238 F.3d 919 (7th Cir. 2001), 99-3728, Amadio v For Motor Co.

Docket Nº:99-3728
Citation:238 F.3d 919
Party Name:Thomas Amadio, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Ford Motor Company, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:February 01, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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238 F.3d 919 (7th Cir. 2001)

Thomas Amadio, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Ford Motor Company, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 99-3728

In the United States Court of Appeals, For the Seventh Circuit

February 1, 2001

Argued September 6, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 98 C 7810--George W. Lindberg, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Before Cudahy, Coffey, and Ripple, Circuit Judges.

Cudahy, Circuit Judge.

Thomas Amadio was an hourly employee on the assembly line at Ford Motor Company's Chicago Assembly Plant from June 9, 1986, to March 8, 1995, the date of his termination by Ford Motor Company (Ford). In the three years prior to his termination, Amadio suffered from a variety of ailments that led him to take a total of approximately 70 weeks of sick leave. Because Amadio allegedly failed to fully comply with Ford's sick leave policy, Ford terminated Amadio's employment. Following his termination, Amadio filed this suit against Ford under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. sec.sec. 12101-12213, claiming that Ford discriminated against him because of his disability or, in the alternative, because it regarded him as having a disability. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Ford. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we set forth the facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, Amadio), drawing all reasonable inferences in its favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

1.

Amadio started at Ford's assembly plant on June 9, 1986, working, as he would until his termination, on the assembly line.

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Amadio began his career as an assembler, but later graduated to the general utility position in the chassis division, a position that qualified Amadio to be assigned to any duty on the assembly line involving the production of the car chassis.

Amadio was a member of the International Union of the United Automobile Workers of America (UAW), Local 551, as well as of the international union. The UAW was the certified collective bargaining representative for all hourly employees at the assembly plant, and a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Ford and the UAW governed the terms and conditions of Amadio's employment.

The CBA specifically provides for employee sick or medical leaves. A medical leave under the CBA is requested from, and granted by, the medical staff employed at the assembly plant. Generally, Ford's medical staff does not conduct an independent examination of the employee, but instead decides the propriety of a medical leave based solely upon documents submitted by the employee in support of the request. Ford Form 5166, "Medical Leave Authorization for Hourly Employees," is generally used by employees in submitting a required physician's statement and an anticipated return to work date.

Under the CBA, an employee who does not report to work after the expiration of his medical leave is mailed what is known as a "five-day quit" letter. This letter requires the employee to report to work or, if unable to do so, to report to the company medical section, or mail in a form completed by the employee's doctor or phone the assembly plant with an expected return date. If an employee fails to respond adequately to a five-day quit letter, the employee may be terminated.

2.

Amadio appears to have gained an intimate familiarity with the CBA's sick leave provisions in the last three years of his employment. Indeed, the record indicates that Amadio took 23 medical leaves, and was absent for no less than 70 weeks during this time period. In addition, Amadio was also subject to several disciplinary lay-offs during this time period, apparently for failure to adequately comply with Ford's sick leave procedures.

During Amadio's last three years of employment with Ford, he suffered from several ailments, including illnesses (such as an upper respiratory infection, a cold and similar afflictions), an occupational back injury, hepatitis B, Brown's Syndrome,1 high blood pressure, a liver disorder and a urinary tract infection. While Amadio's liver disorder and urinary tract infection were apparently the result of his hepatitis, the remaining ailments appear to have been unrelated to one another.

Amadio's ailments resulted in several extended absences from work. For example, Amadio was on continuous medical leave from May 9, 1994 to October 28, 1994. Amadio was again on leave from November 2, 1994 to November 21, 1994. And, of most importance to this case, Amadio was once again on leave from December 2, 1994 to the date of his termination on March 8, 1995.

Amadio's last extended absence from work began with the diagnosis of Brown's Syndrome in November 1994. While being treated for Brown's Syndrome, Amadio was diagnosed with hepatitis B. Shortly thereafter, he was further diagnosed with liver disease and a urinary tract infection. In order to tend to this last round of ailments, Amadio properly secured a medical leave, which he began on December 2, 1994. This leave expired on February 26, 1995. Because Amadio had still not returned

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to work on February 28, 1995, Louis Lafayette, a human resource representative in the labor relations department at the assembly plant, mailed a five-day quit letter (February 28 Letter) to Amadio. This letter required Amadio to respond on or before March 7, 1995, by reporting either to work or to the assembly plant's medical section for an evaluation. The letter further required Amadio to bring "satisfactory medical evidence" covering his entire period of absence.

On March 6, Amadio chose to report to the medical section, where he discussed his medical status with a clerk and a nurse. During his visit, Amadio provided Ford's medical staff with a Ford Form 5166, documenting his absence from February 27, 1995, to March 6, 1995, but failing to document his absence prior to February 27, 1995, as requested by the February 28 Letter. Amadio indicated that he had an upcoming appointment with a specialist regarding his urinary tract infection and that he would bring additional medical leave paperwork after this appointment. Amadio alleges that Ford's medical personnel responded by telling him "no problem, when you get your information from the specialist come back and see us."

3.

Lafayette terminated Amadio's employment on March 8, 1995, allegedly because Amadio failed to adequately document his entire medical leave when he visited the assembly plant's medical section on March 6, as required by his February 28 Letter. Consistent with assembly plant custom, Lafayette sent a memorandum to assembly plant personnel, informing them of Amadio's termination and instructing them that Amadio was to be referred to the assembly plant's labor relations department before going to work or having further contact with assembly plant medical personnel.

Later in the day on March 8, and subsequent to Lafayette's termination of Amadio, Richard Jordan, another human resources representative at the assembly plant, mailed a second five-day quit letter (March 8 Letter) to Amadio. This letter indicated that Amadio's medical leave expired on March 5, and not on February 26, as stated in the February 28 Letter. The March 8 Letter gave Amadio until March 15 to return to work.2

Amadio attempted to return to the assembly plant medical section on March 9, 1995. He had seen a medical specialist and was hoping to submit a Ford Form 5166 that indicated an expected return to work date of March 17, 1995. However, upon Amadio's arrival at the medical section, the medical personnel refused to accept Amadio's new Ford Form 5166. Instead, as instructed by Lafayette's memorandum, they referred Amadio to the assembly plant labor relations department, which informed Amadio of his termination.

Following an unsuccessful appeal of his discharge through the CBA's grievance procedure, Amadio filed this action against Ford. In this...

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