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Newell v. Alden Village Health Facility for Children and Young Adults

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

December 1, 2014

CHIQUITA NEWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
ALDEN VILLAGE HEALTH FACILITY FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES P. KOCORAS, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Alden Village Health Facility for Children and Young Adults Inc.'s ("Alden Village") motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, Alden Village's motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are derived from the parties' respective statements and exhibits filed pursuant to Northern District of Illinois Rule 56.1 ("Local Rule 56.1"). The Seventh Circuit has repeatedly stressed that facts should be set forth in a Local Rule 56.1 statement, and it is not the duty of the Court to parse the parties' exhibits to construct the facts. Judges are not "like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs." United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991). It is not the duty of the court to sift through a party's record to find evidence that supports their claim. Davis v. Carter, 452 F.3d 686, 692 (7th Cir. 2006). Rather, it is "[a]n advocate's job... to make it easy for the court to rule in [their] favor...." Dal Pozzo v. Basic Machinery Co., Inc., 463 F.3d 609, 613 (7th Cir. 2006). The Court reviews each Local Rule 56.1 statement and disregards any argument, conclusion, or assertion unsupported by the evidence in the record. Merely including facts in a responsive memorandum is insufficient to put issues before the Court. Midwest Imports, Ltd. v. Coval, 71 F.3d 1311, 1313 (7th Cir. 1995). In the event that either parties' statements or responses contain legal conclusions or argument, are irrelevant, or are not supported by evidence in the record, they will not be considered by the Court in the ruling for summary judgment.

On December 3, 2008, Alden Village hired Plaintiff Chiquita Newell ("Newell") as a habilitation specialist to assist residents with daily physical activities. Alden Village is a facility designed for housing and providing care for developmentally disabled children and young adults, located in Bloomingdale, Illinois. As a habilitation specialist, Newell was responsible for training, assisting residents with personal hygiene, and coaching them on how to conduct activities for daily living to increase independence skills. Alden Village defined the job requirements of a habilitation specialist as one which "requires physical exertion more than half of the time with moderate to heavy physical effort commonly required... including handling or lifting resident[s]." On April 17, 2010, Newell injured her left wrist while at work. The injury was initially diagnosed as a wrist sprain of the distal radioulnar joint. After suffering the injury to her wrist, Newell returned to work under the light duty requirements issued by her treating physician. She was able to perform the necessary requirements of her job. In June 2010, Newell's injury was evaluated by her doctor again, and what was initially believed to be a wrist sprain was actually an ulnar-sided triangular fibrocartilage complex ("TFCC") tear in her left wrist.

On February 13, 2011, Newell re-injured her wrist in the course of dealing with an unruly patient. After reinjuring her wrist, Newell's treating physician submitted a revised work restriction order on March 3, 2011, mandating that Newell eliminate any contact with residents. In light of her restricted work order, Newell requested a work accommodation. To accommodate Newell, Alden Village placed Newell in the laundry department, which eliminated the need for Newell to engage in physical contact with the residents. From March 2011 until October 2011, Newell worked in the laundry department, located in the lower level of the Alden Village facility. The record does not indicate if Newell had any interaction with residents while performing her duties in the laundry department.

In October 2011, Newell notified Alden Village that she would not be working for a few weeks due to her grandmother's death and that she would return on October 25, 2011. Alden Village agreed with her request, but Newell did not appear for work on the date she submitted as her return date. In accordance with Alden Village's internal policy for dealing with employees that fail to show up for their shift, it discharged Newell. It was later determined that Newell did in fact call to report her absence due to a severe illness, and her calls were not received by the appropriate facility administrator. Newell clarified the miscommunication with Alden Village, and was reinstated with full back pay, as an employee on light duty status. On December 19, 2011, Newell returned to Alden Village and was not assigned to laundry duties, but had been moved to perform cleaning and filing work at Alden Village. Newell was required to clean medical device holding poles, organize residents' charts, and clean and fill hygiene boxes. In addition to her cleaning and organizational duties, Newell was assigned to assist a disruptive patient. Newell raised her concern that her March 2011 work restriction was still in place and she could not come into physical contact with residents. On December 21, 2011, Alden Village Administrator Laurie Longo ("Longo") met with Newell and asked her to determine if any changes in her work restrictions were warranted. Newell met with her physician at Hinsdale Orthopedics on December 30, 2011.

After Newell's appointment, on December 30, 2011, Hinsdale Orthopedics sent Newell's revised work restrictions to Alden Village. The work restrictions from December 30, 2011 stated that Newell was allowed to return to modified work, but that she may not have "direct contact or interaction[s] with residents." Longo informed Newell that due to her restrictions, she did not want Newell in the building because she could not guarantee that Alden Village could ensure that it followed her December 2011 work restrictions. After December 30, 2011, Newell never returned to work at Alden Village; however, she was not formally terminated at this time.

On July 25, 2012, Alden Village sent Newell a letter advising her that a position was "open and available to her" at Alden Village within her treating physicians work requirements. Newell did not respond to the letter and in late 2012 Newell received a letter of termination from Alden Village.

On May 8, 2013, Newell filed a six-count amended complaint against Alden Village. Newell's complaint alleged that Alden Village: (i) wrongfully terminated her employment; (ii) failed to promote her; (iii) failed to reasonably accommodate her disability; (iv) failed to stop ongoing harassment; (v) retaliated against her; and (vi) discharged her in retaliation under Illinois common law. Newell sought recovery under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Following Alden Village's motion to dismiss Newell's complaint, this Court determined that her: (1) ADA discriminatory termination claim; and (2) ADA failure to accommodate claim were both legally viable. On June 6, 2012, Alden Village moved for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, discovery, disclosures, and affidavits establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact, such that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Cook Cnty., 563 F.3d 598, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2009). A genuine issue of material fact exists when, based on the evidence, a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party. Trinity Homes LLC v. Ohio Cas. Ins. Co., 629 F.3d 653, 656 (7th Cir. 2010). The moving party must identify the specific portions of the record which it believes establishes the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine issue in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court construes all facts and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Smith v. Hope Sch., 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009).

It is the "well-established duty of the trial court to ensure that the claims of a pro se litigant are given a fair and meaningful consideration." Palmer v. City of Decatur, Ill., 814 F.2d 426, 428-29 (7th Cir. 1987). However, "[a] lawsuit is not a game of hide the peanut." Greer v. Board of Educ. City of Chicago, Ill., 267 F.3d 723, 728 (7th Cir. 2001). Employment discrimination cases are very fact-intensive, and district courts are not required under our "adversary system to scour the record looking for factual disputes...." Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921-22 (7th Cir. 1994). In the context of summary judgment, a district court need not, even for pro se ...


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