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Youngman v. Kouri

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

June 28, 2018


          ORDER & OPINION


         This matter is before the Court on Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs. 33, 35) filed by the Defendants, Chief Judge Paul P. Gilfillan[1] and Peoria County. The motions have been fully briefed. For the reasons stated below, the Chief Judge's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 33) is GRANTED. Peoria County's Motion (Doc. 35) is DENIED as MOOT.

         Undisputed Material Facts[2]

         Beginning in October 1998, Plaintiff Edward Youngman was employed as a Youth Counselor by the Chief Judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court, Peoria, Illinois. Def.'s Statement Undisp. Facts, (Doc. 34 at 3, ¶ 2). Youth Counselors work at the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center (“JDC”), and are responsible for the supervision, safety, care, and counseling of up to 63 juvenile detainees at the JDC. Id. ¶ 3.

         Youngman was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor with acromegaly in December 1993, and he had surgery to remove his pituitary tumor and 10% of his pituitary gland on March 2, 1994. Decl. Edward Youngman at 2, (Doc. 37-2). Acromegaly is “a benign pituitary tumor” that “produces excessive growth hormone.” Dep. Dr. James Doering, 12:14-18, (Doc. 34-32, Exh. 4). Acromegaly caused Plaintiff to suffer an overgrown thyroid gland. Youngman Decl., at 3. As a result, Plaintiff had a thyroidectomy in November 2011, resulting in hypothyroidism and calcium deficiency. Id. Plaintiff takes daily medication and is on calcium replacement therapy to address his health problems.

         At issue in this case is a Youth Counselor's job duties in the JDC's control room. The control room serves as the location in which the JDC can be electronically monitored and controlled. Def.'s Statement Undisp. Facts, (Doc. 34 at 4, ¶ 5). During the relevant time period, the control room measured 24 feet by 19 feet, 3 inches, and it had computer monitors that displayed security camera footage, switchboards, a radio, and a telephone. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. The control room had overheard fluorescent lights-the same lights used throughout the entire JDC. Id. ¶ 9. Youth Counselors' duties in the control room included continuous electronic monitoring of activities throughout the JDC; electronically controlling access into secure areas; monitoring juveniles who are problematic, emotionally stressed, or have medical conditions; and identifying unusual and dangerous conditions and notifying proper personnel. Id. ¶ 6.

         Youngman typically worked the first shift, Sunday through Thursday, as Youth Counselor. The first shift was divided into three separate assignments: (1) control room; (2) living units; and (3) floaters. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. The first shift usually consisted of one Youth Counselor assigned to the control room, two assigned as floaters, and two or three assigned to each of the two living units. Id. ¶¶ 12, 14, 16. At least one Youth Counselor had to be in the control room at all times.

         Sharon Kramer, a Detention Supervisor, was Plaintiff's direct supervisor and was responsible for assigning each Youth Counselor to one of the three possible assignments. Id. ¶ 23. Detention Supervisors reported directly to Superintendent Brian Brown. Id. Youth Counselors had preferred job assignments, and Youngman was typically assigned to a living unit and occasionally assigned as a floater. Id. ¶¶ 25, 35. When assigned to a living unit, a Youth Counselor is expected to be present in an educational room during the work day in order to monitor the juveniles. Id. ¶ 19. One educational room was a computer lab, which contained eight computer stations and a printer. Id. ¶¶ 17, 19, 21.

         Though the JDC's written job description for Youth Counselors specifically explained “Control Room Duties, ” Youngman was assigned to the control room less than fourteen times during his thirteen years at the JDC. Id. ¶ 35; Doc. 34-2. Youth Counselors like Youngman who were not regularly assigned to the control room would be assigned to the control room for only a couple of days annually to ensure such duties could be performed as needed during an emergency. Id. ¶ 32.

         In June 2010, Brown received a complaint that another Detention Supervisor, Ryan Breedlove, was not fairly assigning to the three possible assignments. During the investigation into that complaint, other employees complained that the control room was not being fairly assigned either. Id. ¶ 28. As a result of the investigation, Peoria County recommended that Brown review scheduling including an assessment of the rotation of assignments. Id. ¶ 29.

         On October 27, 2011, the issue of assigning Youth Counselors to the three possible assignments was discussed during a labor management meeting. Id. ¶ 30. Brown took the position at the meeting that all Youth Counselors needed to be trained everywhere and rotate in all duties. Id. Apparently it was well-known that Youth Counselors did not know how to perform all three assignments. Id. ¶ 26.

         Beginning in 2012, all Youth Counselors on first shift who were not regularly assigned to the control room would be assigned for one or two weeks annually to ensure they could perform the duties. Id. ¶ 33. Kramer assigned Youngman to the control room for the week beginning Sunday July 29, 2012 through August 2, 2012. Id. ¶ 38. Neither Kramer nor Brown explained to Plaintiff that his placement in the control room was for training purposes and would not last longer than a week or two. Plf's Statement Undisp. Facts, (Doc. 37 at 58, ¶ 46). Plaintiff successfully completed his duties on July 29, 2012 and July 30, 2012. Def.'s Statement Undisp. Facts, (Doc. 34 at 17, ¶ 40).

         Plaintiff called in sick on July 31, 2012. (Doc. 34 at 18, ¶ 41). On August 1, 2012, the fourth day he was assigned to the control room, Youngman gave Kramer a doctor's note signed by Dr. Jacob Doering stating, “p[atien]t can not work in control room due to medical concerns.” Id. ¶ 42. Dr. Doering did not actually see Youngman in regards to his medical concerns prior to writing the note. Id. ¶ 43. The parties dispute whether Plaintiff was suffering from any symptoms or side effects of his pituitary tumor with acromegaly or hypothyroidism with calcium deficiency during the relevant times of this case. Plaintiff claims that working in the control room for extended periods of time causes him severe headache, dry heaving, nausea, dizziness, and pain that radiates up and down his neck and head.

         On August 1, 2012, Brown gave Youngman a letter stating that Dr. Doering's note was too vague, and requesting information regarding: (1) what work restrictions he was actually requesting; (2) what particular duties within the control room he could not complete; and (3) what medical condition and/or physical symptoms prevent him from performing his job duties. Id. ¶ 44. Brown also stated that he would schedule a meeting with Youngman to discuss how to proceed after receiving this information. Id. Plaintiff worked his August 1, 2012 shift in the control room. Id. ¶ 45. On August 2, 2012, Plaintiff worked in the control room for six hours and then used two hours of sick time. Id.

         On August 2, 2012, Plaintiff was officially placed on light duty, and pursuant to JDC policy, an employee on light duty is assigned to the control room. Id. ¶¶ 47-48. As such, Plaintiff was assigned to the control room again on August 5, 2012 through August 9, 2012. Id. ¶ 49. On August 5, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a note from Dr. Doering stating,

Patient is having motion sickness related to control room he has recently been assigned to. Recommend patient not work in control room other than briefly going in and out if needed but rather should be place elsewhere for his job. Because of lights, noise, cameras, tv's in room having motion sickness symptoms of lightheadedness, ringing in ear, headache. Diagnosis is motion sickness.

Id. ¶ 50.

         On August 5, 2012, Plaintiff also submitted a written response to Brown's request for information, stating,

I am writing this in response to your memorandum dated 8/1/12, re - my medical note. The only restriction I am requesting is to not work in the control center, due to my medical concern of motion sickness. I am capable, and do complete all job duties in control. However, when I am in the control center, the following physical symptoms occur: 1. pain/ringing in ear that radiates to head and neck[, ] 2. headache[, ] 3. dizziness[, ] 4. nausea. These symptoms are brought on by the confined space in the control center, combined with the large amount of electronics, and the activity and noise that comes from them. In closing, I am requesting to work living units, floater duties, or security unit.

Id. ¶ 51. Nonetheless, Plaintiff worked his regularly scheduled shift in the control room August 5 through August 9, 2012. Id. ¶ 65.

         On August 7, 2012, Brown issued a letter to Youngman directing him to submit to a fit-for-duty exam on August 9, 2012, with Dr. Hauter, and informing him that he could use medical leave and that FMLA paperwork would be made available. Id. ¶ 66. Brown testified that the medical documentation from Dr. Doering made him suspect that Plaintiff could not perform any assignment in the facility because of the mention of Plaintiff's difficulty with lights, electronics, and noise. Plf's Statement Undisp. Facts, (Doc. 37 at 61, ¶ 60).

         On August 9, 2012, following Dr. Hauter's examination, Dr. Hauter wrote a note stating that Youngman could not return to work without restrictions “as he has an imminent risk of injury to himself or others.” Def.'s Statement Undisp. Facts, (Doc. 34 at 22, ¶ 67). He further stated that Youngman was medically qualified for work with the following limitations: no viewing of multiple TV or monitor screens, avoid rapid alternating movements, avoid flashing lights, and no commercial driving. Id.

         On August 12, 2012, Plaintiff's next scheduled shift, Brown and a Detention Supervisor met with Youngman to explain that, based on his restrictions, he was going to be placed on medical leave of absence until his condition improved. Id. ¶ 69. During the meeting, Plaintiff asked Brown if he could just not work in the control room, but Brown said he could not do that. Id. ¶¶ 70-71. Neither party proposed another accommodation at that time.

         On August 16, 2012, Peoria County Human Resources (“HR”) received FMLA paperwork for Youngman completed by Dr. Doering. Id. ¶ 75. The paperwork stated that Plaintiff's condition commenced on July 29, 2012, that the probable duration of the condition was “continual if working in control room, ” and that Youngman was unable to perform any job in the control room. Id. The paperwork identified the condition as “motion sickness from control room monitors/noise.” Id. ¶¶ 75-76. In response, HR asked Dr. Doering to clarify which actual job duties Plaintiff was unable to perform. In response, Dr. Doering wrote “Any job in the control room including hearing and carrying conversation, reading and corresponding to info on computer screen, or sitting/walking/standing in the control room.” Id. ¶ 76. HR asked Dr. Doering to clarify again. This time, HR circled three “physical requirements” on its job description of a Youth Counselor that it believed Youngman was unable to perform based on Dr. Doering's notes. It circled “Incumbent is required to sit, stand, and walk for various amounts of time to complete duties, ” “Hearing and speaking ability sufficient to carry on conversations with other individuals in person, over the telephone, and over the intercom, ” and “Visual ability sufficient to read and complete written correspondence and read information on a computer screen.” Id. ¶ 77. In response to the question regarding whether it was correct that Youngman was unable to perform the circled requirements, Dr. Doering wrote “Yes, this is correct.” Id. ¶ 78. Dr. Doering testified that he did not know if the lights, monitors, and noises in the control room were different from other areas of Plaintiff's workplace. Id. ¶¶ 58-60. He also testified that he did not know what “noise in the control room” meant. Id. ¶ 61.

         On September 6, 2012, Youngman was granted FMLA leave and was instructed to provide an update on his medical condition by September 24, 2012, and every 30 days thereafter. Id. ¶ 79. From September 2012 through April 2013, Youngman submitted monthly updates regarding his condition from Dr. Doering, and stated each time that his condition had not changed. Id. ¶¶ 80, 85.

         On February 12, 2013, Peoria County sent a letter to Youngman stating that his FMLA leave had expired, that his position would be filled, and when he was able to return to work, he would be placed in the first available opening most comparable to his previous job. Id. ¶ 81. Plaintiff was instructed that he was required to continue providing updates from his doctor every 30 days. Id.

         On February 14, 2013, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) alleging that he was discriminated against and forced on medical leave because of his disability, and that the JDC failed to accommodate his “mental disability[ies]” “pituitary tumor with acromegaly” and “hypothyroidism with chronic calcium deficiency.” Id. ¶¶ 82-83.

         Plaintiff started a new job on April 30, 2013, but he did not inform anyone at the JDC and he stopped sending updates to the JDC on his medical condition. Id. ¶¶ 86-87. In August 2013, Brown sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that he was not in compliance with medical leave requirements because he had not submitted an update on his condition since April, and asked Plaintiff to send the required information by August 23, 2013. Id. ¶ 88. On August 22, 2013, Brown received a letter from Plaintiff essentially stating that he could always perform his job duties until Brown “forced [him] on medical leave. . . .” Id. ¶ 89. Plaintiff also stated that he could work with the simple accommodation of being outside of the control room. Id.

         On August 26, 2013, Brown sent another letter to Youngman stating that he was insubordinate for failing to send the required information and directed Plaintiff to meet with Brown on August 28, 2013, to respond to the charge of insubordination. Id. ¶ 90. Plaintiff was given the option to submit paperwork previously requested to avoid discipline. Id. Brown rescheduled the meeting for August 30, 2013, after notification from Youngman's wife that he could not make the August 28, 2013 meeting. Id. ¶¶ 91-92. Youngman did not show up for the meeting, so Brown tried to contact Plaintiff in order to reschedule. Id. ¶¶ 95-96. The meeting was rescheduled for September 13, 2013, but Youngman again did not show up. Id. ¶¶97-99. Brown again rescheduled the meeting for September 20, 2013, but Plaintiff again did not appear. Id. ¶¶ 101-02.

         On September 29, 2013, a facsimile was received from Youngman announcing his resignation, but his resignation was not accepted. Id. ¶¶ 103-104. On October 1, 2013, Plaintiff was terminated due to insubordination. Id.

         On January 1, 2016, Youngman filed this lawsuit against the Chief Judge and Peoria County alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (the “ADA”). Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on May 9, 2016, alleging that the Chief Judge discriminated against him by failing to accommodate his disability. (Doc. 12).

         On April 30, 2018, the Chief Judge filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) Plaintiff's claims related to motion sickness are outside the scope of his discrimination charge and therefore barred; (3) Plaintiff was not disabled; (4) Plaintiff was not a qualified individual because he could not perform the essential functions of the job; (5) the Chief Judge did not fail to reasonably accommodate Plaintiff; and (6) Plaintiff was responsible for the breakdown of the interactive process. (Doc. 33). Peoria County also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that it was named in the case purely for indemnification purposes, but that it should be granted summary judgment because the state, not the ...

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