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Cruz v. Donahoe

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

August 11, 2014

SADIRI U. DE LA CRUZ, Plaintiff,
PATRICK R. DONAHOE, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service, Defendant.


GEORGE M. MAROVICH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Sadiri U. De La Cruz ("De La Cruz") filed suit against Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service. De La Cruz alleges that he was discriminated against on the basis of his race and national origin (in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and that he was discriminated against on the basis of his disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

Local Rule 56.1 outlines the requirements for the introduction of facts parties would like considered in connection with a motion for summary judgment. The Court enforces Local Rule 56.1 strictly. Facts that are argued but do not conform with the rule are not considered by the Court. For example, facts included in a party's brief but not in its statement of facts are not considered by the Court because to do so would rob the other party of the opportunity to show that such facts are disputed. Where one party supports a fact with admissible evidence and the other party fails to controvert the fact with citation to admissible evidence, the Court deems the fact admitted. See Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817-818 (7th Cir. 2004). This does not, however, absolve the party putting forth the fact of its duty to support the fact with admissible evidence. See Keeton v. Morningstar, Inc., 667 F.3d 877, 880 (7th Cir. 2012). Asserted "facts" not supported by deposition testimony, documents, affidavits or other evidence admissible for summary judgment purposes are not considered by the Court.

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

When he retired on January 31, 2013, plaintiff De La Cruz (who is Filipino) had been working for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 27 years. This lawsuit arises out of requests De La Cruz made in early 2012 for light duty work after he had surgery on his toe.

Prior to his surgery, De La Cruz's duties at the post office included: accepting and processing passports, taking passport photos, preparing stamps for mail orders, accepting letters and parcels for mailing, walking the lobby to assist customers, assisting customers picking up mail and parcels, inputting mail holds for customers, answering telephones and sweeping the lobby. His title was "sales, service/distribution associate."

In November 2011, De La Cruz underwent hemi-implant arthroplasty, which is to say he had surgery on one of his toes. The surgery and recovery therefrom kept De La Cruz out of work during November, December and most of January 2012.

On January 21, 2012, De La Cruz contacted his supervisor, Stanley Stanczuk, to inform Stanczuk that he was ready to return to work. De La Cruz also informed Stanczuk of his work restrictions. A doctor had provided a note which stated that De La Cruz could return to work on January 30, 2012 with the following restrictions: "light duty with no standing more than 2 hours at a time... [a]lso no pushing or lifting greater than 5 lbs." The doctor stated that De La Cruz should be reevaluated in six weeks.

De La Cruz returned to work on January 28, 2012. He was assigned to perform the duties of a window clerk. De La Cruz was provided a chair so that he would not have to stand more than two hours at a time. Stanczuk instructed De La Cruz not to lift anything heavy and to ask for help if he needed it. For three weeks (until February 21, 2012), De La Cruz continued to work as a window clerk. He also worked overtime during this time period.

During this time period, De La Cruz did not work with customers who requested passports, because he had not been recertified to do so. Employees working on passports must be recertified periodically (how often is not made clear in the record). Although De La Cruz possessed the necessary knowledge (he had scored 100% on the Passport Examination of Passport Agents), he had been on leave when the other employees were recertified. Recertification is apparently easy to obtain: one need only sign a form and mail it in. It is unclear why defendant did not send De La Cruz the form while he was on leave, and it is unclear why De La Cruz did not take it upon himself to sign the form when he returned. In any case, he remained uncertified.

Other employees who were certified to process passports continued to do so during this time period. The Glenview post office at which De La Cruz worked had an office (separate from the regular customer windows) for processing passports. During the time period relevant to this case, due to budget cuts, the defendant did not staff the passport office with an employee dedicated solely to passports. Instead, when a customer needed passport services, an employee would move from the regular customer window to the passport office in order to handle that customer's passport issue.

On February 21, 2012, De La Cruz called in sick due to back, knee and toe pain. De La Cruz obtained medical orders not to work, so he went on leave. During this time, he continued to drive himself to appointments and to do some work (such as helping with cooking and washing dishes) around his house.

By April 13, 2012, De La Cruz was cleared by his doctor for work. His restrictions allowed him to work up to six hours per day, but he could do no lifting, no crawling, no climbing, no prolonged standing and no repetitive pushing, pulling, twisting or bending. De La Cruz sent the work clearance to Stanczuk and notified Stanczuk that he could return on April 19. Stanczuk discussed the matter with the postmaster, Alonzo Young ("Young"). They concluded that, given De ...

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