368 F.3d 809 (7th Cir. 2004), 03-1036, Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Services, Inc.

Docket Nº:03-1036.
Citation:368 F.3d 809
Party Name:Clyde AMMONS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ARAMARK UNIFORM SERVICES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:May 21, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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368 F.3d 809 (7th Cir. 2004)

Clyde AMMONS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

ARAMARK UNIFORM SERVICES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 03-1036.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

May 21, 2004

Argued Dec. 5, 2003.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Thomas W. Duda (argued), Arlington Heights, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

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Kevin D. Kelly (argued), Steven H. Adelman, Lord Bissell & Brook, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before FLAUM, Chief Judge, and MANION and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

MANION, Circuit Judge.

Clyde Ammons sued his former employer, Aramark Uniform Services, Inc. ("Aramark"), for terminating his employment in violation of the Americans with the Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (the "ADA"). At the close of discovery the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Eastern Division) granted summary judgment in favor of Aramark. Ammons appeals from that decision. He also challenges the district court's decision to strike testimony offered by Ammons' expert as well as several of Ammons' responses to Aramark's statement of undisputed facts in support of its motion for summary judgment. We affirm.

I.

Aramark (or its predecessor) employed Ammons for almost forty years. Most recently, Ammons was employed at Aramark's Chicago, Illinois, laundry facility as a boiler engineer and lead mechanic. On August 15, 1997, Ammons injured his right knee on the job. Following the injury, he sought treatment from Dr. Mitchell Krieger, an orthopedic surgeon who, in October 1997, performed surgery on Ammons' knee.

Ammons returned to work on November 17, 1997. Ammons was assigned to light duty and was restricted in the amount of climbing he could do, the amount of time he could spend on his knees, bending, squatting, climbing stairs, lifting, and use of a ladder. Despite his light duty assignment, Ammons voluntarily withdrew from work less than a month later and took a medical leave of absence.

On February 14, 1998, Ammons again returned to work in a light duty capacity. Approximately one month later, Ammons voluntarily took a second leave of absence. After that, Ammons did not return to work at Aramark.

On April 9, 1998, based on a functional capacity evaluation, Dr. Krieger concluded that Ammons had reached the point of maximum medical improvement, i.e., Ammons' condition was permanent. Dr. Krieger also concluded that Ammons could not return to his normal duties at Aramark and that he was limited to a light-medium level of work with the following restrictions: minimal kneeling (no longer than five minutes at a time); a limited period of "static standing" (no longer than eight minutes at a time); a maximum of one hour of "dynamic standing"; limited climbing; and restricted walking on a "pain-level basis." Dr. Krieger also concluded that Ammons could not resume a heavy level of work activity. Such a level would include occasional lifting of 100 pounds, frequent lifting of 35 pounds or less, and constant lifting of 15 pounds.

In September 1998, in conjunction with a worker's compensation claim for the same injury, Ammons met with Susan Entenberg, a vocational rehabilitation counselor. After meeting with Ammons and reviewing his job responsibilities and medical records, Entenberg concluded in a report dated October 6, 1998 that Ammons' work at Aramark required heavy exertion and that Dr. Krieger's restrictions amounted to a "sedentary restriction." Entenberg also concluded that Ammons was not capable of returning to his position as it was generally performed but also recommended that Aramark could make accommodations for Ammons' condition.

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In January 1999, Ammons, who was still on medical leave, asked to return to work. To explore this possibility, Jeff Schwingler, the general manager of the Chicago plant, and Barrington McPherson, a co-worker of Ammons and a union steward, met with Ammons on January 21, 1999, to discuss possible accommodations that might permit Ammons to return to work. Neither Ammons' attorney nor Entenberg were present at this meeting. At the meeting, Schwingler asked Ammons to identify specific tasks he was capable of performing. Ammons stated that he could operate the plant's boiler with some assistance, repair the plant's sewing machines, and provide general trouble-shooting assistance. In the weeks following the meeting, Schwingler discussed Ammons' case with Alexander Ur, Aramark's Director of Employment Practices, and the Chicago facility's maintenance manager Pasquale Malfeo.

In a letter to Ammons dated March 9, 1999,1 Ur rejected Ammons' request to return to work to perform the duties Ammons had set forth in his meeting with Schwingler and McPherson. In making this decision Ur relied on Entenberg's report, Dr. Krieger's assessment of Ammons' physical restrictions, and Ur's own discussions with Malfeo and Schwingler. Ur informed Ammons that the duties Ammons proposed were too limited given the amount of work he could not do, and thus did not amount to a reasonable accommodation of Ammons' condition. Although Ur saw no problem with allowing Ammons to have assistance in completing his boiler room duties, these duties took only 3.5 to 4 hours per day. There was little else that Ammons was capable of doing the remainder of his workday. Because Ammons could not perform the maintenance and repair duties that generally took up the rest of the workday, he would not, in Ur's view, be completing the essential functions of the job. Ur rejected Ammons' suggestion that Ammons could maintain and repair the plant's sewing machines. The plant had only a few sewing machines and these did not need repair frequently enough to require an employee dedicated to that task. Finally, Aramark had no need for a general troubleshooter. The company expected its maintenance staff to perform maintenance and repair functions; it did not need (and could not afford) an employee who could identify problems but could not actually repair equipment himself.

In late March 1999, Ammons met with Schwingler, other Aramark managers, and representatives of Ammons' union. At that meeting, Joe Dayton, Aramark's director of labor and employee relationships, informed Ammons that the collective bargaining agreement governing Ammons' employment stated that an employee would be terminated if he was absent due to illness or injury from work for more than 18 months. Aramark had placed Ammons on medical leave as of May 8, 1998, approximately two months after Ammons

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had last worked at Aramark in a light duty capacity. On November 8, 1999, 18 months after having been placed on medical leave, Ammons was terminated from his position with Aramark.

In June 2001, Ammons filed this lawsuit alleging that his termination by Aramark violated his rights under the ADA. The parties then engaged in a significant discovery process. As part of this discovery process, Ammons put forth Entenberg as a proposed expert witness. Although in her 1998 report Entenberg concluded that Ammons was not capable of returning to his past work, she has apparently since that time reached a different conclusion. After conducting a tour of the plant and interviewing Malfeo and McPherson, Entenberg concluded in a report and deposition that Ammons could perform "the vast majority" of his job functions.2

At the close of discovery, both parties filed motions for summary judgment. Aramark argued that Ammons was not a qualified individual within the meaning of the ADA. Ammons argued that Aramark had not engaged in the interactive dialogue with Ammons necessary to satisfy Aramark's duty to explore whether a reasonable accommodation could be made for Ammons' disability.

Aramark also made two motions important here. First, Aramark moved to strike Entenberg's proposed expert testimony because, Aramark argued, it was unreliable and lacked proper foundation. Second, Aramark moved to strike approximately 100 of Ammons' responses to Aramark's proposed statement of undisputed facts submitted in conjunction with the cross-motions for summary judgment. Aramark argued that Ammons failed to comply with the Northern District of Illinois's local rule concerning the preparation of statements of undisputed facts.

The district court granted both motions. Specifically, the district court held that Entenberg's conclusion that Ammons was capable of performing the vast majority of his duties "is only unsupported speculation" and was thus unreliable. The district court also concluded that the 100 or so of Ammons' responses to Aramark's proposed statement of undisputed facts identified by Aramark should be stricken for violations of the district court's Local Rule 56.1.

The district court then granted summary judgment in favor of Aramark. The district court concluded that Ammons could not perform the essential functions of his job with or without reasonable accommodations. The district court further held that Aramark had engaged in an interactive process as required by the ADA but that, even if it had not, the undisputed facts showed that there were no reasonable accommodations that would have allowed Ammons to complete the essential functions of his job. This appeal followed.

II.

Ammons raises four issues on appeal. First, Ammons argues that the district court erred in striking Entenberg's testimony. Second, Ammons argues that his responses to Aramark's statement of uncontested facts substantially complied with the Northern District of Illinois rule concerning such responses and therefore the district court erred in striking them. Third, Ammons argues that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Aramark. Finally, Ammons argues that Aramark did not fulfill its duty to engage in an...

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