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Sedlacek v. University of Iowa

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 21, 2017

MEGAN SEDLACEK, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA and STATE BOARD OF REGENTS, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Marsha A. Bergan, Judge.

         Megan Sedlacek appeals from the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants on her claims of disability discrimination and retaliation. AFFIRMED.

          Heather L. Carlson of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson, P.C., Davenport, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and George A. Carroll and Tyler M. Smith (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, for appellees.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.

          DOYLE, Judge.

         Megan Sedlacek appeals from the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the University of Iowa[1] on her claims of disability discrimination and retaliation. She contends the district court erred in determining the undisputed facts entitle the defendants to judgment as a matter of law. Even when the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to Sedlacek, we conclude she failed to generate a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether she was a "qualified individual." Because Sedlacek failed to meet that requisite ground for her disability discrimination claim, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the University on Sedlacek's disability discrimination claim. Similarly, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the University on Sedlacek's retaliation claim. Accordingly, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The University of Iowa (University) hired Sedlacek in 2006 to work as a custodian. The University's attendance guidelines sets forth the following expectations:

Facilities Management staff are expected to maintain a regular work schedule. All staff members are expected to contribute their fair share toward accomplishing the work undertaken by the department. This is the basis on which they were initially hired and the basis upon which they are compensated. The department has work obligations and responsibilities and expects all staff members in the department to contribute in the performance of this work. Unless staff members are in attendance at work, they cannot fulfill their responsibility toward completing their fair share of the work.

         The guidelines provide that each employee's attendance is reviewed on a quarterly basis, and establish a standard of two occurrences and two days per quarter as the threshold over which additional absences may be considered excessive.[2] Each recorded absence constitutes a day of absence. The guidelines set out a system of seven steps of discipline for staff members who experience excessive absence, beginning with a counseling session as the first step and increasing to a five-day suspension as the sixth step. The seventh step of the guidelines state the staff member's employment with the University may be terminated.

         A collective bargaining agreement also governed the terms of Sedlacek's employment at the University. With regard to leaves of absence without pay, the agreement states in part:

Section 3 Leaves of Absence Without Pay
Except as otherwise provided in this Article, employees may be granted leaves without pay at the sole discretion of the Appointing Authority for any reason for a period of up to but not exceeding one (1) year. Upon request, the leave may be extended for not more than one (1) additional year.
. . . .
D. Medical Leaves of Absence
1. Employees with at least one (1) year of seniority who have exhausted their sick leave benefits shall be granted an unpaid leave of absence not to exceed ninety (90) calendar days, provided the illness or injury exceeds ten (10) days and appropriate medical verification is submitted. Upon request of the employee, extensions may be granted for up to ninety (90) ...

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