Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Alanis v. Metra

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

February 13, 2017

Elda Alanis, Plaintiff,
Metra, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Elda Alanis brings this action against her employer, defendant Metra, for discriminating and retaliating against her on the basis of her disability, Hispanic ancestry, and color; and for failing to reasonably accommodate her disabilities. Metra moves for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

         I. Background

         Metra filed this motion for summary judgment on August 3, 2016. See [54].[1] Alanis's response was due on October 24, 2016. See [60]. On the day her response was due, Alanis filed a motion for extension of time to respond to the motion for summary judgment, which I granted. See [61], [62]. Alanis's new deadline to respond was December 23, 2016. See [62]. To this day, Alanis has not filed a response to Metra's motion for summary judgment or to Metra's Local Rule 56.1 statement of facts. As a result, I will rely on Metra's statement of the facts to the extent that it is supported by evidence in the record. N.D.Ill. L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) (“All material facts set forth in the statement required of the moving party will be deemed to be admitted unless controverted by the statement of the opposing party.”); see also Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006).

         1. The Complaint

         Alanis bases her claims under the ADA, Title VII, and § 1981 on the same set supporting of facts, which she outlines in the complaint. Her version of the facts, however, is largely unsupported by the record.

         After filing a charge with the EEOC in November 2011, in which she alleged violations of her civil rights pursuant to the ADA, Alanis says Metra forced her to go on medical leave. [29] ¶¶ 39, 56-57. “Metra refused to permit Alanis to return, ostensibly because a psychological evaluation was required.” [29] ¶ 40. On January 6 and 8, 2012, Alanis says she gave Metra two notes from her doctors, clearing her to return to work and providing a list of her requested accommodations. [29] ¶¶ 49- 50. She says that Metra did not engage with her to determine reasonable accommodations until the end of February of 2012 and that it did not provide any accommodations for her until April 20, 2012. [29] ¶ 51. As a result of the delay, Alanis says she was on a forced leave of absence for five months. [29] ¶ 52. She notes that other employees who did not have her protected characteristics, [2] were not prevented from returning to work in a timely fashion nor were they forced to undergo psychological evaluations as she was. [29] ¶¶ 44, 57, 61, 69, 79.

         When she returned to work, Alanis says Metra demoted her because of her documented physical disabilities or perceived mental disabilities. [29] ¶¶ 39, 60, 65, 68, 78. Meanwhile, she says two other similarly situated employees who did not have her protected characteristics were promoted. [29] ¶¶ 43, 60, 68, 78. Later, Alanis learned that Metra withdrew its job posting for a Project Manager position “because she had applied for it.” [29] ¶ 105. She also says that other similarly situated employees who did not have her protected characteristics were paid more than she was and were not prevented from attending outreach events as she was. [29] ¶¶ 70-71, 80-81, 118, 122-23, 128, 136-37.

         Despite Alanis's fragrance-free accommodation request, she says that Metra's Senior Director of the Office of Business Diversity and Civil Rights (formerly DBE), Janice Thomas, continued to wear perfume in the workplace, that Thomas allowed other employees to wear fragrances and to use the conference room near Alanis's cubicle as a lunchroom, and that Thomas failed to create guidelines for ordering food during staff meetings or gatherings. [29] ¶¶ 90-99, 111-12. She says that non-Hispanic coworkers and supervisors have made comments to her indicating that they knew she is the individual with the disability regarding odors. [29] ¶ 143. In turn, they use their knowledge of her disability to harass her “on account of her race, color, and national origin.” Id. They harass her by continually eating their lunches in a conference room in close proximity to her workspace, instructing her to leave if she cannot tolerate the food odors at the all-staff meetings, using scented cleaning products and personal perfumes, and putting Alanis's workstation in a high foot traffic area. Id.

         2. The Record

         Metra hired Alanis almost ten years ago as a college graduate DBE Associate. [56] ¶ 2. In the fall of 2011, Thomas reviewed existing job descriptions in the DBE area and concluded they did not match the employees' actual job functions. [56] ¶ 54. As a result, Thomas drafted new job descriptions for employees in the DBE area, including Alanis. Id. Thomas discussed her findings with Alanis and two other DBE employees, Steve Oganovich and Brittany Waters, and explained that she would recommend to a compensation consultant that their job titles be changed.[3] [56] ¶ 55. Thomas did, in fact, recommend to the consultant that Alanis's job title be reclassified. [56] ¶ 56. As the study was underway when Thomas made the recommendation, the proposed changes did not go into effect immediately. [56] ¶ 59-61.

         On November 2, 2011, while at work, Alanis experienced difficulty breathing and various other symptoms. [56] ¶ 24. Metra sent Alanis to its contracted medical provider, where a doctor examined her. [56] ¶¶ 24-25. The doctor noted that she behaved inconsistently during the examination. [56] ¶ 25. He concluded that she could return to work, but he informed Alanis that she must obtain a psychological clearance examination by December 2, 2011, or else she would be prohibited from working at Metra.[4] Id.

         Approximately one week later, Alanis was at work again when she began to experience similar symptoms. [56] ¶ 26. For the next several days, Alanis came to work, but claimed she could not speak and she would only communicate via text message or pen and paper. [56] ¶¶ 27-29. On November 17, 2011, the doctor examined Alanis again. [56] ¶ 29. He reported that Alanis used pen and paper to communicate with him, but that when Alanis had to communicate with the receptionist, she whispered. Id. After examining her, the doctor concluded that Alanis's “inability” to speak prevented her from performing her job duties and thus she was “medically disqualified” from working. [56] ¶ 30. A few days later, Alanis submitted a request for FMLA continuous leave, which she backdated to begin on November 18, 2011; she also submitted an application for short term disability benefits. [56] ¶ 31.

         Alanis's Annual Performance Appraisal for 2011 reported an overall score of “Needs Improvement.” [58-1] at 33. This resulted in Metra placing Alanis on a “90 Day Performance Improvement Plan.” [58-1] at 37. Thomas sent Alanis a memorandum explaining that if she “fail[ed] to make the required improvements in the areas identified, [she would] be disciplined or terminated.” Id. Her performance eventually improved; in 2012, Alanis's annual review reflected that her performance “Meets Expectations.” [58-1] at 53.

         In early January 2012, Alanis submitted notes from her treating doctors releasing her to return to work and requesting accommodations. [56] ¶ 33. Since Alanis had failed to obtain psychological clearance, though, Metra did not permit her to return to work.[5] Id. At that time, Alanis's yearly salary was $41, 623. [56] ¶ 65. Another Metra employee with the same title, Brittany Waters, earned the same yearly salary as Alanis. Id. Steve Oganovich, who also held the same title as Alanis, but who had worked at Metra for fourteen years longer than Alanis, earned a higher yearly salary than Alanis ($49, 644). [56] ¶¶ 65-66. At the end of January, Metra posted a job posting for a DBE Compliance Specialist position. [56] ¶ 57. Oganovich applied to the posting and was awarded the position. [56] ¶ 59. His old position was reclassified as DBE Compliance Specialist and it, too, was posted as a job opportunity. [56] ¶ 59. Waters applied to that posting and she was awarded the position. Id. Alanis did not apply to the DBE Compliance Specialist posting because she believed (due to her conversation with Thomas in the fall) that she had already been promoted to that position. [56] ¶ 58. Based on these job changes, Oganovich and Waters each earned a higher salary than Alanis in 2012.[6] [56] ¶ 67.

         Alanis returned to work on April 30, 2012, after she underwent a psychological clearance examination. [56] ¶¶ 34, 45. She submitted requests to Metra's Reasonable Accommodation Committee, which included: flexible work hours, modified dress code to allow loose fitting clothes, limitation on talking at length when symptomatic, periodic rest breaks, self-paced workload, a fragrance-free workplace policy, use of a headset phone to minimize ambient noise and distractions, and a private office. [56] ¶¶ 35-36, 46. Metra committed to providing her the following accommodations: modifying the dress code, not talking at length when symptomatic, allowing periodic rest breaks away from her workstation, allowing her to use a cell phone and full spectrum lamp, and providing assistance for heavy lifting. [56] ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.