Whitaker v. Wisconsin Department of Health Services, No. 16-1807 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Whitaker worked for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, processing applications for benefits and answering phones. In 2009, Whitaker filed a disability form regarding her chronic back pain. She received permission to stand and stretch for five minutes once every 30 minutes during the workday. In 2010, Whitaker took consecutive leaves of absence. At times she indicated that she was requesting leave due to her disability. At other times it was less clear why she requested leave. The Department fired Whitaker when she did not return to work after exhausting her unpaid statutory and contractual medical leave. Whitaker sued, claiming that the Department failed to accommodate her disability and terminated her employment in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. The district court granted the Department summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Whitaker failed to establish that she was an “otherwise qualified” employee, as required by the Rehabilitation Act. The only medical documents Whitaker supplied were two terse doctor notes, stating “medical leave of absence until 11/17/10” and “medical leave of absence until 12/17/10.” The notes did not explain whether Whitaker was receiving treatment or the likely effectiveness of any treatment.