Hillmann v. City of Chi., 04 C 6671.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
Writing for the CourtRUBÉN CASTILLO
Citation14 F.Supp.3d 1152
PartiesRobert P. HILLMANN, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. 04 C 6671.,04 C 6671.
Decision Date31 March 2014

14 F.Supp.3d 1152

Robert P. HILLMANN, Plaintiff,

No. 04 C 6671.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.

Signed March 31, 2014

Plaintiff's motion denied; defendant's motions granted in part and denied in part.

[14 F.Supp.3d 1156]

Kathryn Margaret Reidy, Law Offices of Kathryn M. Reidy, Bayview, ID, Brian M. Ozog, Stephen P. Carponelli, Carponelli & Krug, P.C., Chicago, IL, Byron Doyle Knight, Elizabeth Ann Knight, Knight, Hoppe, Kurnik & Knight LLC, Rosemont, IL, for Plaintiff.

[14 F.Supp.3d 1157]

Mara Stacy Georges, Melanie Patrick Neely, Valerie Depies Harper, City of Chicago Department of Law, Patrick Edward Deady, Matthew James Cleveland, Hogan Marren, Ltd., Limo T. Cherian, Holland and Knight, LLP, Naomi Ann Avendano, Deja C. Nave, Chicago, IL, for Defendant.


Plaintiff Robert P. Hillmann filed this action against his former employer, the City of Chicago, alleging that his termination was illegal on various grounds. Plaintiff originally brought five claims in this case, alleging breach of contract, discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., retaliation in violation of the ADA, political hiring and firing decisions in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and retaliation and denial of medical benefits in violation of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (the “IWCA”), 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 305/1 et seq. (R. 125, Third Am. Compl.) On September 26, 2007, 2007 WL 2827806, Judge Wayne R. Andersen granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the breach of contract claim, the First Amendment claim, and the denial of medical benefits portion of the IWCA claim. (R. 188, Mem. Op. and Order.) Upon Judge Andersen's retirement, this case was reassigned to Judge William J. Hibbler, (R. 247, Exec.Comm.Order), who presided over the seven-day jury trial on Plaintiff's remaining claims in June 2011, (R. 311, Min. Entry). Judge Hibbler unfortunately and prematurely passed away before he issued findings of fact and conclusions of law or a ruling on the equitable ADA retaliation claim, and the case was reassigned to this Court. (R. 338, Exec.Comm.Order.) This Court granted Plaintiff's motion for a new trial, (R. 362, Pl.'s Mot.; R. 376, Min. Entry), which took place over seven days in April 2013, (R. 483, Min. Entry; R. 484, Min. Entry; R. 488, Min. Entry; R. 489, Min. Entry; R. 492, Min. Entry; R. 493, Min. Entry; R. 501, Min. Entry). The jury trial was simultaneously a bench trial on Plaintiff's ADA retaliation claim, and the Court used the jury in an advisory capacity as to that claim. ( See R. 420, Min. Entry.) On April 17, 2013, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff's ADA discrimination claim, ADA failure to accommodate claim, and ADA retaliation claim. (R. 500, Verdict.) The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on his claim of retaliatory discharge under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act and assessed damages of two million dollars. ( Id.)

Presently before the Court are: (1) Plaintiff's motion to vacate the advisory jury verdict as to Plaintiff's ADA retaliation claim (R. 503); (2) Defendant's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law (R. 508); (3) Defendant's motion to reinstate the original jury verdict or, alternatively, for a new trial (R. 511); (4) Defendant's motion for remitter or, alternatively, for an evidentiary hearing as to damages (R. 515); and (5) Defendant's motion for the Court to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law in its favor on Plaintiff's ADA retaliation claim (R. 521). The Court begins by setting forth its findings of fact and conclusions of law as to Plaintiff's ADA retaliation claim. The basis of Plaintiff's claim of retaliation in violation of the ADA is his allegation that after each request for a reasonable accommodation for his disability, which he made “in person or through legal counsel,” Defendant retaliated against him by denying merit pay increases, transferring him or creating new job duties that further injured him,

[14 F.Supp.3d 1158]

and ultimately terminating him. (R. 125, Third Am. Compl. ¶ 68.)

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52, this Court hereby enters the following written Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, which are based upon consideration of all the admissible evidence as well as this Court's own assessment of the credibility of the trial witnesses. To the extent, if any, that Findings of Fact, as stated, may be considered Conclusions of Law, they shall be deemed Conclusions of Law. Similarly, to the extent that matters expressed as Conclusions of Law may be considered Findings of Fact, they shall also be deemed Findings of Fact. The Court's Conclusions of Law are limited to Plaintiff's claim of retaliation in violation of the ADA. For the sake of efficiency, however, the Court includes in its Findings of Fact facts that are pertinent to the remaining post-trial motions, which are discussed below.


This Court concludes that Plaintiff established through both direct and circumstantial evidence, as well as reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence:

I. General Background

1. Plaintiff began working for the Chicago Park District in June 1973 as a park attendant. (Trial Tr. at 31:2–7.) He worked as a park attendant for approximately five and a half years and then took a job as a truck driver with the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation (“the Department”). (Trial Tr. at 31:10–14.)

2. In or around November 1984, Plaintiff developed cervical radiculopathy. (Trial Tr. at 32:5–8.) Cervical radiculopathy is the interference of normal nerve function that results from pinched or compressed nerves. (Trial Tr. at 121:1–10.) This interference can cause pain, weakness, limited mobility, and the loss of sensation in a person's arm. (Trial Tr. at 121:5–14.) Cervical radiculopathy is typically a permanent condition. (Trial Tr. at 121:15–21.) Plaintiff's condition caused pain and swelling in his neck and right arm. (Trial Tr. at 32:12–14.)

3. In 1995, Plaintiff sought an accommodation from the City to allow him to avoid repetitive work with his right arm because of his condition. (Trial Tr. at 201:20–23.) As part of the ensuing 1995 Agreement between Plaintiff and the City, Plaintiff was promoted to the role of Chief Timekeeper and assigned to the Bureau of Electricity (the “BOE”), a division of the Department of Streets and Sanitation. (Trial Tr. at 52:17–20, 224:19–24, 225:8–13, 226:16–21.)

4. Dr. Michael F. Gonzales, Plaintiff's treating physician, began treating Plaintiff for cervical radiculopathy in the mid–1980s. (Trial Tr. at 120:12–15.) Dr. Gonzales specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation and pain medicine. (Trial Tr. at 117:18–118:2.) Between the 1995 Agreement and the year 2000, Dr. Gonzales saw Plaintiff for unrelated reasons but did not treat Plaintiff's cervical radiculopathy because it was stable and did not need treatment during that time period. (Trial Tr. at 124:1–7, 156:2.) In 2000, Dr. Gonzales observed “a significant change in [Plaintiff's] condition” that required further treatment. (Trial Tr. at 124:15–125:5.) Specifically, Plaintiff's right arm, shoulder, and hand were swelling and causing him pain. (Trial Tr. at 124:24–125:2.) Dr. Gonzales observed Plaintiffs condition worsening between 2000 and when he stopped seeing Plaintiff in 2002 or 2003. (Trial Tr. at 155:23–156:4.)

[14 F.Supp.3d 1159]

II. Transition of Duties in the BOE

5. In his role as Chief Timekeeper of the BOE, Plaintiff reported to Deputy Commissioner Jim Heffernan from 1995 until May 2000. (Trial Tr. at 226:16–21, 232:22–233:5.) Plaintiff's understanding of the 1995 Agreement was that he would not be performing all of the duties of a Chief Timekeeper. (Trial Tr. at 227:19–22.) The Chief Timekeeper job description listed, as examples of duties:

Directs, coordinates and reviews departmental timekeeping functions to ensure accurate and proper reporting of information, directs and supervises a large group of clerical personnel engaged in various timekeeping and payroll administration activities; examines reports and records to verify the execution of proper timekeeping methods; assigns and supervises a group of Supervising Timekeepers who check employees' presence an [sic] the job; represents the department at various meetings and conferences pertaining to the performance of various timekeeping and payroll activities; reviews time verification reports and payroll sheets for accuracy and to ensure proper processing; resolves complaints pertaining to timekeeping or payroll methods or procedures; maintains records and prepares various monthly progress and status reports.

(Def.'s Ex. 3.) Plaintiff performed some of the Chief Timekeeper duties, such as preparing overtime reports, supervising a group of supervising timekeepers below him, and directing clerical personnel. (Trial Tr. at 230:12–231:11, 236:11–15.) He also prepared memoranda to Heffernan to inform him when employees were claiming excessive overtime pay. (Trial Tr. at 54:16–56:12.)

6. Additionally, Plaintiff performed duties Heffernan directly assigned to him, including conducting research, attending meetings, and writing reports associated with the project to implement the City's emergency telephone 911 system, timekeeping duties, and independent research projects Heffernan assigned. (Trial Tr. at 231:20–232:9, 233:15–235:16.)

7. In May of 2000, Heffernan was removed as the authority figure in the BOE and Bart Vittori assumed responsibility for the administration of the BOE. (Trial Tr. at 58:4–7, 243:17–25.) On August 16, 2000, Brian Murphy succeeded Heffernan as the Deputy Commissioner of the BOE. (Trial Tr. at 844:16–845:6.) In that position, Murphy supervised and...

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  • Hillmann v. City of Chi., 04 C 6671.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • March 31, 2014
    ...14 F.Supp.3d 1152Robert P. HILLMANN, Plaintiffv.CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.No. 04 C 6671.United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.Signed March 31, 2014.14 F.Supp.3d 1156Kathryn Margaret Reidy, Law Offices of Kathryn M. Reidy, Bayview, ID, Brian M. Ozog, Stephen P. Carpo......

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