United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
DARROW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are Defendant Caterpillar, Inc.'s
(“Caterpillar”) motion for summary judgment, ECF
No. 27, and Plaintiff Coleman's motion for extension of
time to file an addendum, ECF No. 34. For the reasons that
follow, the motions are GRANTED.
manufactures construction and mining equipment, engines,
turbines, and locomotives. 2017 Caterpillar Fact
Caterpillar/CM20170623-48500-33391 (visited Aug. 22, 2017).
Coleman worked as an IT analyst at a Caterpillar facility in
East Peoria, Illinois from August 25, 2008 to December 1,
2011. In late 2011, Caterpillar eliminated Coleman's
position but, pursuant to its policies, placed her in a pool
of priority candidates for other jobs within the company. She
applied for and got a job as an “advanced purchasing
analyst” in Caterpillar's Global Purchasing
department in Mossville, Illinois, where she worked from
December 1, 2011, until the termination that elicited this
lawsuit. She had a number of different supervisors at this
position, the last of whom was Jonathan Hillman, who
supervised her from August 2012 onward.
purchasing analysts at Caterpillar are each responsible for a
certain number of “buyer codes.” Hillman Dep.
21:12-21, App. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 4, ECF No. 28-4. These codes
correspond to the numbered parts of certain Caterpillar
products, and are associated with those products on purchase
orders and invoices. Id. 21:22-23. Analysts are
responsible for dealing with communications to Caterpillar
from buyers in such areas as “grief resolution”
and price discrepancies. Id. 22:8-14. Analysts also
communicate directly with the Caterpillar engineers who
design these products when an engineer makes a change to a
part's design. Id. 21:12-21. The analysts and
the engineers work in the same building, and engineers
frequently come by to communicate in person with analysts.
Id. 22:21-24:5. Analysts are also responsible for
speaking in person with customers about the products
corresponding to their buyer codes. The analysts have team
meetings once a week, and, according to Hillman,
“heavily leverage each other in interaction.”
Id. 36:2-3. Advanced purchasing analysts are also
subject to “Learning Plans”-apparently,
training-typically conducted both online and in person.
suffers, and appears to have suffered at all times relevant
to this litigation, from a galaxy of illnesses and symptoms:
migraine headaches, dizziness, balance problems, ear
problems, anxiety, gastroesophageal reflux disease,
allergies, motion sickness, nausea, a brain cyst, depression,
mitral valve prolapse, irritable bowel syndrome,
diverticulosis, and vertigo. Beginning before July 2012 and
continuing until the date of her termination, Coleman was not
supposed to drive a car. She also states that beginning in
May 2013 and running until the date of her termination, she
was not able to work at her place of employment in Mossville
because certain “triggers” caused her various
conditions to “flare up.” These triggers included
walking around the office, being near many people, bright
lights, noise, and driving a long distance.
2012, Coleman took disability leave from April 10 to April
18, and again from June 1 through July 10. After the July
absence, Caterpillar allowed Coleman to resume work from
home. At the beginning of this arrangement, on July 10,
Caterpillar's Disability Case Coordinator sent Coleman an
email stating: “Please understand that working from
home is to be for a brief period of time.” On the same
date, her supervisor sent her an email asking for weekly
updates and explaining that these updates would no longer be
required once she came back to the office. However, Coleman
continued to work from home throughout that autumn and into
the next year. Hillman became Coleman's supervisor in
August 2012. He wanted Coleman to return to work at Mossville
and communicated this wish to Megan Parsons, a human
resources employee at Caterpillar, in early 2013. Parsons
told Coleman. However, Coleman continued to work from home.
While she was out, Hillman would assign in-person inquiries
associated with Coleman's buyer code to other advanced
purchasing analysts. He also established a weekly phone
conference with Coleman. During this period, Coleman would
occasionally take sick leave days pursuant to the Family and
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), as she had done
during her employment with Caterpillar as far back as 2009.
2, 2013, Coleman requested in a letter to Parsons that she be
allowed to work from home all the time. As reasons, she cited
not being able to drive long distances, and not being able to
work in an office. Parsons conferred with Hillman, who
opposed the idea, citing the importance of coworker
interaction to Coleman's job, the need to interact with
engineers face-to-face, and the need to meet in the same way
with suppliers. On May 5, 2013, Coleman emailed Parsons
again, repeating her request and seeking confirmation of
their “ongoing discussions.” Parsons responded
the next day, saying that Caterpillar would “continue
to work with you on this, ” and granting Coleman's
request to continue working from home while the parties
discussed possible accommodations of Coleman's
disabilities. Parsons inquired further about what
Coleman's “triggers” were. Coleman responded
the same day: bright lights and loud noise, “exposure
to which [was] inevitable when physically present in the
workplace, ” as well as large groups of people and
having to walk places.
responded on May 9, 2013, proposing a set of accommodations
to begin on May 15. Coleman would be allowed to work at home
some of the time, but would have to come in to the Mossville
office up to three days a week for training purposes and for
“understanding of her buyer code.” She would have
to be at the office when suppliers visited the office and for
important meetings. She would be given an office where she
could turn off the lights, and would be given a medically
restricted parking place to cut down on the distance between
her car and the office. She would be provided with a
wheelchair, and would be given a flexible start time so that
she could use public transportation or some other means of
transit to get herself to the office when she was able.
Hillman seconded these offers in a separate email to Coleman.
16, 2013, Coleman rejected the offer by email, citing her
doctors' orders, and again asking to be allowed to work
from home all the time. She also explained that she could not
be a passenger in a vehicle for long rides due to her
vertigo, motion sickness, dizziness, nausea, and migraines.
Parsons reiterated Caterpillar's offer, evidently
unchanged, in a phone call to Coleman the next day. Coleman
still said no. On June 3, 2013, Parsons called and emailed
the details of the offer again. On June 10, Coleman's
counsel responded to Parsons directly, again rejecting the
12, 2013, Parsons made another proposal: Coleman could go to
Mossville on “two individual days, ” and, in lieu
of going to Mossville on other occasions to receive training,
could get that training in person at Heartland Community
College, which was near her home. Parsons Decl. ¶ 11,
App. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 9, ECF No. 28-9. Parsons rented space
and prepared a training schedule. Coleman went to Mossville
for the two required training days, but wasn't able to
stay all day because of her illnesses. She missed many of the
training sessions at Heartland, so Caterpillar rescheduled
them, although she had not completed them at the time of her
termination. Parsons became suspicious when, on July
19, 2013, she was given emails by another Caterpillar
employee from Coleman's stepmother expressing doubt about
the real extent of Coleman's illness, and stating that
she had been active on days that she had taken FMLA leave.
See Ventimiglia Dep. Ex. 3, App. Mot. Summ. J. Ex.
8, ECF No. 28-8 (“Example: too sick to go to work but
Friday, June 29 not too sick to go to cheeks bar and dance
and then to the windjammer, and other places…”).
Parsons hired a private investigator to surveil Coleman.
August 1, 2013, Coleman left a training session at Heartland
early, ostensibly because she had a physical therapy
appointment that afternoon. However, the private investigator
tailed her and discovered that instead she got ice cream and
went to the DMV with her husband. On August 5, 2013, Parsons
told Coleman to meet with Dr. Dea, a Caterpillar physician,
to better determine the nature of her medical requirements
and work limitations. On August 12, Coleman refused, arguing
that she had given her personal physicians consent to speak
with Caterpillar doctors, and that this should be sufficient.
Parsons responded the next day demanding that Coleman meet
with Dea, and telling her that she “risked
insubordination” if she refused. Coleman responded on
August 16, indicating that she would meet with Dea, although
she never did.
August 27, Parsons decided to fire Coleman, although she
waited to do this until an in-person meeting at Mossville on
September 4, 2013. Coleman's notes for this meeting,
dated August 27, indicate that Parsons decided to fire
Coleman because Coleman had been insubordinate in not meeting
with Dea, and that as a consequence of this refusal,
Caterpillar had been unable to determine what kind of
accommodation would allow Coleman to continue working there.
Parsons's notes also reiterate that Caterpillar was not
willing to allow Coleman to work permanently from home,
because “[t]hat would amount to creating a job that
does not exist.” Parsons Memo, Parsons Dep. Ex. 1, App.
Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 5, ECF No. 28-5. Although Parsons was aware
that Coleman had been using FMLA leave intermittently,
Parsons stated in her deposition that the termination was
“for cause, ” and unrelated to Coleman's use
of FMLA time. Parsons was not responsible for considering or
approving use of FMLA leave.
filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, which closed
its file on the claim and issue a notice of right to sue on
September 30, 2014. Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 1-1. Suit followed
in this Court on January 2, 2015. Compl., ECF No. 1. Coleman
alleged (I) that Caterpillar violated the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§
12101-213, by discriminating against her in firing her
because of her disability and by failing to reasonably
accommodate her disabilities, Compl. 5-7; and (II) that
Caterpillar violated the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. §§
2601-54, by refusing to allow her to exercise FMLA leave and
terminating her for not meeting with Dea, and by refusing to
consider rehiring her in a similar position, Compl. 7-10.
also alleged retaliation theories as to both the ADA and FMLA
claims. The motion for summary judgment followed on April 24,
Legal Standard on a Motion for Summary Judgment
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). At the summary judgment stage the
court's function is not to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether
there is a genuine issue for trial-that is, whether there is
sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury
to return a verdict in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Patel v.
Allstate Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 365, 370 (7th Cir. 1997).
The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor. McCann v. Iroquois Mem'l
Hosp., 622 F.3d 745, 752 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). “A genuine issue
for trial exists only ...