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Geraldine Viramontes v. U.S. Bancorp and U.S.Bank National Association

December 27, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman


Plaintiff, Geraldine Viramontes, filed a complaint against defendants, U.S. Bancorp and U.S. Bank National Association, (hereinafter, ("U.S. Bank"), and collectively, the ("defendants")), alleging the following claims: interference and retaliatory discharge under the Family and Medical Leave Act, (the "FMLA"); failure to reasonably accommodate and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, (the "ADA") and retaliatory discharge under the Illinois' Worker's Compensation Act (the "IWCA"). Defendants' now move for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

Legal Standard

A party is entitled to summary judgment if all of "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a). The Court construes the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party when deciding a motion for summary judgment. Abdullahi v. City of Madison, 423, F.3d 763, 773 (7th Cir. 2005). The party who bears the burden of proof on an issue may not rest on the pleadings or mere speculation, but must affirmatively demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires a trial to resolve. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).


Plaintiff, Viramontes, worked as an at-will employee of U.S. Bank (or its predecessors) from September 6, 1988 until July 10, 2009. (Fourth Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7.) Plaintiff worked her first 10 years with U.S. Bank in their West Town branch and her last 11 years in their Lincoln Park branch. (Id. at ¶ 10.) In 2002, plaintiff became a Universal Banker 2 at the Lincoln Park branch. (Pl. Dep. 45:20-22).

In July 2008, Dennis Lingenfelter, ("Lingenfelter") became plaintiff's manager at U.S. Bank's Lincoln Park branch. (Defendants' Statement of Material Facts ¶ 10.) On December 8, 2008, plaintiff was seen by podiatrist, Dr. Wika Gomez, for her on going foot condition. (Fourth Am. Compl. ¶ 19.) Dr. Gomez confirmed that plaintiff was suffering from hallux limitus, a foot condition characterized by lack of motion in the first metatarsal phalangeal joint. (Id. at ¶ 20.) Dr. Gomez explained to the plaintiff that conservative treatments had not resolved her problem and informed her of the possible need for surgery. (Id.) Dr. Gomez also informed plaintiff that she would be available on December 22, 2008 to perform plaintiff's surgery. (Id. at ¶ 29.)

On this same day, December 8, 2008, Dr. Gomez wrote a letter to Lingenfelter explaining that she and the plaintiff discussed the possibility for surgical intervention to repair plaintiff's hallux limitus condition. (Id. at ¶ 27.) The letter also indicated that plaintiff would require 6-8 weeks for recovery and that Dr. Gomez advised plaintiff to discuss the need for medical leave with her employer so that a surgery could be scheduled. (Id. at ¶ 28.) Following his receipt of the letter, Lingenfelter spoke directly with plaintiff regarding her hallux limitus condition and her need for surgery. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Initially, plaintiff alleges, Lingenfelter allowed her medical leave starting December 22, 2008. Later, however, Lingenfelter pleaded with plaintiff to postpone the surgery until January 2009 due to the likelihood that the branch would be short-staffed during the holiday season. (Id. at ¶¶ 31, 41.)

Also in December 2008, due to the worsening nature of hallux limitus, plaintiff asked Lingenfelter if she could sit while she worked behind the teller line. (Pl. Dep. Ex. 3, Jan. 22, 2009 Letter) In response, plaintiff alleges that Lingenfelter remarked that she "had an excuse for everything" but allowed her to elevate her foot during certain specified time periods and to sit in the teller area. (Id.)

As the intended date for surgery, December 22, 2008, grew closer, plaintiff alleges that she had a number of conversations with Lingenfelter regarding her foot condition and need for surgery. During these conversations, she further alleges that Lingenfelter made several statements which plaintiff interpreted as threats to her job security. (Fourth Am. Compl. ¶¶ 34-39). These statements include the following: "It's not like you need surgery tomorrow when you can still walk, right?"; "I will remember you."; "You have to make a decision." and "I will deal with you later." (Id.)

On December 15, 2008, plaintiff again spoke with Dr. Gomez, and having received nothing in writing from Lingenfelter allowing her time for requested leave, plaintiff and Dr. Gomez agreed to schedule her surgery for sometime in January or February of 2009. (Pl. Dep. 164:13-165:18.)

On December 26, 2008, plaintiff fell at work and suffered injuries to her ankle and wrist. (Id. at ¶ 45.) Lingenfelter was not present at the time of plaintiff's fall. On that same day, U.S. Bank's assistant manager, Joshua Carter, filed a claim for worker's compensation benefits' on behalf of the plaintiff following her fall. (Id.) Because of the injuries sustained during the fall, plaintiff took immediate FMLA leave from work. (Id. at ¶ 47.) While on leave, plaintiff wrote a letter, dated January 22, 2009, to U.S. Bank's human resources department (the "H.R. Department") complaining about Lingenfelter's "rude and unprofessional behavior" as well as his comments made in December 2008 after learning of plaintiff's foot condition and possible surgery. (Id. at ¶ 53; Pl. Dep. Ex. 3, Jan. 22 Letter.) Plaintiff concluded her letter by requesting that U.S. Bank remove Lingenfelter from the Lincoln Park branch. (Id.)

Also while on FMLA leave, plaintiff alleges that Lingenfelter demanded that she ignore her doctor's orders and return to work for a meeting. Upon her decline to do so, plaintiff further alleges that Lingenfelter taunted her and stated that she was severely behind on her work and would never be able to catch up. (Id. at ¶¶ 48, 49.)

Plaintiff returned to work on February 8, 2009 from medical leave with certain restrictions having been placed upon her by her doctor. (Id. at ¶ 52.) Upon her return, U.S. Bank alleges that it responded to plaintiff's January 22, 2009 letter by meeting with plaintiff and Lingenfelter. During this meeting, Lingenfelter allegedly apologized to plaintiff. (Lingenfelter Dep. 99:17-21.) Plaintiff, on the other hand, alleged that Lingenfelter was investigated by U.S. Bank as a result of her letter. (Fourth Am. Compl. ¶ 53.)

In March 2009, following his alleged investigation, Lingenfelter gave plaintiff an annual performance review of her work completed in 2008. (Defendants' Statement of Material Facts ¶ 62). As a result of this review, plaintiff was placed on a performance action plan for failing to make customer follow-up calls. (Fourth Am. Compl.¶¶ 54.) After placing plaintiff on the performance action plan, on July 10, 2009, Lingenfelter met with plaintiff and informed her that she had been terminated for failure to meet the expectations set forth in the performance action plan. (Id. at ¶ 55.) Plaintiff, however, believes she was terminated in retaliation for informing Lingenfelter of her foot condition, requesting accommodations for her foot condition, requesting and taking FMLA leave and for filing a claim for worker's compensation. (Id. at ¶¶ 2, 57.) Accordingly, plaintiff brings forth the following claims: FMLA interference and retaliatory discharge (counts I and II); ADA discrimination for failure to reasonably accommodate and retaliation (counts III and IV); and IWCA retaliatory discharge (count V). We will address each claim in turn.


U.S. Bancorp's Status as a ...

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