Gretillat v. Care Initiatives

Decision Date13 February 2006
Docket NumberNo. 05-CV-05-LRR.,05-CV-05-LRR.
Citation414 F.Supp.2d 901
PartiesConnie M. GRETILLAT, Plaintiff, v. CARE INITIATIVES, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa

Sara A. Nelson, Timothy M. Sweet, Beard & Sweet, PLC, Reinbeck, IA, for Plaintiff.

James R. Swanger, Michael R. Reck, Tricia Anne Johnston, Belin Lamson McCormick Zumbach Flynn, Des Moines, IA, for Defendant.

ORDER

READE, District Judge.

                TABLE OF CONTENTS
                I.  INTRODUCTION ....................................................................904
                 II.  STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ...................................................904
                III.  UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS .......................................................904
                
                IV.  PRIOR PROCEEDINGS ...............................................................906
                  V.  ANALYSIS ........................................................................906
                      A.  Is Gretillat Disabled? ......................................................907
                          1.  Which limitations did Care Initiatives know about? ......................908
                          2.  Is Gretillat "substantially limited" in the "major life activities"
                                of walking, standing and working? .....................................910
                              a.  Are walking, standing and working "major life activities"? ..........910
                              b.  Is Gretillat "substantially limited" in her ability to walk
                                  stand or work? ......................................................910
                                   i.  Walking and standing ...........................................911
                                  ii.  Working ........................................................912
                      B.  Remaining Arguments .........................................................914
                 VI. CONCLUSION .......................................................................914
                
I. INTRODUCTION

Before the court is Defendant Care Initiatives's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 10).

II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "An issue of fact is genuine when `a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party' on the question." Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir.2005) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). A fact is material when it is a fact that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and afford it all reasonable inferences. See McCoy v. City of Monticello, 411 F.3d 920, 922 (8th Cir. 2005); Woods, 409 F.3d at 990.

Procedurally, the moving party bears "the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which show a lack of a genuine issue." Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395 (8th Cir.1992) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). Once the moving party has successfully carried its burden under Rule 56(c), the nonmoving party has an affirmative burden to go beyond the pleadings and by depositions, affidavits or otherwise, designate "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see, e.g., Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Janis v. Biesheuvel, 428 F.3d 795, 799 (8th Cir. 2005). The nonmoving party must offer proof "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

III. UNDISPUTED MATERIAL FACTS

In 1990, Care Initiatives hired Connie Gretillat to work as a Dietary Services Manager at its nursing home in Eldora, Iowa.1 Gretillat's primary responsibilities included creating care plans for nursing home residents, making the schedule for the kitchen, ordering and putting away groceries, reviewing menus and assisting a dietician in the assessment of each resident.

Care Initiatives's official job description for the Dietary Services Manager position indicates that an "essential job function" is to "[p]erform any food service task necessary to provision of meals according to schedule and standards of practice; `covers' for absent staff if unable to find a replacement"2 The job description indicates that the Dietary Services Manager, among other things, would be called upon to kneel, crouch and crawl.

Until the mid-1990s, Gretillat covered full shifts in the kitchen because there was not enough staff to cook. Since then, Gretillat sometimes covered two to three hours of a kitchen shift.

In late 1999 or early 2000, Gretillat began to suffer severe pain in her right knee. Gretillat was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Gretillat's supervisor, Monte Priske, observed that Gretillat had trouble walking long distances. Gretillat also told Priske it hurt to walk long distances. Priske excused Gretillat from making rounds of the facility. Making rounds was not an essential function of the Dietary Services Manager.

On September 22, 2003, Gretillat underwent surgery and had her right knee replaced. The purpose of the surgery was to reduce Gretillat's pain, not restore function, On November 18, 2003, Dr. Margaret Fehrle released Gretillat to return to work without any restrictions. Dr. Fehrle's form contained unchecked boxes for restrictions on bending, crawling, reaching, squatting, stooping, finger movement, climbing, kneeling, sitting, standing, walking, wrist and hand movement.

At some unknown point in time after Gretillat's surgery, Priske told Gretillat that, if she wanted to continue to work full-time, she would have to work in the kitchen as a cook two to three days a week. The Eldora nursing home had a declining census, i.e., population. Priske claims the hours in the kitchen given to Gretillat depended upon the census. As the census decreased, Care Initiatives needed Gretillat to spend more time in the kitchen and less time care planning. Gretillat told Priske that she was physically unable to work full shifts in the kitchen because of the need to stand for long periods of time.

On December 4, 2003, Gretillat told Dr. Fehrle that Care Initiatives was increasing her physical demands at work. Gretillat stated that she was struggling to meet Care Initiatives's new demands and needed restrictions. On the same date, Dr. Fehrle faxed a restriction to Care Initiatives. Dr. Fehrle restricted Gretillat from standing on her right knee for more than one hour at a time without rest. Dr. Fehrle's form contained unchecked boxes for restrictions on bending, crawling, reaching, squatting, stooping, finger movement, climbing, kneeling, sitting, standing, walking, wrist and hand movement.

On February 17, 2004, Gretillat was covering in the kitchen for absent staff. After working three and a half hours of a four hour shift, Gretillat was unable to walk, limping and in a lot of pain. She told Priske that "I can't take it anymore" and informed him that she was unable to work full shifts in the kitchen.

On the same date, Dr. Fehrle examined Gretillat and concluded that she had full extension of her knee with flexion to 115 degrees, was "doing well," and "can return to work and do whatever she wishes." It is unclear whether Gretillat was examined before or after going to work.

Priske ordered Gretillat to undergo a fitness-for-duty medical exam. On February 23, 2004, Wendy Paca, a nurse practitioner, conducted the exam. Pace asked Gretillat to kneel, squat, crouch and crawl, but Gretillat declined. Paca reported Gretillat stated "that given her right total knee replacement it is contraindicated for her to kneel, crouch or squat and she admits to me that ... she cannot do this today."

Priske told Gretillat that she would be expected to work in the kitchen two to three days a week. Since Gretillat could not do so, Priske told her that she could either resign or be fired. Gretillat resigned effective March 26, 2004.

IV. PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

On December 14, 2004, Gretillat filed a Petition against Care Initiatives in the Iowa District Court In and For Hardin County.3 Gretillat alleged disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA), Iowa Code chapter 216. Gretillat contends Care Initiatives intentionally discriminated against her because it asked her to perform physically demanding tasks after her surgery. The gist of Gretillat's lawsuit is that Care Initiatives effectively removed reasonable accommodations it had previously afforded her. Gretillat sought compensatory damages, front pay, attorney fees and costs. On January 3, 2005, Care Initiatives removed the instant lawsuit to this court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction); see also id. § 1446(b) (removal).

On September 20, 2005, Care Initiatives filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. On November 7, 2005, Gretillat filed a Resistance. On November 17, 2005, Care Initiatives filed a Reply.

V. ANALYSIS

Gretillat claims disability discrimination under the ADA and the ICRA. Disability discrimination claims under the ICRA are generally analyzed under the same framework as that used for claims brought under the ADA. Simpson v. Des Moines Water Works, 425 F.3d 538, 542 n. 3 (8th Cir.2005) (citing Fuller v. Iowa Dep't of Human Servs., 576 N.W.2d 324, 329 (Iowa 1998)). Because the parties do not argue that Gretillat's ICRA claim must be analyzed differently than her ADA claim, the court shall analyze both claims under the federal analysis. See McElroy v. State, 703 N.W.2d 385, 391 (Iowa 2005) (declining to "forge new ground" under the ICRA...

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