7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: Larry Tate v. Thomas J. Dart
Case No.: 21-2752
Officials: Rovner, Hamilton, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.
Focus: ADA Violation – Employment Classification
Plaintiff-appellant Larry Tate has worked for the Sheriff of Cook County in the Department of Corrections since 2007. In his third year as a correctional officer, Tate suffered a back injury. He returned to work under medical restrictions that required him to “avoid situations in which there is a significant chance of violence or conflict.” After Tate was promoted to sergeant, the Sheriff’s Office agreed to accommodate this medical restriction by allowing him to work in the Classification Unit, where the possibility of violence or physical conflict was relatively remote.
But when Tate sought a promotion to lieutenant, he was told that the Sheriff could not accommodate him. Correctional lieutenants had to be “able to manage and [defuse] regular, violent situations involving inmates.” Since Tate’s medical restrictions would prevent him from performing this function, the Sheriff’s Department said, he would remain a sergeant. Tate sued for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court found that the undisputed facts show that responding to inmate violence in emergencies is an essential function for lieutenants, so Tate was unable to perform the essential functions of the job he sought. Although the district court’s opinion was too deferential to the employer’s views about which job functions are essential, the court agrees.