Employment-Seventh Circuit Holds That Plaintiff Makes Out A Case Of Discrimination And Termination In Violation Of The ADA

In Cloe v. City of Indianapolis, No. 12-­1713 (Seventh Circuit 2013), plaintiff Nancie J. Cloe (“Cloe”) started working for the City of Indianapolis (the “City”) in April 2007. In March 2008, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (“MS”), a chronic, incurable neurological disorder that rendered her disabled and significantly impaired her day­to­day life. On June 29, 2009, the City terminated her, ostensibly for poor performance. Cloe brought this suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), alleging that the City (1) discriminated against her because of her disability, (2) failed to reasonably accommodate her disability, and (3) retaliated against her for requesting accommodations for her disability. The district court granted summary judgment to the City, and Chloe appeals.

In analyzing the case, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) found that as to allegation (2)-failure to accommodate- Chloe did not identify a reasonable accommodation, such as a parking spot, a printer or a proofreader that Chloe requested or that the City did not provide in a timely manner when Chloe requested it. Thus allegation (2) fails.

As to allegation (3)-retaliation- Cloe has chosen to prove retaliation by using the direct method, under which she must show that (a) she has engaged in a statutorily protected activity, (b) she suffered an adverse action and (c) there is a causal connection between the two. Chloe engaged in a protected activity by requesting reasonable accommodation and was subsequently fired, so (a) and (b) were met. Also, the Court found that (c) was met. A causal connection is found when the plaintiff provides evidence that the protected activity-here requesting reasonable accommodation- was a substantial or motivating factor for the adverse action, here the termination. In this case, Chloe provided this evidence, by showing a close timing between her request and the termination and evidence of hostility towards her. Therefore, allegation (3) survives summary judgment.

As to allegation (1)-discrimination-the Court found that the City forfeited its argument on this allegation by failing to make it in district court. Therefore, allegation (1) survives summary judgment. As such, the Court overturned the district court’s summary judgment on allegations (1) and (3), and remanded the case back to the district court to make a determination on those allegations.