United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division
For Debra Kauffman, Plaintiff: Betty Tsamis, LEAD ATTORNEY, TSAMIS LAW FIRM P.C., Chicago, IL.
For Petersen Health Care VII, LLC, doing business as Mason Point, Defendant: John A Kauerauf, LEAD ATTORNEY, SORLING NORTHRUP, Springfield, IL.
MICHAEL P. McCUSKEY, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
This case is before the court for ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment (#23) filed by Defendant, Petersen Health Care VII, LLC, d/b/a Mason Point (Mason Point). This court has carefully reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents filed by the parties. Following this careful and thorough review, Mason Point's Motion for Summary Judgment (#23) is GRANTED.
Defendant Mason Point is a nursing home providing long term care to elderly
individuals and is located in Sullivan, Illinois. Plaintiff, Debra Kauffman, began working for Mason Point in May 1981 as a beautician and performed beautician/hair care services for Mason Point's residents in a beauty shop located on the Mason Point campus. Plaintiff was one of two beauticians employed by Mason Point. The other beautician is Nancy Burich. Plaintiff's job required her to be able to carry or lift weights in the range of 10 to 50 pounds. Plaintiff worked from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays. On Wednesdays and Thursdays she worked from 7:00 a.m. to 4: 00 p.m. She worked 35 hours during a work week. On Mondays and Tuesdays Plaintiff and Burich served residents who needed assistance in being transported to the beauty shop. Plaintiff testified that after the residents had eaten breakfast and had their meds:
we would take them and bring them down to the beauty shop, do their hair. And at all times one of us had to stay in the beauty shop because we couldn't leave them there because they would get out of their chair and fall. And then we would do their hair, take them back home; and then get the next one and bring her down, do her hair, take her back home; get the next one, bring her down, take her back home. So Mondays and Tuesdays that's pretty much our day.
Plaintiff testified that the routine on Mondays and Tuesdays involved " [a] lot of walking." Plaintiff testified that the residents were already in their wheelchairs when she went to get them and that, sometimes, the nurses would have them sitting at the desk waiting to be picked up. Plaintiff also testified that the residents stayed in their wheelchairs while she and Burich did their hair. Plaintiff testified that, on Mondays, they only did four to six people if they did perms. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, she and Burich provided services to Mason Point's " home side" residents who were capable of transporting themselves to the beauty shop. However, Plaintiff and Burich still had to retrieve some residents in wheelchairs on Wednesday and Thursday because they " couldn't get them all done on Monday and Tuesday." Plaintiff testified that " sometimes" a CNA would transport a resident to the beauty salon " if they were making a trip." Plaintiff's duties also included providing manicures, providing services in resident rooms as well as in the beauty salon, cleaning the bird aviary, assisting with laundry, participating in activities with residents and assisting with breakfast and lunch service for residents.
It is undisputed that the Mason Point facility includes a number of residential buildings. At least five buildings house residents and some of those buildings contained multiple floors of residential housing. The path from the residents' rooms to the beauty shop from time to time required Plaintiff to navigate the resident in a wheelchair to elevators, up and over ramps and through a series of hallways. Plaintiff served residents of different sizes ranging in weight from 75 to 400 pounds. Plaintiff estimated that the average resident weighed around 120 pounds. Plaintiff scheduled the residents' appointments an hour apart to allow her time to retrieve, care for, and return a resident to his or her room. At her deposition, Plaintiff was asked how long it would take her to retrieve a resident from Building 13, which appeared from the map to be the most remote of the residential buildings. Plaintiff testified:
I would not really be able to tell you. I mean because every time you'd even think you [were] going to make it just like that, a resident would be standing in the hallway stopped and talk to you. You'd start going again, then somebody would stop you at medical center, can I
have her for a minute, we need to weigh her. I mean as far as doing it in a time, I never really timed it myself. Maybe two minutes or two and a half minutes maybe. I don't know.
On November 21, 2010, Plaintiff learned that she needed to have a hysterectomy. She immediately advised Darin Wall, the administrator of Mason Point, that she would be having surgery and needed six to eight weeks off work. On November 23, 2010, Plaintiff requested a leave of absence pursuant to the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for the period of December 21, 2010, to February 2, 2011, and submitted a certification signed by her physician, Dr. Jeffrey Pfeiffer. Mason Point granted Plaintiff's request for FMLA leave.
Plaintiff underwent surgery as scheduled on December 22, 2010. Plaintiff testified that, as part of the surgery, they had to do bladder repair and put a mesh lining on her abdomen to hold the bladder up. On or about February 8, 2011, Plaintiff received written permission from Dr. Pfeiffer to return to work on February 14, 2011, but with the restriction that she could not " push over 20 pounds until released to do so." Plaintiff testified that her doctor knew she was a hairdresser and originally told her she could return to work with no restrictions. She told him that she had wheelchairs she had to push and told him how heavy the residents were. Plaintiff testified that he said " you can't be pushing and lifting" and " that's when he made this work release up because he thought I was just a hairdresser who did hair." Plaintiff testified that Dr. Pfeiffer told her that if she started pushing " 2 and 300 pound people again, over a repetitive time that's going to tear that loose, and you'll be back in for bladder repair again."
On February 8, 2011, Plaintiff went to see Wall and gave him Dr. Pfeiffer's written permission to return to work with restrictions. Plaintiff deemed herself unable to push residents in wheelchairs due to her physician's restrictions. Wall advised Plaintiff that he did not think that Plaintiff could work with a 20-pound weight restriction but that he would discuss her request to return to work with his supervisors. Wall testified that Plaintiff was telling him that it was going to be a lifetime restriction and explained her doctor's concern with the surgery and the possibility of damaging the repair of the bladder. Plaintiff testified that Wall told her he was sorry but he did not think " you can come back with the restrictions you have." Plaintiff testified that Wall also said " we just don't allow people to work with restrictions, and you have a restriction on here." Plaintiff testified that she did not believe the 20 pound restriction was going to be permanent. When asked if she pointed out to Wall that the 20 pound limitation would be changed at some ...