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Swanson v. Village of Flossmoor

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

September 18, 2014

MARK SWANSON, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF FLOSSMOOR, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Mark Swanson filed a four-count complaint against the Village of Flossmoor alleging race and national-origin discrimination, retaliatory discrimination, and failure to make accommodations pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Now before the court is Flossmoor's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the court grants the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed for the purposes of Flossmoor's motion for summary judgment.

The Village of Flossmoor Police Department employed Mark Swanson as a police officer from January 2000 to September 2009. In November 2006, Swanson was assigned to work in the criminal-investigations unit as a detective. As a detective, he continued to hold the civil-service rank of patrol officer. Swanson continued to work as a detective in the investigation unit until his last day of work on September 30, 2009. After that date, Swanson's only communication with Flossmoor was through its then-Chief of Police, William Miller. On September 14, 2010, Swanson filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

A. Swanson's leaves of absence

On July 31, 2009, Swanson suffered a stroke. He was unable to perform the essential function of his job as a patrol officer or detective from that date until August 19, 2009. Accordingly, Flossmoor approved Swanson for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for the period between August 5 and August 19, 2009. During that period, Swanson took sick leave and did not suffer any loss of pay. He then returned to work in the investigations unit on August 19, 2009.

On September 30, 2009, Swanson suffered a "mini stroke." On October 7, 2009, Swanson's doctor wrote a note excusing him from work until further notice. On November 17, 2009, Swanson submitted his FMLA paperwork to the Village. The accompanying certification stated that he was unable to perform the essential functions of his job as a detective and patrol officer beginning on September 30, 2009. Flossmoor approved Swanson's FMLA leave retroactively to September 30, 2009, and Swanson used his accrued benefit time to cover his absence.

Swanson's twelve weeks of FMLA leave expired on December 9, 2009. On December 10, 2009, Miller notified Swanson in writing that his FMLA leave had expired and that his paid-time leave would be exhausted on December 18, 2009. Swanson was given the option to request unpaid leave from the Village Manager. Miller told Swanson that upon his return to work, he would likely be assigned to the patrol division. Miller gave Swanson a copy of the patrol-division job description so Swanson's physician could evaluate his fitness for duty.

Miller assigned Swanson to the patrol division in part because Flossmoor had recently terminated an officer, leaving the Department short-staffed in the patrol division. Ultimately, Swanson never returned to work. At some point, Swanson went to the emergency room for medical treatment. Afterwards, Swanson's physician did not allow him to return to work. When Swanson exhausted his FMLA leave, he sought an unpaid leave of absence until his doctor released him. Flossmoor approved the request through February 6, 2010.

On December 21, 2009, Swanson wrote Miller a letter requesting a disability pension from his initial stroke. Swanson stated that he was unable to resume his duties as a patrol officer and as a detective. The next day, Swanson submitted his disability-pension application to Flossmoor's pension board. The basis for the application was Swanson's inability to perform his duties as a police officer because of the stroke.

In January 2010, Swanson requested an extension of his medical leave of absence. Flossmoor approved the request, extending it until the pension-board ruling. Since the extension, Swanson has not been released to return to work.

B. Swanson's disability pension proceedings

In February 2011, Flossmoor's pension board held a hearing to consider Swanson's application for a disability pension. At that meeting, the board determined that Swanson was unable to return to work to perform his police duties. It found that Swanson was entitled to a non-duty disability pension to be paid retroactively from the date he was removed from Flossmoor's payroll.

In July 2011, the board conducted another hearing to determine whether Swanson was entitled to a line-of-duty disability pension. The board found that Swanson was disabled and entitled to a non-duty disability pension as previously awarded. In November 2011, the board granted Swanson's request for a non-duty disability pension but denied Swanson a line-of-duty pension. As a ...


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