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Stragapede v. City of Evanston

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

September 26, 2014


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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Biagio Stragapede, Plaintiff: Tracy Ellen Stevenson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd., Chicago, IL.

For City Of Evanston, Defendant: W. Grant Farrar, LEAD ATTORNEY, Corporation Counsel, City of Evanston, Evanston, IL; Gina O Harrison, Henry Julius Ford, Jr., City of Evanston Law Department, Evanston, IL.

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Memorandum Opinion and Order

Honorable Edmond E. Chang, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Biagio " Gino" Stragapede alleges that his former employer, Defendant City of Evanston, discriminated against him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.[1] The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. R. 29, 43. For the reasons discussed below, Stragapede's motion is granted in part and denied in part, and the City's motion is denied.

I. Background

Stragapede began working as a water service worker for the City of Evanston in 1996. PSOF ¶ ¶ 4-5; DSOF ¶ 4. In 2009, Stragapede suffered a non-work-related head injury that required months of medical care. PSOF ¶ 6; DSOF ¶ ¶ 5. Stragapede had a four-inch nail lodged in his head after an accident with a nail gun in his garage. PSOF Exh. 2, Stragapede Dep. 44:21-45:9; R. 57, Pl.'s Resp. to Cross-Mot. and Reply at 13. When Stragapede asked to return to work in early 2010, the City requested that he first get a fitness-for-duty evaluation from a doctor. PSOF ¶ 15; DSOF ¶ 27. The first doctor to examine Stragapede was unable to clear him for duty, and she recommended that he receive an independent neurological assessment. PSOF ¶ 18; DSOF ¶ 29. The neurologist, Dr. Zoran Grujic, examined Stragapede and concluded that, though Stragapede suffered from " mild residual cognitive deficits," he " should be able to return to work." PSOF Exh. 9, Grujic Apr. 6, 2010 Letter. Dr. Grujic recommended a work " trial" supervised by a coworker to ensure that Stragapede could properly perform his job functions. Id. The City prepared for Stragapede a written test, tool recognition exam, and a fieldwork trial. PSOF ¶ ¶ 26-28. In June 2010, Stragapede completed the work trial, accompanied by his supervisors and other City employees. Id. ¶ 31. Stragapede passed the trial and was cleared to return to work. Id.; DSOF ¶ 31.

The City claims that there were several issues with Stragapede's job performance upon his return. DSOF ¶ ¶ 32-51. Less than a month after Stragapede returned to work, the City placed him on administrative leave pending an " assessment of [his] ability to perform [his] essential job functions." PSOF Exh. 15, July 2, 2010 Memorandum; DSOF ¶ 52. During Stragapede's administrative leave, the City communicated with Dr. Grujic about Stragapede's supposed performance issues. DSOF ¶ ¶ 54-55; Pl.'s Resp. to DSOF ¶ ¶ 54-55. Eventually, the City asked Stragapede to submit to another examination by Dr. Grujic. DSOF Exh. G, Anger Aug. 23, 2010 email. Through his attorney, Stragapede asked the City to articulate its reasons for requiring another examination. PSOF Exh. 22, Gallegos Aug. 24, 2010 Letter. Evanston continued to communicate with Dr. Grujic, who said that the reported performance problems were consistent with cognitive dysfunction from Stragapede's brain injury. DSOF ¶ ¶ 58-59; DSOF Exh. H, Grujic Sept. 9, 2010 Letter. Dr. Grujic also said that " the simplest accommodation would involve

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having a co-worker go out on work assignments with Mr. Stragapede." DSOF Exh. H. Based in part on its discussions with Dr. Grujic, the City fired Stragapede on September 24, 2010. PSOF Exh. 23, Bobkiewicz Sept. 24, 2010 Letter. In December of 2010, Stragapede filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). R. 1, Compl. ¶ 50. After the EEOC issued a right to sue letter, Stragapede filed this lawsuit against the City, alleging that the City discriminated against him in violation of the ADA. Id. ¶ 46.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment must be granted " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). This standard also applies to cross-motions for summary judgment. See IBEW, Local 176 v. Balmoral Racing Club, Inc., 293 F.3d 402, 404 (7th Cir. 2002). Rule 56 " mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In reviewing motions for summary judgment, the Court must " constru[e] the evidence and all reasonable inferences in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration is made." Rickher v. Home Depot, Inc., 535 F.3d 661, 664 (7th Cir. 2008). Summary ...

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