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Aliferis v. Generations Health Care Network at Oakton Pavillion, LLC.

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

September 19, 2016



          Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge

         Judy Aliferis and Brian Gaughan filed this lawsuit against their former employers, Generations Health Care Network at Oakton Pavillion, LLC, and Generations Health Care Network at Oakton Arms, LLC, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), 775 ILCS 5/1-101 et seq.[1] R. 39, Second Am. Compl.[2] Aliferis alleges that the Defendants fired her because she had cancer, id. ¶¶ 20-25, and Gaughan alleges that he was fired because of his association with Aliferis, id. ¶¶ 26-31. The Defendants now move for summary judgment on Gaughan's claims of association discrimination. R. 46, Mot. Summ. J.; R. 47, Defs.' Summ. J. Br. For the reasons discussed below, the motion is in large part denied.[3]

         I. Background

         For purposes of this motion, the following facts are viewed in the light most favorable to Gaughan (because he is the non-movant), and all reasonable inferences are drawn in his favor. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In July 2012, Gaughan began working as a receptionist for Oakton Pavillion, Inc.'s senior living facility in Des Plaines, Illinois. R. 50, DSOF ¶¶ 4, 5, 7. His partner, Judy Aliferis, [4] had worked for Oakton Pavillion's skilled nursing facility since at least January 2010. Id. ¶ 4; R. 56, PSOF ¶ 1. The two facilities are located in nearby buildings. DSOF ¶ 4.

         On his first day of work at Oakton Pavillion, Gaughan received an Employee Handbook detailing his employer's discipline and attendance policies. DSOF ¶¶ 9-10; R. 50-5, Defs.' Exh. 5, Acknowledgment of Receipt of Employee Handbook; R. 50-6, Defs.' Exh. 6, Oakton Place Employee Handbook. The Handbook stated that employees who “[l]e[ft] the premises without authorization during working hours” would be immediately fired. Defs.' Exh. 6 at DEF000044-45, Oakton Place Employee Handbook at 21-22.

         In March 2014, Aliferis was diagnosed with breast cancer. DSOF ¶ 20. In light of this, Aliferis often had doctor's appointments during the week, and Gaughan routinely drove her to them. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. Oakton Pavillion gave Aliferis complete flexibility with her schedule so that she could make her doctor's appointments. PSOF ¶ 6. Even with this flexibility, however, Aliferis submitted a Request for Family Medical Leave on August 18, 2014 due to her diagnosis. Id.

         To take time off for Aliferis's appointments, Gaughan would fill out a “Requesting a Change in Schedule” form and place the form in the internal mail delivery system. DSOF ¶¶ 16-17; PSOF ¶ 8. After the form was filled out and internally mailed, either Maureen Krahl, Gaughan's supervisor, DSOF ¶ 13, or Jay Lewkowitz, the administrator at Oakton Pavillion, id. ¶ 5, would approve the request, sign the form, and return a copy to Gaughan, id. ¶ 17; PSOF ¶ 11. The Defendants acknowledge that it was appropriate for Gaughan to submit his requests for time off to Krahl. See R. 62, Defs.' Resp. PSOF ¶ 12. Gaughan would keep the returned forms in his bag in case any payroll issues came up. PSOF ¶ 14. According to Gaughan, he always followed this procedure when requesting time off. DSOF ¶ 18. It is unclear whether Oakton Pavillion required supervisors to maintain copies of approved “Requesting a Change in Schedule” forms in employees' personnel files. According to Krahl, there was no such requirement. R. 56-4, Pl.'s Exh. 4, Krahl Dep. 59:6-60:5; see also PSOF ¶ 13. But Ron Tan, Oakton Pavillion's payroll manager, had allegedly told the facilities administrator (Bart Barrish) that a copy was supposed to go into the employee's personnel file. R. 50-3, Defs.' Exh. 3, Barrish Dep. 165:17-168:8; Defs.' Resp. PSOF ¶ 13.

         On September 1, 2014, the Defendants bought Oakton Pavillion's two facilities. DSOF ¶ 6. At that time, Bart Barrish took over as the facilities' administrator. PSOF ¶ 5. Barrish knew that Aliferis had cancer before he took over and had even decided to fire Aliferis as early as July 2014. Id. ¶¶ 2, 5. (Aliferis was not actually fired until September 11, 2014. DSOF ¶ 29.) He also discovered during this time that Aliferis and Gaughan were in a relationship. PSOF ¶ 17; Defs.' Resp. PSOF ¶ 18; Barrish Dep. 157:2-8.

         Barrish also decided to fire Krahl when the Defendants acquired Oakton Pavillion. DSOF ¶ 14. Her last day was September 9. Id. Although both sides admit that Barrish became Gaughan's supervisor as of September 1, Gaughan maintains that Krahl was also his supervisor up until her last day of work. Compare DSOF ¶ 15, with Pl.'s Resp. DSOF ¶ 15.

         Aliferis had a doctor's appointment scheduled for September 11, 2014. DSOF ¶ 23. Gaughan had planned to take Aliferis to this appointment and accordingly submitted a “Requesting a Change in Schedule” form. Id. ¶ 24. Neither he nor Krahl remember exactly when Gaughan submitted the form, but both sides agree that he did so before September 11. Id. ¶¶ 24, 25; PSOF ¶ 9. Krahl thereafter returned a signed copy of the form to Gaughan. PSOF ¶¶ 9-10; R. 50-9, Defs.' Exh. 9, September 11, 2014 Requesting a Change in Schedule Form. The form never ended up in Gaughan's personnel file. DSOF ¶ 26.

         Before Aliferis and Gaughan left for the doctor's on September 11, Barrish fired Aliferis. DSOF ¶ 29. (Shortly thereafter, Barrish allegedly admitted at a staff meeting that Aliferis was fired because of her health. PSOF ¶ 27; see also Krahl Dep. 192:5-193:7; R. 56-14, Pl.'s Exh. 14, Chapman Aff. ¶¶ 6-7; R. 56-15, Pl.'s Exh. 15, Smith Dep. 47:15-22, 48:5-23.) The parties dispute whether Barrish was aware that Aliferis had a doctor's appointment that day. Compare DSOF ¶ 29; Defs.' Resp. PSOF ¶ 18, with Pl.'s Resp. DSOF ¶ 29. It is undisputed, however, that Barrish saw Aliferis and Gaughan leave together. PSOF ¶ 18; Barrish Dep. 157:2-8 (“Q: How did you become aware [that Gaughan was Aliferis's boyfriend] on September 11th? / A: When he left with her, someone told me that they were together.”). Aside from submitting the “Requesting a Change in Schedule” form and receiving Krahl's permission to leave, Gaughan did not tell anyone that he was taking Aliferis to the doctor. DSOF ¶ 31; Pl.'s Resp. DSOF ¶ 31.

         Later that day, Barrish discovered that there was no one manning Gaughan's post at the senior living facility's reception desk. DSOF ¶ 32. Barrish did not ask anyone where Gaughan was or try to contact Gaughan for an explanation as to why he was not at work. PSOF ¶ 19. He did, however, review Gaughan's personnel file to see if there was a “Requesting a Change in Schedule” form accounting for his absence that day. DSOF ¶ 33. After finding no copy of the form in Gaughan's file, Barrish decided to fire Gaughan. Id. ¶¶ 33-34.

         Gaughan worked his entire shift at the reception desk the next day before Barrish called him in for a meeting. DSOF ¶¶ 35-36. At the meeting, Barrish told Gaughan that leaving his post at the reception desk violated the Employee Handbook. Id. ¶ 37. Gaughan explained that he had left work early the day before in order to take Aliferis to her doctor's appointment. PSOF ¶ 21.[5] He also told Barrish that Krahl had pre-approved his absence; that is, she had signed off on the request for time off form that he had previously submitted to her. Id. ¶ 22.

         The parties dispute what happened next. Gaughan claims that he told Barrish that the form was in his bag just next door at the senior living facility, but Barrish refused to let him go get the form. PSOF ¶¶ 23-24; Pl.'s Resp. DSOF ¶ 40; R. 50-2, Defs.' Exh. 2, Gaughan Dep. 54:3-14, 66:2-67:9. The Defendants, by contrast, maintain that Barrish refused to let Gaughan produce the form only after Gaughan told him that the form was at home, not next door. DSOF ¶ 40; Defs.' Resp. DSOF ¶¶ 23-24; Barrish Dep. 177:6-180:20. Barrish then fired Gaughan. DSOF ¶ 39. Before this incident, Gaughan never had any disciplinary or attendance issues. Id. ΒΆ 12. Later that week, on September 14, Krahl sent an ...

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