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Alanis v. Metra

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

March 31, 2014

ELDA ALANIS, Plaintiff,
v.
METRA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Elda Alanis ("Alanis") brings forth this action alleging that defendant Metra discriminated against her because of a disability. Alanis alleges that Metra failed to accommodate her disability and retaliated against her because she filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and complained of discrimination. Alanis also alleges that Metra created a hostile work environment and harassed her by subjecting her to different terms of employment and violating her intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") rights. Metra moves for summary judgment on all of Alanis' claims. For the following reasons, Metra's motion is granted in its entirety.

Background[1]

Alanis was hired by Metra on July 30, 2007 as a DBE Associate. Alanis is presently still employed as a DBE Associate with Metra and spends the majority of her time working from her desk reviewing and inputting invoices or other files. (Alanis Dep. 109:1-23). Alanis' job duties include monitoring DBE compliance on professional service contracts. Id. Alanis suffers from several medical conditions including sinus issues, asthma, and thalassemia, which is a blood disorder that causes iron deficiencies. Alanis testified that none of these ailments affected her ability to work and that she did not require any accommodations upon employment in 2007. (Alanis Dep at 84:19-23). Alanis also testified that she has narcolepsy and fibromyalgia which affect her ability to sleep and can result in her falling asleep while at work.

Metra has a policy that typically requires all employees to work between the "core hours" of 8:30 am through 4:00 pm. The parties dispute whether Metra also had a flex-time program which exempted certain employees from this general "core hours" requirement. Nonetheless, the parties agree that upon hiring Alanis somehow negotiated a work schedule of 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. Alanis testified that she discussed her work hours with a Metra recruiter who assisted in her hiring process and that she was allowed to work a schedule of 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. Alanis also testified that the reason why she needed this adjusted work schedule was because she wanted to be able to take her son to school. (Alanis Dep. 93:10-12). Alanis also stated that there were no other reasons or issues that required her to start work at 9:00 am. (Alanis Dep. 93:13-14).

When Alanis first started working for Metra in 2007, she worked under the supervision of Sandi Llano. In December 2010, Janice Thomas ("Thomas") was hired to replace Llano upon Llano's retirement in January 2011. In February 2011, Thomas informed Alanis that she would be required to work during Metra's core hours of 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. Alanis argues that her work schedule was changed in retaliation for her complaining to Thomas about alleged discrimination in January 2011. Alanis also filed a complaint with the EEOC on November 28, 2011 alleging that she was subjected to harassment and different terms of employment.

Between 2009 and 2011 Alanis was certified for intermittent leave under the FMLA for her own health conditions as well as health conditions concerning her children. (Dkt. 84 at ¶ 37). Metra required Alanis to have fitness-for-duty examinations after returning from FMLA leave. Alanis argues that the change in her work schedule and Metra's requirement that she have fitness-for-duty examinations violated her ADA and FMLA rights.

Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Johnson v. General Bd. of Pension & Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church, 733 F.3d 722, 727 (7th Cir. 2013); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). This standard places the initial burden on the moving party to identify those portions of the record that "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). Once the moving party meets this burden of production, the non-moving party "must go beyond the pleadings" and identify portions of the record demonstrating that a material fact is genuinely disputed. Id .; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). All inferences drawn from the facts must be construed in favor of the non-movant.

Discussion

1. Harassment & Hostile Work Environment

Initially, Metra moves to dismiss Alanis' harassment and hostile work environment ADA claims as untimely. Metra argues that requiring Alanis to resubmit FMLA certification forms and requiring fitness-for-duty examinations is insufficient to constitute harassment. The Seventh Circuit, "has yet to recognize a cause of action under the ADA for harassment or hostile work environment" claims. Valadez v. Steiner Corp., 156 Fed.Appx. 821, 824 (7th Cir. 2005). Accordingly, based upon the facts of this case, this Court also declines to recognize a cause of action for such claims under the ADA.

2. Failure to Accommodate

Next, Metra moves to dismiss Alanis' failure-to-accommodate claims. Metra argues that Alanis was given reasonable accommodations for her health issues because she was given time off and had been excused from the company's driving requirement. Alanis agrees that Metra never refused to give her time off when medically necessary. (Dkt. 84 at ¶ 73). It is unclear from Alanis' complaint, brief, or supporting affidavit what precise accommodations, beyond time off, were requested or how Metra failed to meet those requests. Alanis merely alleges that she requested "reasonable accommodations" and that she requested a reduced and flexible work schedule, the ability to work from home, and a work office ...


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