Former Employee Alleges ADA Violations Against Eli Lilly

At the United States District Court for the Northern District Court of Illinois, Carina Ortega filed a complaint and requested a jury trial against her former employer, Eli Lilly and Company, alleging the company refused to provide her with reasonable accommodations after her medical conditions forced her to take leaves of absence, allegedly in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The plaintiff, a resident of DuPage County, Ill, began working for Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Indianapolis, in April 2015 as a senior sales representative.

In April 2019, the plaintiff began experiencing excessive pain, fatigue, swelling, and dizziness, among other “debilitating symptoms requiring constant treatment through medications and physical therapy,” the complaint said. Because of these symptoms, the complaint said, the plaintiff not only had trouble performing her work duties, but “concentrating and focusing, caring for herself, sleeping and … physical tasks as simple as walking” and needed daily medication to manage. Her condition worsened between April and June 2019, when her physician said she could not go to work beginning in early June.

The plaintiff applied for a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and for benefits under the company’s short-term disability policy and intended to return to work by June 27, 2019, but once she returned, her symptoms worsened and further impaired her ability to work effectively. Her physician again placed her on a full work restriction until July 22, and the plaintiff applied once again for FMLA leave and short-term disability benefits. She was diagnosed with polyarthralgia and fatigue and told the defendants she would be able to return to work by Nov. 1.

About a week later, the defendant told the plaintiff that her FMLA request was approved — but only until Sept. 26 — and that her short-term disability benefits request had been denied. The plaintiff emailed the defendant on Oct. 2 to ask about accommodations once she returned to work, but claimed her questions were not answered. She followed up with another email on Oct. 7 requesting again for her leave and benefits to be extended to Nov. 1, and on Oct. 9, the defendant responded by email requesting her and her physician to fill out a medical certification form, “even though Plaintiff had submitted many supporting medical records in the previous months,” the complaint said. The plaintiff said she would have the form sent by Oct. 17 after her next appointment, and the defendant agreed.

However, in an Oct. 14 letter, the defendant told the plaintiff that her current leave was “unauthorized” and that she must return to work by 9 a.m. Oct. 16 or the defendant would consider her further absence a “voluntary resignation.” The plaintiff received the letter Oct. 15 and then called and left a voicemail for the defendants as well as sent an email clarifying that she had requested accommodations previously to extend her leave and asking, plainly, whether the defendant’s letter meant they would not be providing accommodations; the defendant did not respond nor provide explanation and promptly terminated the plaintiff’s employment Oct. 16, the complaint said.

The plaintiff claimed in the complaint that in addition to loss of her wages and benefits resulting in financial struggle, she has suffered “damage to her career and reputation, as well as emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience and similar non-pecuniary losses.” The plaintiff cited the alleged refusal to provide reasonable accommodation for her disability and discrimination against her on the basis of her disability as violations of Title I of the ADA.

In the complaint, the plaintiff requested to be reinstated to a position equal or greater than her former position or to be compensated proportionately in terms of wages and benefits lost and punitive damages and litigation fees.

The plaintiff is represented by John P. Madden, of O’Malley & Madden P.C.