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Kotaska v. Federal Express Corp.

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

August 30, 2019



          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

         In a prior opinion [42], the Court granted summary judgment against Plaintiff Janet Kotaska on all counts in her suit against her former employer, Defendant Federal Express Corporation. Currently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration [45] of the Court's ruling on her claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. For the reasons explained below, Plaintiff's motion [45] is denied.

         I. Background[1]

         The full background of this case is set forth in the Court's summary judgment opinion, knowledge of which is assumed here. See [42, at 2-18]. Nonetheless, the Court will set forth the facts and procedural history relevant to the instant motion.

         Plaintiff worked for Defendant on two different occasions. From 1998 to 2013 she worked at UGN Station, first as a courier handler and then as courier. She was terminated at the end of this first period after she suffered an injury on the job and failed to secure another position that she could perform within the permanent lifting restrictions imposed by her doctor after that injury. [42, at 6-7.]

         In 2014, however, Plaintiff's physician updated her permanent lifting restrictions to what they are today. These restrictions read as follows:

With regards to work, [Plaintiff] is cleared for light duty activity. I believe that we could, in fact, increase some of her weight restrictions. At this point permanent restrictions would include frequent lifting up 75 pounds from the floor to waist, 15 pounds frequently from the waist to shoulder and 30 pounds on occasional basis. She should limit overhead use to only limited frequency and only up to 5 pounds. She could lift up to 15 pounds overhead with left hand assist.

[Id. at 7 (quoting [28, Ex. 17 to Ex. A.]).] After that revision, Plaintiff secured a handler position at UGN Station and began working there on April 6, 2015. [42, at 7, 12.] Within a week of her start date, one of Defendant's human resources personnel-who knew of Plaintiff's previous employment and termination-advised Plaintiff's Human Capital Management Program Advisor, Bradley Fowler, of Plaintiff's history and her 2013 lifting restrictions. [Id. at 12.] Shortly thereafter, Fowler launched an investigation to determine whether Plaintiff could continue working as a handler at UGN Station. [Id. at 12-15.] At the investigation's conclusion, Defendant placed Plaintiff on an involuntary leave of absence and eventually terminated her on July 23, 2015, after she again failed to find a position she could perform consistent with her amended lifting restrictions. [Id. at 15-17.]

         After properly exhausting the administrative process, Plaintiff filed the instant suit against Defendant in September 2016. See [1]. In her complaint, Plaintiff brought claims against Defendant for age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. (Count I); gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Count II); disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12010 et seq. (Count III); and retaliatory termination in violation of state law (Count IV). [Id.]

         On October 23, 2017, Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing, among other things, that Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that she could pursue a claim under the ADA as a qualified individual with a disability.[2] See [22]. On August 21, 2018, the Court resolved that motion in Defendant's favor, concluding in relevant part that Plaintiff had failed to show that she could perform the essential functions of the handler position even with an accommodation, and therefore had not shown she was a qualified individual. See [42, at 29-31]. Specifically, the Court concluded that Plaintiff had not shown she could perform, even with a reasonable accommodation, the essential function of lifting packages over her waist and overhead given her weight restrictions and the undisputed facts regarding the packages processed at UGN Station. [Id.] Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for reconsideration. [45.]

         II. Standard

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide an explicit basis for a motion to reconsider. However, the Court will address her motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), as Plaintiff has requested. See [48, ¶ 3 (asserting that Plaintiff's motion should be considered under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e))]. Under Rule 59(e), a party may file a motion to alter or amend a judgment within 28 days that judgment's entry. To prevail on such a motion, “‘the movant must demonstrate a manifest error of law or fact or present newly discovered evidence.'” Ritacca v. Storz Medical, A.G., 298 F.R.D. 566, 568 (N.D. Ill. 2014) (quoting Boyd v. Tornier, Inc., 656 F.3d 487, 492 (7th Cir. 2011)). In regard to the “manifest error” prong, the Seventh Circuit has explained that a motion to reconsider is proper only when “the Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension.” Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990); see also Wiegel v. Stork Craft Mfg., Inc., 2012 WL 2130910, at *2 (N.D. Ill. June 6, 2012) (“Reconsideration is not appropriate where a party seeks to raise arguments that could have been raised in the original briefing.”). Likewise, “[a] ‘manifest error' is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party, ” instead it “is the ‘wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.'” Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). Because the standards for reconsideration are so exacting, our court of appeals has stressed that issues appropriate for reconsideration “rarely arise and the motion to reconsider should be equally rare.” Bank of Waunakee, 906 F.2d at 1191. Motions for reconsideration are inappropriate for relitigating arguments that the Court previously rejected or for arguing issues that could have been raised while Court initially considered the motion now on reconsideration. Sigsworth v. City of Aurora, Ill., 487 F.3d 506, 512 (7th Cir. 2007); Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269 (7th Cir. 1996). Finally, the resolution of a motion for reconsideration is left to the discretion of the district court. Billups v. Methodist Hosp., 922 F.2d 1300, 1305 (7th Cir. 1991).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff asserts that the Court misapprehended the facts and/or made impermissible inferences when it concluded that (1) an essential function of the Handler position was lifting and moving packages that weighed more than Plaintiff's lifting restrictions, but less than 75 pounds, above her waist and overhead, and (2) that Plaintiff could not perform that function even with an accommodation. See [42, at 26-27]. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the record does not support the Court's conclusions (1) that 50 percent of the packages processed by UGN station weighed 15 pounds or more and (2) that Plaintiff would be required to lift any of those packages above her waist and overhead. These two mistaken assumptions, Plaintiff argues, led the Court to erroneously conclude that she was not a qualified individual. Defendant counters that Plaintiff is attempting to shift the burden of persuasion, and that in fact, Plaintiff failed to “come forward with ...

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