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Jordan v. City of Chicago

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

September 21, 2016



          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant City of Chicago's motion for summary judgment [54]. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendant's motion [54].

         I. Background

         The Court takes the relevant facts primarily from the parties' Local Rule (“L.R.”) 56.1 statements, [53], [56], [58], and [59]. The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted.

         Plaintiff Jeffrey Jordan (“Plaintiff”) has been employed by Defendant the City of Chicago (“City”) as an electrical engineer in the Department of Aviation (“DOA”) since 1986. Plaintiff's duties include installing, maintaining, inspecting, and testing electrical wiring, conduits, and lighting systems. In January 1998, while working at O'Hare Airport in his capacity as an electrical engineer, Plaintiff slipped and fell on ice and sustained a back injury. In March 1998, Plaintiff was placed on a duty disability leave of absence. He filed a workers' compensation claim against the City in March 1998 based on the back injury that he sustained while on duty.

         Plaintiff remained on duty disability leave until December 2012. While Plaintiff was on leave, he underwent four back surgeries. In 2010, Plaintiff contacted Josephine Love (“Love”), the City's Administrative Services Officer, about the procedure for returning to work from duty disability leave. Love's supervisor was Angela Manning (“Manning”). Manning was the DOA's Managing Deputy of Administration and the decision-maker on employee requests for reinstatement from leaves of absence.

         At some point in 2011, Plaintiff determined that he was physically able to return to work as an electrical mechanic. He contacted Love a second time and she informed him that in order to return to work he would need (1) a doctor's release to full duty, and (2) to settle his workers' compensation claim. On December 1, 2011, Plaintiff and the City entered into an agreement to settle Plaintiff's workers' compensation claim. See [58-15]. Under the settlement, the City agreed to make a lump sum payment to Plaintiff of $289, 152.53. Id. at 4. Plaintiff understood that the settlement was “negotiated for [him] to return to work closing the medical” compensation claim. [56] at 6. Nothing in the settlement expressly prohibited Plaintiff from returning to work for the City as a mechanical engineer. See generally [58-15].

         On January 30, 2012, Plaintiff's doctor, Dr. Stephen Mardjetko, signed an “Injured Worker Physician Assessment Report” indicating that Plaintiff was able to return to full work duty without restrictions. The same day, Plaintiff met with Love for a third time and presented her with Dr. Mardjetko's release. According to Plaintiff, Love told him that she would need about a month to investigate and would get back to him about his reinstatement, but she never did. That day, Plaintiff also told Manning that he was requesting reinstatement. Manning asked to review Plaintiff's documentation, including his workers' compensation file and settlement agreement. Manning reviewed Plaintiff's workers' compensation file and settlement agreement and consulted with attorneys from the City to determine whether Plaintiff could be reinstated. On or about January 30, 2012, she determined that Plaintiff could not be reinstated. At her deposition, Manning was unable to identify which medical documents from the workers' compensation file she used to make her decision. [53-10] at 39-40, 47. While the City denies that Manning evaluated whether Plaintiff could perform the essential duties of the electrical mechanic position, Manning testified at her deposition that, based on her review of all of Plaintiff's documentation, she concluded that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of the essential duties of his job that required lifting, the use of ladders or heavy power tools, or a tolerance of heights. [53-10] at 124-25. Additionally, in its interrogatory responses, which Manning verified, the City stated that it “justifiably and reasonably concluded that Plaintiff could not perform the essential functions of an Electrical Mechanic, ” and that “Manning made the decision not to permit Plaintiff to return to work full duty based on documentation of his permanent and total disability, as well as Plaintiff's medical documentation provided by himself and the City's third-party workers' compensation administrator.” [58-16] at 3 (Interrogatory 2), 9 (Interrogatory 10), 14 (Manning's verification). About three or four weeks after his third meeting with Love (between February 20 and 27, 2012) Plaintiff had a final meeting with Love. According to Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 statement, “Love informed Plaintiff he could not be returned to work due to a clause in the settlement agreement.” [58] at 6.

         Around this time, Plaintiff contacted his union's business agent, Mike Gogola (“Gogola”). On March 8, 2012, Plaintiff wrote an email to Gogola in which he stated: “I am still covered by the IBEW contract with the City while returning to duty from Workers' Compensation and also covered by the ‘Federal Americans with Disabilities Act' if the City is claiming I'm disabled even though I can do the job in full capacity, and nothing in my settlement says otherwise. I was not required to resign or relinquish my position in any way.” [56] at 12. On May 2, 2012, Plaintiff sent Gogola an email requesting that the union file a grievance on his behalf because he had not been reinstated. On May 13, 2012, Plaintiff sent Gogola an email in which he stated that Love had told him that the City would not return anyone to work with restrictions and described this as a “clear violation” of the ADA. [56] at 14.

         The union filed a grievance on Plaintiff's behalf on May 14, 2012. See [58-7]. The grievance sought Plaintiffs reinstatement and back pay dating back to the date of the settlement. The “Statement of Grievance” attached to the grievance form reported that during his fourth and final meeting with Love (which occurred in late February, 2012) Love “stated that her department head said there was a clause in [the] settlement that stated [that Plaintiff] could not return to work.” [58-7] at 4. According to the Statement of Grievance, Plaintiff consulted with his attorney and then called Love back and told her that there was no such clause in his settlement. Id. at 4. Love allegedly told Plaintiff that “it was up to the attorneys.” Id.

         On June 20, 2012, the City denied Plaintiff's grievance. They denied his grievance again on August 29, 2012.[1] On February 14, 2013, an attorney for the City, JoAnn Lim, sent a letter to Plaintiff's union attorney, Nicholas Kasmer. Lim told Kasmer that Plaintiff had a “quasi permanent disability.” [56] at 13. According to Plaintiff, “[t]his was the first time anyone from the City informed Plaintiff that it believed him to be disabled” and the “first time Defendant informed Plaintiff he could not return to work based upon his injuries.” [57] at 5-6. On April 7, 2013, Kasmer told Plaintiff, “now we know why they're not returning you to work because they're perceiving you to be still disabled or unable to perform the job.” [56] at 7. On April 9, 2013, Plaintiff and the City arbitrated his grievance. On November 13, 2013, the arbitrator entered a decision awarding Plaintiff reinstatement without back pay, subject to his successful completion of a functional capacity evaluation (“FEC”) and an independent medical evaluation (“IME”).

         On December 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC alleging claims of age and disability discrimination and retaliation between January 2012 and February 12, 2013. Plaintiff filed a second Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on January 13, 2014, also alleging age and disability discrimination based on the same facts alleged in the December EEOC charge.

         Subsequently, Plaintiff passed the FEC and the IME. He was reinstated by the City as a mechanical engineer on April 3, 2014.

         On April 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit against the City. The Complaint contains one claim, for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”). The complaint alleges that the City intentionally discriminated against him based on his ...

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