A former state trooper placed on restricted duty after a
diabetic episode caused her to crash a squad car – and to whom the state
offered three alternative positions - has failed in her bid to sue the Illinois
State Police for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly granted summary
judgment in Case No. 15-C-2131 to the state police, confirming the agency’s
argument that its alternative employment offers satisfied its duties under the
ADA to former trooper Jessica Kirincich.
According to court documents, the ISP knew when it hired
Kirincich in 2011 that she had Type 1 diabetes. At the time, the diabetes was
well controlled. In late 2012, however, Kirincich had a hypoglycemic episode
while off duty that caused her to lose consciousness. In February of 2013, Kirincich
had another such episode, this time while on duty working the night shift. She purportedly
lost consciousness while driving her squad car, causing her to run a red light,
cross the center line and collide with “several other vehicles at a high rate
of speed,” court documents said. After the crashes brought the car to a halt,
firefighters cut the roof off the car to extricate her and take her to the
After that episode, Kirincich was placed on restricted duty
while doctors and the ISP evaluated her condition. The agency eventually determined
that her condition prevented Kirincich from performing the essential functions
of a state trooper. It notified Kirincich of its finding and presented her with
options that included applying for reassignment to a civilian position.
According to court documents, Kirincich submitted a
reassignment application, but in the application requested not an assignment to
a civilian position, but to continue as a state trooper and work exclusively a
day shift. Both Kirincich and her doctor asserted she could avoid the risk of
future hypoglycemic episodes if she worked only day shifts.
Kennelly found that the ISP successfully argued that moving
Kirincich to a day shift was not a realistic and reasonable accommodation –
first, because officers are assigned shifts based on an established seniority
system and the ADA does not permit her to “bump” another employee, and second,
because state troopers are required to be available 24 hours for emergency
call-outs, regardless of their assigned shift.
The ISP invited Kirincich to interview for a guard position
at the James R. Thompson building and to interview for an inspector position at
a truck weight stop, both civilian positions that would have allowed her to
work days. She was later offered both jobs and accepted the job at the truck
weight stop. But in completing the transfer paperwork, she took issue with a
form that stated she had resigned from her trooper position, maintaining her
transfer was not a resignation. She did not report for duty on her scheduled
start date; nonetheless, a week later she was offered a position as a criminal
intelligence analyst, which paid significantly more than either the inspector
job or her position as a state trooper. According to court documents, she never
reported for any of the positions she was offered, and instead sued the agency,
arguing that all of the positions being offered amounted to demotions from her
position as a sworn officer.
“A refusal to grant a particular accommodation does not
automatically subject an employer to liability,” Kennelly wrote. “An employer
‘flunk[s] its obligation under the ADA’ when, in the face of a shift transfer
request, it refuses to grant the request and then does nothing to engage in
finding alternative accommodations. …Kirincich may not have been satisfied with
[the offered] alternatives, but that does not make ISP liable.”
Kirincich was represented by attorneys with the firm of
LeonardMeyer LLP, of Chicago.
The ISP was defended by attorney Craig R. Thorstenson, of
Ford & Harrison, of Chicago, and attorney Philip Stephens Holloway, of