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September 2016

Chicago Team Wins Two Hotly Contested Motions for Summary Judgment Brought Under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act

On September 12, 2016, Gordon & Rees Chicago Partner Patrick F. Moran and Associate Goli Rahimi were granted summary judgment in a highly contentious disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois. The court, considering two separate motions for summary judgment filed by Gordon & Rees’s clients, held that the plaintiff not only failed to exhaust her administrative remedies against one of the defendants, but further failed to establish that the second defendant was a “joint employer” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Gordon & Rees defended two clients in the matter that were connected through a third-party vendor contract; the first client provided services for the sterilization of surgical instruments to the second client, a nationally-renowned hospital. The plaintiff, an employee of the sterile processing client, was placed at the hospital to provide on-site sterile processing and instrument management. After sustaining a non-work related injury, the plaintiff was placed on light duty by her doctor for several weeks, and was ultimately terminated by the sterile processing client. The plaintiff then filed a charge of discrimination against the sterile processing client, claiming disability discrimination. Despite receiving a notice of right to sue on this charge, the plaintiff decided to file a second charge of discrimination, raising disability discrimination as a repeat claim, but this time adding the hospital and a claim for retaliation under the ADA. She then timely filed suit based on her second notice of right to sue.

Initially, Gordon & Rees moved to dismiss the claim, claiming that the plaintiff’s failure to file suit within 90 days of receipt of the first notice barred her claim. Gordon & Rees further argued that the hospital was never the plaintiff’s employer and thus could not be liable under either the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. The court denied the motion and the parties underwent nearly two years of oral and written discovery and countless discovery disputes and motions. Gordon & Rees's clients then moved for summary judgment, raising similar arguments to those brought in the motion to dismiss. After nearly nine months of deliberation, the court agreed with Gordon & Rees, finding that the plaintiff’s unreasonable delay in filing suit was fatal to her claim, and further holding the plaintiff’s arguments that the hospital was also her employer were unpersuasive and lacking any evidentiary support. Thus, the court granted both motions for summary judgment and dismissed the suit in its entirety.

To read the decision, please click here.


Patrick F. Moran