United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge.
October 2010, Frasney Dumka was fired from her job at the
Federal Emergency Management Agency. Dumka claims that FEMA
violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §
701, et seq, . by failing to accommodate
her disability, by treating her differently based on her
disability, and by retaliating against her because she
requested accommodations. R. 25, Am. Cmplt. ¶¶
54-72. FEMA now moves for summary judgment, arguing that the
record demonstrates that there are no issues of material fact
and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. R.
63, Def. Mot. Summ. J. For the reasons explained below, the
government's motion is granted as to Dumka's
disparate-treatment and retaliation claims (Counts 2 and 3),
but denied for her failure-to-accommodate claim (Count 1).
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The facts outlined here are
undisputed unless otherwise noted.
Dumka suffers from a disability stemming from a brain injury
sustained in a bike accident that happened in the 1970s. R.
66, DSOF ¶ 4. The parties agree that Dumka
suffers from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
and Dumka also testifies that she suffers from a cognitive
learning disability that hinders her ability to understand
certain information. R. 68, Pl. Resp. DSOF ¶ 4, R. 68,
PSOF Exh. A at 18:5-19:6, Exh. B at 16:18-18:5; DSOF Exh. 3
at ¶ 5. The exact nature of Dumka's disability is
unclear, but the government does not contest that she is
disabled within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act.
See generally R. 65, Def. Mem; see also R.
67, Pl. Resp. at 2.
April 2010, Dumka was hired as a “disaster assistance
employee” with FEMA. DSOF ¶ 2. Disaster assistance
employees are activated to work for FEMA during disasters,
and are paid only for the time that they work. Id.
at ¶ 3. During her application process with FEMA, Dumka
was open about her disability and discussed her need for
accommodation with multiple individuals at
FEMA. Id. ¶ 6; Pl. Resp. DSOF
¶ 6; R. 68, PSOF ¶¶ 1, 4-6, 9-10. Dumka was
told that she should inform her site supervisor about her
disability and need for accommodation. DSOF ¶ 7.
first (and last) FEMA deployment began on August 30, 2010.
DSOF ¶ 8. Her supervisor during the deployment was
Cassandra Ringsdorf; Ringsdorf's second-in-command was
Jean McGhee. DSOF ¶¶ 9-10. On the evening of
Dumka's first day of deployment, she informed Ringsdorf
about her disability. DSOF ¶ 13. In her deposition,
Dumka claims that she told Ringsdorf that she needed to be
allowed to ask questions and to be shown “hands
on” (rather than simply be told) how to do things the
first time. Pl. Resp. DSOF ¶ 13; PSOF ¶ 12; PSOF
Exh. A at 42:17-44:10; Exh. B at 121:8-126:11. The
government, on the other hand, characterizes Dumka's
requested accommodation as merely being allowed to ask
questions, DSOF ¶ 13, but the government does not point
to any facts contradicting Dumka's testimony that she
asked to be shown how to do things. See R.
73, Def. Resp. PSOF ¶ 12.
asserts that after telling Ringsdorf about her disability,
she felt ignored and shunned by Ringsdorf and McGhee. PSOF
¶ 13. For example, on the second day of the deployment,
Dumka rode in a car with Ringsdorf and McGhee and they did
not talk to her. DSOF ¶ 15. Dumka also attempted to
participate in activities at her worksite, but felt ignored.
PSOF Exh. A at 45:7-49:4. Dumka believed that the lack of
communication was preventing her from learning how to do her
job. PSOF ¶ 13. At a lunch with Ringsdorf and McGhee,
Dumka tearfully confronted Ringsdorf and asked if she was
being ignored because of her disability. Pl. Resp. DSOF at
¶ 15. Ringsdorf responded by scolding Dumka. PSOF ¶
the deployment, Dumka struggled with understanding how to
fill in her timesheet-an issue that would eventually lead to
her termination. The facts here are the subject of some
dispute. Dumka's version of the story is that she asked
Ringsdorf for help filling out her timesheet, but Ringsdorf
refused, telling Dumka to figure it out on her own when she
got home. PSOF ¶ 14. Dumka did get help from another
FEMA employee, Joe Gibson, who helped her fill in her
timesheet for the first day of deployment. Pl. Resp. DSOF
¶ 16. Gibson was too busy to help her fill out the other
days, so he introduced Dumka to two other employees, Watson
and Robinson. Id. Watson offered to help Dumka with
her timesheet the following morning before Dumka's flight
home to Indiana. Id. As Dumka was leaving the office
for the day, Ringsdorf overheard her say “See you
tomorrow” to Watson and Robinson. Id. Hearing
this, Ringsdorf told Dumka not to come back the next day.
Id. Dumka explained that she needed help with her
timesheet because of her disability, but Ringsdorf again told
Dumka not to come back to the worksite. Id.; PSOF
Exh. A at 50:13-52:23. The government denies that Ringsdorf
told Dumka she could not return for help, but does not cite
evidence refuting Dumka's testimony. Def. Resp. PSOF
¶ 14. Despite the friction between Dumka and Ringsdorf
over the timesheet, Dumka states that Ringsdorf gave her a
positive review at the end of her deployment. DSOF ¶ 17.
problems with her timesheet continued after she returned home
from her deployment. The main problem was that the timesheet
claimed-as compensable work-the time between Dumka's
arrival at her hotel on August 30 and her arrival at the FEMA
worksite. According to the government, those were hours that
are not compensable. DSOF ¶ 26. Upon receiving Dumka's
timesheet, McGhee alerted Ringsorf and Dumka's
“cadre” manager, Kent Huizinga, that she believed
Dumka might have “padded her timesheet.” DSOF
Exh. 21. This triggered a back-and-forth between Dumka,
Huizinga, and other FEMA employees over whether and how Dumka
needed to correct her timesheet. DSOF ¶¶ 30.
is some (mostly irrelevant) dispute about the details of
these conversations, but the parties agree that on September
15, Huizinga emailed Dumka and told her that she needed to
correct her time entry for August 30 to reflect “actual
time worked.” DSOF ¶ 31. Dumka responded by email
that her timesheet was correct and that she had already
reduced her hours by over forty-five minutes that she was
entitled to claim “according to policy.” DSOF
¶ 32. Huizinga asked Dumka to send him a copy of this
policy, and Dumka responded by requesting a phone call so she
could confirm that she was doing everything correctly. DSOF
¶ 33-34. Huizinga called Dumka at home on September 16
or 17 and told her that she could not claim the time spent at
her hotel before reporting to her worksite. DSOF ¶ 35.
government claims that during the course of Huizinga's
interactions with Dumka, he became concerned that she
“refused to have her timesheet properly reflect her
time worked.” DSOF ¶ 35. Dumka, on the other hand,
denies that she ever refused to change her time. Pl. Resp.
DSOF ¶ 35. Dumka states that she told Huizinga that she
could not understand because of her disability, and asked if
she could come to Chicago to meet with him so he could show
her in person how to complete the timesheet. PSOF ¶ 17;
PSOF Exh. A at 78:11-79:11; PSOF Exh. B at 169:3-14,
185:25-186:16. Huizinga refused to meet in person, and
instead continued to ask Dumka over the phone whether the
time she claimed was “correct.” PSOF ¶ 17.
Dumka told Huizinga that she did not understand, and that he
could correct her timesheet however he wanted: “You
know, I don't know what to do. Whatever you do is okay
with me. I just wanna do it right.” Pl. Resp. DSOF
¶ 35; PSOF Exh. B at 184:21-185:9. Dumka submitted
another signed timesheet on September 16 still claiming the
disputed hours as time worked. DSOF ¶ 37.
early October 2010, Dumka received a notice of termination
stating that she was being terminated for submission of a
false timesheet and for “inappropriate conduct.”
DSOF ¶ 38. The notice stated that Dumka had made
inappropriate comments while on deployment, including
referring to a coworker as the “little or short Italian
guy, ” commenting on another employee's Hispanic
heritage and skin color, and referring to
homosexuals as “queers.” DSOF Exh. 22.
Dumka emphatically denies making these comments, though she
does admit that she referred to another employee as someone
who “looks Italian.” Pl. Resp. DSOF ¶ 39;
Exh. A 88:17-93:5. There is no documentation of the alleged
“inappropriate conduct” before the government
issued the October notice of termination. PSOF ¶ 18.