danek's FMLA request. (Id.; Danek Dep., Ex. 7, FMLA Request; Ex. 19, County of Cook Personnel Rules § 6.03(7); Ex. 20, Stroger Hospital FMLA Procedures.)

On August 21, 2008, Rodriguez sent a letter to Danek stating that his FMLA leave had not yet been approved and that he needed to report to the office by August 25, 2008 or face job abandonment charges. (Id. ¶ 36.) Danek did not respond. (Id. ¶ 37.) On September 2, 2008, Rodriguez sent a letter to Danek informing him that he was charged with job abandonment and that a disciplinary hearing would be conducted on September 8, 2008. (Id. ¶ 38.) Danek admits that he received this letter, but did nothing in response. (Id. ¶ 45.) On September 22, 2008, Administrative Staff Services personnel sent Danek a letter terminating his employment based on job abandonment. (Id. ¶ 39; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 28.)

At his deposition, Danek admitted that he did not receive approval to take FMLA leave from his employer in August 2008. (Def.'s Stmt. Facts ΒΆ 53.) Danek also testified that when he left on August 8, 2008, he did not know if his FMLA request had been approved or denied. (Id.) Moreover, Danek admitted that on Sunday, August 10, 2008 -- three days after he requested ...

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