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February 2012

Employment Team Wins Summary Judgment in Disability Discrimination Case

On February 22, 2012, members of the Chicago Employment Law team, including Ryan Brown and Patrick Moran, secured summary judgment for the firm's hospital client in the United State District Court for the Central District of Illinois (Urbana Division).  In a 21-page Opinion and Order, Chief Judge McCusky adopted each of the hospital's arguments while rejecting Plaintiff's claims of disability discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Plaintiff, a former Nursing Assistant and Purchasing Clerk, alleged that she was harassed and discriminated against by her supervisor following a stroke in January 2009, and that she was later terminated in retaliation for complaining to the hospital's Director of Human Resources about the harassment and discrimination.  Further, Plaintiff alleged that the hospital failed to reasonably accommodate her disability (i.e., lapses in concentration, slurred speech, and vision impairment allegedly resulting from her stroke), and instead, instituted heightened performance standards after her stroke and after she complained to the HR Director.

Fortunately, the Court agreed with the arguments advanced by Gordon & Rees that plaintiff was not a "qualified individual with a disability" under the ADA as she failed to present sufficient evidence of a physical or mental impairment which "substantially limit[ed]" the major life activities of concentrating and thinking.  Further, the Court concluded that plaintiff was not "regarded as" having a disability by the hospital because she had been authorized by her doctor to return to work without limitations following the stroke, and Plaintiff admitted during discovery that her complaints to the HR Director referenced "unfair" and "unprofessional" treatment rather than "disability discrimination."

Ryan T. Brown