75 F.3d 1130 (7th Cir. 1996), 95-2479, Beck v. University of Wisconsin Bd. of Regents

Docket Nº:95-2479.
Citation:75 F.3d 1130
Party Name:Lorraine BECK, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN BOARD OF REGENTS, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Chancellor John Schroeder, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:January 26, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 1130

75 F.3d 1130 (7th Cir. 1996)

Lorraine BECK, Plaintiff-Appellant,



Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Chancellor John

Schroeder, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 95-2479.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 26, 1996

Argued Dec. 1, 1995.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Milton S. Padway (argued), Mark J. Goldstein, and M. Nicol Padway, Padway & Padway, Milwaukee, WI, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

James E. Doyle, Office of the Attorney General, Wisconsin Department of Justice and Richard Briles Moriarty (argued), Wisconsin Department of Justice, Madison, WI, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before CUMMINGS, CUDAHY and FLAUM, Circuit Judges.

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

This appeal concerns the alleged failure of the University of Wisconsin to provide "reasonable accommodations" within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. ("ADA"), to Lorraine Beck, an employee of the University from 1967 to 1993 who suffered from osteoarthritis and depression during the latter part of her employment. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the University, and we now affirm.


Beck began full-time employment with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1967. In 1979, she became Secretary to the Dean of the School of Nursing, a position that she held for 11 years. In August 1991, Beck began a three-month medical leave for conditions described to the University as "multiple medical conditions" and "post viral fatigue." Before taking leave, she had frequently stated that her secretarial position required two full-time employees and a student helper and she made informal inquiries into a possible transfer, but no formal application was made. Beck returned on October 7, 1991, and was then assigned to the Department of Health Maintenance in the School of Nursing, a position with substantially different duties but the same classification and salary as her secretarial position.

For the first month in her new position, Beck was not required to perform any regular duties but was instead allowed to learn and practice the word-processing program in her own office. Thereafter, she suffered from osteoarthritis aggravated by repetitive keyboarding. A February 1992 letter from her doctor stated, in part, "I would recommend, if possible, that she avoid repetitive keyboard use, in which case, quite possibly her symptoms will resolve." In general, Beck believed that her overall workload needed to be reduced, and her immediate supervisor, Linda Bennett, was aware of this fact. In May 1992, Beck was hospitalized with severe depression and anxiety, which she claims was a direct result of the stress of her new job and the lack of training and support in that job. She returned to work on June 9, 1992, with the following letter from her doctor:

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Mrs. Lorraine Beck is released to return to work on Thursday June 11, 1992. She is to work one half day on Thursday and she is to work full days thereafter. She has suffered recurrent major depression. This is a serious medical illness and may require some reasonable accommodation so that she does not have a recurrence of this condition.

Beck's employer sought to have her sign a release allowing the University to obtain further information from her doctor. She did not sign the release, no further information was provided, a scheduled meeting to discuss possible accommodations never took place, and Beck continued in her job.

In July 1992, Beck took medical leave again. Upon returning to work on August 10, 1992, she gave the University the following letter from her doctor:

Lorraine Beck has completed (9) days of hospitalization for depression and medication readjustment. In returning to work on 8/10/92 she may require appropriate assistance with her work load. An adjustable computer keyboard would be helpful in preventing further difficulties with her hands. All in all, tayloring [sic] her work load to what she & your staff feel she can realistically accomplish, would do much to assist in her transition back to work, and future productivity.

Also upon returning, Beck received a memorandum from Bruno Wolff, the assistant dean, stating that he did not understand what accommodations were necessary and, until he received more information, she would be assigned to work directly with Bennett and would receive all tasks from Bennett. Wolff also informed her that she would be temporarily moved from room 536 to room 636, which Beck describes as a small, isolated, cold room with no exterior windows.

During the time Beck worked in room 636, she was not given an adjustable keyboard, but was instead given a wrist rest. She was also given much less work than other secretaries. The University claims that the August 10 reassignment was intended to reduce Beck's apparent stress level by reducing the number of people who could assign her work, eliminating "rush" projects, and assuring that she was only assigned one task at a time. Beck ultimately received much less work than Bennett expected, which may have been due to her lack of proficiency with the word-processing program and the fact that her tasks were...

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