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Pu v. Columbia College Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 20, 2013

KEIJU PU, Plaintiff,

Page 965

For Kejiu Pu, Plaintiff: Josh Michael Friedman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Josh Friedman, Chicago, IL.

For Columbia College Chicago, Defendant: Jeffrey Ray Rosenberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, O'Halloran, Kosoff, Geitner & Cook, PC, Northbrook, IL; Michael J. Victor, O'Halloran Kosoff Geitner & Cook LLC, Northbrook, IL.


Page 966

JOAN HUMPHREY LEFKOW, United States District Judge.


Plaintiff, Keiju Pu (" Pu" ), filed a five-count complaint against defendant, Columbia College Chicago (" Columbia" ), alleging discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" the ADEA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 621 et seq. (counts I and II), the Americans with Disabilities Act (" the ADA" ), 42 U.S.C. § § 12101 et seq. (counts III and IV), and retaliation in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (" the FMLA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.

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(count V). [1] Presently before the court is Columbia's motion for summary judgment. [2] For the reasons that follow, Columbia's motion for summary judgment is granted with respect to count I, and denied with respect to counts II, III, IV, and V.


Summary judgment obviates the need for a trial where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (a). To determine whether any genuine issue of fact exists, the court must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) & advisory committee notes (1963 amend.) While the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986), where a claim or defense is factually unsupported, it should be disposed of on summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).


Pu worked for Columbia in its IT department performing computer programing from 1996 until February 2009. During this time, Pu suffered from chronic interstitial lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, and Sjorgen's Syndrome. Pu was responsible for Microsoft Access (" Access" ) programming and development. From 2002 to 2003, her performance rating was excellent and from 2004 to 2007 her rating was " exceeds expectations." Bernadette McMahon, Columbia's Chief Information Officer, stated that Pu was the " most proficient [Microsoft] Access programmer at Columbia." Dorothy Dare, Pu's supervisor in August 2007 and Columbia's IT Director of User Support, also described Pu's work as " excellent." Beginning in November 2007, Pu's supervisor was Kathy Baker.

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On August 2, 2007, Dare assigned Pu a project to compile a list of all continuing fulltime students for the fall semester so that Columbia could identify those students to the Chicago Transit Authority (" CTA" ). Pu initially produced a list that omitted the names of more than 600 students. Dare told Pu to fix the list and provided instructions on how to do so. Pu failed to adhere to Dare's instructions and sent the incorrect list to the CTA. Dare then had to intervene with the CTA to make sure that the incorrect list was not used. On August 8, 2007, Dare prepared a written notice of performance outlining deficiencies in Pu's work, which Pu states that she never received.

On or around August 31, 2007, Pu requested and received intermittent FMLA leave for her chronic medical conditions. Pu scheduled her leave from September 5 to September 13, 2007 and from September 17 to September 26, 2007. On September 24, 2007, Pu requested and received an extension of her FMLA leave until November 7, 2007, at which time she returned to work. Two weeks later, Columbia transferred Pu to a new position under the supervision of Baker. In her new position, Pu was responsible for developing Microsoft Sharepoint (" Sharepoint" ) applications, a program with which Pu had no previous experience. Columbia had previously decided to phase out its Access database, which was decentralized, and switch to an integrated intranet system using programs such as Sharepoint. Baker knew that Pu did not have any Sharepoint experience and offered Sharepoint training including classes, books, and online courses.

On or around April 11, 2008, Baker submitted a performance evaluation for Pu. In that evaluation, Baker wrote that Pu had met or exceeded expectations in every category while noting that Pu was an " MS Access Pro" and had learned Sharepoint. That review additionally provided that " [b]y learning SharePoint, Keiju has responded effectively to changing demands in responsibilities." (Dkt. 39-6, at 4.) From April 2008 to October 2008, Pu continued working on Sharepoint projects. From October 12 to 17, 2008, Pu was on a medical leave of absence. On October 20, 2008, Pu returned to work and Baker assigned her seven projects to be completed by the end of the month. Pu described meeting the deadline as unrealistic but she worked overtime and completed the projects. During the same period, between October 21 and 28, 2008, Baker documented specific problems with Pu's work, which included providing information to a client without explanation, improperly changing field names, working slowly and failing to meet deadlines, failing to follow directions, and inability to understand Sharepoint.

On October 23, 2008, Baker issued a verbal warning to Pu about changing the names of a field in Sharepoint. On October 29, 2008, Baker prepared a written notice of performance in which she stated that Pu had not been able to master Sharepoint. The next day, on October 30, 2008, Baker met with Pu and delivered the October 29, 2008 written notice of performance and discussed issues with Pu's work performance and attitude. Around this time, Pu noted that Baker told her to stop taking advantage of Columbia's sick leave policy. On October 31, 2008, Baker issued Pu a written warning identifying five performance issues, four of which arose within the five day period preceding the write-up.

On November 3, 2008, Baker detailed the status of Pu's recent assignments and noted that several projects had not been completed and did not meet internal expectations or the client's instructions. That same day, Pu became ill and had severe breathing problems. The next day,

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Pu went to her doctor, who informed Pu that she needed to take a medical leave of absence from work. On November 4, 2008, Pu requested and received FMLA leave. Additionally, on November 4, 2008, Baker prepared a second written notice of performance that detailed additional performance deficiencies and ...

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