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Kuehne v. Arlington Heights Park District

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

April 18, 2017

JOHN KUEHNE, Plaintiff,


          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge

         Defendant Arlington Heights Park District (“Defendant” or “Park District”) employed Plaintiff John Kuehne (“Plaintiff” or “Kuehne”) from July 21, 2008 to August 1, 2013. Plaintiff claims that his termination violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Defendant moved for summary judgment, and, for the following reasons, that motion [27] is granted.

         I. Background [1]

         A. Plaintiff's Employment

         Plaintiff was employed by Defendant from July 21, 2008 to August 1, 2013 as a General Trades Worker. [30] at 2. In that capacity, Plaintiff was responsible for maintaining plumbing, heating and air conditioning units; swimming pool operations; and general electrical and carpentry work. Id. Plaintiff's most commonly performed job task was swimming pool maintenance. Id. Plaintiff admits that his “essential job duties” required him to, inter alia, “lift up to seventy-five pounds without assistance” and “climb and work on ladders.” [31] at 9. At various times throughout the employment period, however, the Park District placed Plaintiff on “light duty, ” which did not involve lifting heavy objects or climbing ladders. Id.

         B. Defendant's Other Personnel

         Alan Welk (“Welk”), Defendant's Superintendent of Parks, hired Plaintiff. [30] at 3. Throughout the employment period, Plaintiff reported directly to Welk. Id. Welk is responsible for managing the Park District's trades division. Id. Plaintiff was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes before he was hired, and Welk knew about Plaintiff's diagnosis at the time of his hiring. Id. at 6.

         Nancy Aldrich (“Aldrich”) is the Superintendent of Human Resources for the Park District. Id. at 4. Aldrich administers the Park District's human resources functions, crafting its leave policies and working to ensure its compliance with applicable employment laws and regulations, including the FMLA and ADA. Id. Aldrich learned about the Plaintiff's diabetes shortly after his hiring. Id. at 6.

         Donna Wilson (“Wilson”) is the Park District's Director of Finance and Personnel, and she oversees the Park District's human resources functions, policies and practices. Id. at 4.

         C. FMLA Leave

         The Park District has an explicit “FMLA Policy” designed to protect employees' FMLA rights. Id. at 5. The FMLA Policy informs employees that “if [FMLA] leave was due to your own serious health condition, you will be required to submit a fitness-for-duty certification” from your health care provider. Id. Defendant uses the “rolling” method of calculating FMLA leave. Id. at 7. Under this approach, when the Park District establishes the first date of the requested leave, it then determines how much FMLA leave, if any, the requesting employee took in the twelve months immediately preceding the first date of the requested leave. Id. If the employee has already taken twelve weeks of FMLA leave within that period, the employee is not eligible to take additional FMLA leave at that time. Id. at 8.

         Defendant contends that, during the course of Plaintiff's employment, he took FMLA leave on the following dates: July 7, 2009 to August 4, 2009; December 9, 2009 to December 12, 2009; June 1, 2010 to June 17, 2010; January 12, 2011 to January 29, 2011; April 23, 2011 to June 30, 2011; February 22, 2012 to May 31, 2012; October 10, 2012 to October 17, 2012; January 15, 2013 to February 6, 2013; and April 25, 2013 to June 26, 2013. Id. at 6. On June 27, 2013, Aldrich told Plaintiff that his FMLA leave was exhausted.[2]

         Plaintiff does not dispute that he was on leave at those times, but denies that he was ever informed which leaves were counted against his FMLA entitlement. [31] at 8. Plaintiff additionally concedes that many of his leaves were caused by complications resulting from his diabetes, including the leaves he took from December 18, 2008 to January 5, 2009 (foot surgery), December 22 to 30, 2010 (same), April 23 to June 30, 2011 (two toes on his left foot were amputated), January 15, 2013 to February 6, 2013 (foot infection), and April 25, 2013 to June 26, 2013 (diabetic ulcer on his foot). Id. With the exception of the leave from April 25, 2013 to June 26, 2013, Plaintiff acknowledges that he did not suffer any retaliatory actions when he returned to work. Id. at 9.

         D. Plaintiff's Termination

         Following his leave from April 15, 2013 to June 26, 2013, Plaintiff returned to work on June 27, 2013. [30] at 8. Plaintiff claims that by June 27, he was fully capable of performing his essential job functions. [31] at 13. Plaintiff's contention is supported by his own deposition testimony, his affidavit, and a note from his podiatrist, which provided, in its totality, that “Patient may return to work 6/26/13.” Id.; see also [30-13] at 2.

         When Plaintiff first reported to Welk on June 27, Welk observed that Plaintiff was limping. [31] at 12. Welk then directed Plaintiff to report to Aldrich regarding his work status and ability to perform the essential functions of his job. Id. At their June 27 meeting, Plaintiff presented Aldrich with his podiatrist's note. Id. Aldrich explained that she needed more information regarding Plaintiff's condition, and provided Plaintiff with an additional form for his doctor to complete. Id. at 12-13. The parties agree that at the conclusion of the June 27 meeting, Plaintiff was placed on paid administrative leave. Id. at 14. Plaintiff's paid administrative leave was set to expire on July 6, 2013.[3] [30] at 9.

         On July 2, 2013, Plaintiff's doctor completed the additional form supplied by Aldrich, and sent her the same. Id. This form indicated, inter alia, that Plaintiff was free to “return to work with no restrictions on 6/27/13.” Id.; see also [30-14] at 1.

         Aldrich and Welk remained concerned regarding Plaintiff's physical condition, and on July 3, 2013, Aldrich attempted to contact Plaintiff to schedule a functional capacity exam (“FCE”). [30] at 10. The FCE was designed to determine whether Plaintiff could perform his essential job functions. Id. On July 5, 2013 Aldrich left Plaintiff a voicemail explaining that she was concerned that Plaintiff could not safely do his job, and she had accordingly scheduled the FCE for July 8, ...

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