578 F.3d 559 (7th Cir. 2009), 08-1642, Coffman v. Indianapolis Fire Dept.

Docket Nº:08-1642.
Citation:578 F.3d 559
Opinion Judge:ROVNER, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Tonya COFFMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. INDIANAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Tae Sture (argued), Sture Legal Services, Indianapolis, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Alexander P. Will (argued), Office of Corporation Counsel, Indianapolis, IN, for Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and POSNER and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:August 20, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 559

578 F.3d 559 (7th Cir. 2009)

Tonya COFFMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,


INDIANAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 08-1642.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

August 20, 2009

Argued Oct. 24, 2008.

Page 560

Tae Sture (argued), Sture Legal Services, Indianapolis, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Alexander P. Will (argued), Office of Corporation Counsel, Indianapolis, IN, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and POSNER and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

Page 561

ROVNER, Circuit Judge.

Indianapolis firefighter Tonya Coffman sued the Indianapolis Fire Department and several of its employees alleging sex discrimination under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. , violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. , and privacy intrusions amounting to violations of her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, see 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She also brought several state-law claims. Her claims arise from what she alleges were a number of discriminatory driving evaluations and fitness for duty evaluations. The district court dismissed the state-law claims without prejudice and granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on all of Coffman's remaining claims. She appeals, and we affirm.


Coffman, who is by her own description five feet tall " with shoes on," began working for the Indianapolis Fire Department in April 2001. She worked as a " substitute" firefighter until 2005, rotating shifts at various fire stations throughout the Department. Her tenure was apparently unremarkable until late 2003. In October and November 2003, two fellow firefighters who had ridden as passengers with Coffman in department vehicles expressed concern about her driving ability. In the first e-mail, Lieutenant Montgomery Hoyt wrote Division Chief of Health and Safety, Howard Stahl, and Assistant Chief Mickey Radez, observing that Coffman needed to put the bench seat all the way forward in order to reach the pedals and needed to " literally hold on to the steering wheel for support." 1 Within several days another firefighter e-mailed several chiefs stating that he and Lieutenant Hoyt were concerned that Coffman could not safely operate the vehicle because she had to look through the steering wheel to see out the front window and use her upper body to hold herself up in her seat. Then in early November yet another firefighter wrote an e-mail to Chief Charlie Miller expressing his concern that Coffman could not reach the pedals in a particular squad car without sitting on the edge of the seat.

These e-mails prompted a series of so-called " safety evaluations" of Coffman's driving. Chief Stahl conducted the first evaluation in December 2003. Coffman sat in the driver's seat of three different squad cars while Chief Stahl reviewed her positioning. He concluded that " the only concern" was Coffman's proximity to the steering wheel and airbag, but he found " no safety concerns or reasons for not allowing Private Coffman to drive these squads." Chief Stahl did not, however, evaluate Coffman on squad 10, which she admitted was difficult to drive because neither the steering wheel nor seat back were adjustable. He recommended that Coffman work with Captain Julie Baade " for a short term for further evaluation." Captain Baade drove with Coffman twice and afterward e-mailed Chief Stahl with her opinion that Coffman " did a good job."

Despite Captain Baade's largely favorable report, the concern about Coffman's driving persisted into 2004 and expanded into a critique of her paramedic skills as well. In January of 2004, yet another fellow firefighter e-mailed Chief Stahl with a " few safety concerns" about Coffman's driving. They included his belief that the seat did not move forward enough for her to see properly over the wheel and his

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belief that she had difficulty maintaining proper contact with the pedals. The continuing concerns prompted another round of evaluations by Captain Baade. This time Captain Baade's report alleged deficiencies in other areas, including her perception that Coffman had difficulty socializing with and asking for help from fellow firefighters. Captain Baade gave Coffman a copy of the " review" for her to sign, and also documented her belief that Coffman " acted mad or upset" after going over the list.

Following Captain Baade's review, a number of officers broached concerns about Coffman's well-being and other issues. Specifically, the Emergency Medical Services Duty Officer, Gregory Robinson, e-mailed Chief Charlie Miller, stating that he had noticed that Coffman was " often alone or withdrawn" and seemed to be " defensive" for " no legitimate reason." Lieutenant Robinson's observations prompted a number of other individuals to become involved, including Chief Stahl.

Ultimately Lieutenant Robinson met with Coffman and another Lieutenant to discuss some of her " weaknesses" in EMS skills. Lieutenant Robinson later reported that Coffman had been " defensive" and that she had wanted to know whether there were any complaints in writing.

Shortly thereafter, Chief Radez e-mailed all of the officers and instructed them that if they believed a firefighter was underperforming they should document their concerns. He also told the officers to recommend a professional evaluation if any concerns regarding mental or physical fitness for duty arose. The same day, Captain Brian Black e-mailed several fire chiefs after Coffman had been at his station only two days, noting that she seemed " withdrawn" and suggesting that it might be in " the best interest of everyone" to consult a professional. Several days later, Chief Longerich recommended that Coffman undergo a " fitness for duty psychological evaluation" and a continued assessment of her EMS skills and driving...

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