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Taylor-Novotny v. Health Alliance Medical Plans

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 30, 2013

KIERSTON M. TAYLOR-NOVOTNY, Plaintiff,
v.
HEALTH ALLIANCE MEDICAL PLANS, Defendant,

ORDER ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION

JAMES E. SHADID, Chief District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. The Motion and response have been fully briefed. Oral argument was held on October 4, 2013, and this order follows.

BACKGROUND

This is an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff was hired by Defendant in November 2005 as a Contract Specialist I, working in the Contracting and Provider Services ("CPS") Department. Cherie Fletcher ("Fletcher") was her supervisor, and Jeff Polk ("Polk") was the Director of the CPS Department. The policies in place at Health Alliance during the relevant portion of the Plaintiff's employment included an Attendance Policy as well as an Employee Discipline and Misconduct Policy. The job duties of a Contract Specialist I stayed fundamentally the same throughout Novotny's employment with Health Alliance. This job function consisted of managing the overall contracting process with medical providers, including document preparation, negotiation, follow-up, and documenting activities in the contract management system.

Plaintiff was originally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in April 2007. She requested and was approved for FMLA leave beginning in 2008. In approximately February 2010, Plaintiff advised Defendant that she was having additional problems due to her multiple sclerosis and sought accommodations under the ADA. It is the reasonableness of those accommodations that are in dispute.

The Defendant argues that Plaintiff was an employee who failed to meet her employer's reasonable expectations and was not accountable for her work hours and essential job functions. The Plaintiff argues, although her record of performance was satisfactory, her supervisors developed and executed a plan to rid themselves of her almost immediately after she began requesting accommodations for her medical condition. Her employment was terminated on July 30, 2010.

Plaintiff asserts six causes of action in her Complaint: (1) disparate treatment under the ADA; (2) failure to accommodate under the ADA; (3) retaliation under the ADA; (4) interference with FMLA rights; (5) race discrimination under Title VII; and (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress. Each claim will be addressed in turn.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment will be granted where there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party has the responsibility of informing the Court of portions of the record or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). The moving party may meet its burden of showing an absence of material facts by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 2553. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513 (1986); Cain v. Lane, 857 F.2d 1139, 1142 (7th Cir. 1988).

If the moving party meets its burden, the non-moving party then has the burden of presenting specific facts to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and produce evidence of a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 106 S.Ct. at 2553. This Court must then determine whether there is a need for trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may be reasonably resolved in favor of either party. Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2511; Hedberg v. Indiana Bell Tel. Co., 47 F.3d 928, 931 (7th Cir. 1995).

SUMMARY OF FACTS RELEVANT TO ALL CLAIMS

Defendant

The January 2007 performance evaluation sets forth the Plaintiff arriving late for work, taking non-work related appointments or missing work on 20 different dates. The evaluation cited the Plaintiff as "marginal" in punctuality and directed the Plaintiff to develop a plan to address this issue. In March of 2007, the Defendant attempted to help Plaintiff remedy her tardiness by changing her work schedule to delay her start time from 8:00 am to 8:30 am.

In October of 2007, a corrective action plan reported 29 instances of tardiness by the Plaintiff between March 28, 2007 and September 10, 2007. The corrective action again adjusted the Plaintiff's hours to start at 8:45 am instead of 8:30 am. The corrective action also indicated consequences if no improvement, including termination of employment.

January and June of 2008 reviews again highlighted punctuality problems and in December of 2008, the parties executed a Work from Home Agreement, which had the Plaintiff working from home on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and at the office on Tuesday and Friday. A June 2009 evaluation again addressed her tardiness and on March 30, 2010, a written warning as to tardiness, that included the failure to notify or alert her supervisor was issued.

The May 2010 performance evaluation addressed the failure to meet certain goals that required the Plaintiff to contract with Hospital Based Providers. On May 21, 2010, a disciplinary action recited eight dates between April 13, 2010 and May 7, 2010, where Plaintiff was late and failed to notify her supervisor.

On July 30, 2010, the Defendant terminated the Plaintiff from employment citing, in part, three additional dates of inaccurate reporting of time, failure to complete negotiations on the six Hospital Based Contract providers, failing to report her contract negotiation progress to her ...


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