On February 11, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment on an FMLA retaliation claim. Carter v. Chicago State University, et al., No. 13-3367 (7th Cir., 2-11-2015). The plaintiff, an Associate Professor, alleged that he was not promoted to a Department Chair position in retaliation for taking a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for taking an FMLA leave, but the employee must prove a causal connection between the leave and adverse job action to succeed on an FMLA retaliation claim. Close timing between the leave and adverse action, coupled with other evidence, may raise an inference of retaliation. But a seven-month delay between the protected activity and employment action, without other evidence, militates against a retaliation claim, by breaking the causal chain. Read more »
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On February 6, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment dismissing a Title VII retaliation case. Ledbetter v. Good Samaritan Ministries, et al., No. 14-2822 (7th Cir., 2-6-2015). This opinion is about suspicious timing and too many loose ends. Instead of firing the plaintiff the day of the alleged termination meeting (before they learned of his EEOC charge), the decision-makers "dawdled." The dawdling of the decision-makers created an inference that they fired him the day after they learned of his EEOC charge because the charge was the "last straw." It is possible that if he had not filed his charge, he would have remained employed and, therefore, his termination was, at least in part, in retaliation for his charge. Even if they had already made a tentative decision to terminate the plaintiff, but did not execute it until they received notice of the charge, the lawsuit still should not have been dismissed, as the charge may have triggered the firing. Read more »
On January 29, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Judicial Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, which awarded the plaintiff unusual equitable remedies in a Title VII lawsuit. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Northern Star, et al., No. 14-1660 (7th Cir., 1-29-2015). The plaintiff, a male African-American cook, alleged that he was fired in retaliation for complaining about racial harassment. Coworkers had sketched racially inflammatory pictures on a dollar bill, which they showed to him. Shortly after he made a complaint of racial harassment to his employer, his supervisors began to criticize his work performance, and terminated his employment. Before he reported the harassment, the plaintiff had never received any complaints about his job performance. Read more »
On January 29, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims for national origin discrimination and retaliation. Yaroslav v. Means-Knaus Partners, L.P., Nos. 13-3302 & 14-2768 (7th Cir., 1-29-2015). Plaintiff, a custodian for thirteen years, alleged that his employer disciplined him and terminated his employment because of his Ukrainian national origin and in retaliation for filing charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights. He alleged that his supervisor mocked his mixed use of Ukrainian and Polish, in front of his co-workers. He also alleged that his employer treated custodians who are not in his protected class more favorably than him. The 7th Circuit concluded that the plaintiff's failure to meet the employer's legitimate performance expectations doomed his employment discrimination claim under the indirect method of proof. Read more »
On January 27, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's employment discrimination and retaliation claims. Awok Ani-Deng v. Jeffboat, LLC, No. 14-2155 (7th Cir., 1-27-2015). The plaintiff, a female Sudanese shipyard welder, alleged that her employer demoted her and laid her off in retaliation for her complaints of sex and national origin discrimination that she had filed with the EEOC. After her layoff, the company send the plaintiff a work recall notice, to which she failed to timely respond. The 7th Circuit found that the employer demoted the plaintiff for safety reasons, laid her off as part of a general seniority-based reduction-in-force, and would have recalled her had she timely responded to the notice. Read more »
On January 14, 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed a jury verdict in favor of the defendant in a state court age discrimination lawsuit brought under the Illinois Human Rights Act. Cipolla v. Village of Oak Lawn, 2015 IL App (1st) 132228 (1-14-2015). The plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, and later filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County, in which she alleged that the defendant terminated her employment on account of her age in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act. Section 1-102(A) of the Act provides that it is the public policy of Illinois to secure freedom from discrimination against any individual because of her age or other protected class. After a four-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff appealed on several grounds and argued to the Appellate Court that the jury's verdict should be reversed and the case remanded for a new trial. Read more »
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