United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JOHNSON COLEMAN United States District Court Judge
plaintiff, Gina Needham, brings this action against the
defendant, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald
(hereinafter “the VA”), alleging that the VA
failed to accommodate her disability and discriminated
against her based on her disability in violation of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The VA now moves for summary
judgment on Needham's claims. For the reasons set forth
herein, the VA's motion for summary judgment  is
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.
Needham worked as a nurse in the Lovell Federal Health Care
Center's emergency department from April 27, 2008, until
March 22, 2013. Needham's direct supervisor was emergency
room nurse manager James Miller. Miller hired Needham because
he had worked with her in the past and had been impressed by
her work ethic, decision making, and nursing skills.
employee at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center, Needham
was subject to a code of conduct. As is relevant here, that
code of conduct provides that:
9. Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property and
shall not use it for other than authorized activities.
. . .
12. Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations
as citizens, including all financial obligations, especially
those such as Federal, State, or local taxes-that are imposed
. . .
14. Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating
the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical
standards set forth in the Standards of ethical conduct.
Whether particular circumstances create an appearance that
the law or these standards have been violated shall be
determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with
knowledge of the relevant facts.
2010, Needham took approximately a month of leave from the VA
in order to participate in a treatment program for dependency
on pain medication. Needham did not tell the VA that she had
sought treatment for prescription drug dependence, and after
her leave she returned to work without restrictions and
without requesting an accommodation. At the time of her
leave, Miller was under the impression that Needham suffered
from emotional problems, but did not receive any
documentation concerning a formal diagnosis of her condition.
2011, Needham's husband lost his job, her daughter
stopped attending school, and Needham began to worry about
her family's finances. Needham began to gamble while on
duty, seemingly by playing scratch-off games. During the
course of her gambling, Needham lost hundreds of thousands of
dollars. Needham informed Miller that she had a gambling
problem, and he suggested that she take time off from work to
seek treatment. In June 2012, Needham requested and received
family medical leave and sick leave to seek treatment for
depression. Before she could enter a treatment program,
however, Needham learned that her mother was terminally ill.
Needham therefore spent the remainder of her leave caring for
her mother instead of participating in treatment for her
gambling addiction. Dr. Robert Baker, Needham's
psychiatrist, wrote the VA a letter stating that Needham
could return to work on August 2, 2012. Needham did not
request any accommodations upon her return to work.
October 6, 2012, Needham gambled during her shift and
overdrew her checking account. She became upset and expressed
suicidal thoughts to a coworker. Based on her statements to
the coworker, the VA committed Needham to Alexian Brothers
Behavioral Health Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Needham was discharged two days later. On October 9, 2012,
Needham told Miller that she wished to return to work. Miller
requested that Needham provide the VA with a return-to-work
note from the psychiatric ward.
again returned to her suicidal thoughts, and on October 11,
2012, Needham unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide by
overdosing on “massive” amounts of
cocaine. On October 12, 2012, Needham again
attempted to commit suicide, this time by overdosing on
Xanax. After she had started taking the Xanax, however, she
received a call from her husband stating that he needed her
debit card to go to the doctor. Needham accordingly drove to
meet him in a grocery store parking lot. A witness who
observed Needham's erratic driving called the police. The
police followed Needham's car into the parking lot and,
after assessing Needham's behavior, placed her under
arrest for driving while intoxicated. A subsequent search led
to the discovery of drug paraphernalia and crack cocaine
base. Needham was issued a citation for driving ...