Employment Law Chicago Blog

  • 7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on Retaliatory Discharge Claim

    On May 13, 2015, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment on a Title VII retaliatory discharge claim.  Castro, et al. v. DeVry University, Inc., No. 13-1934  (7th Cir. 2015).  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant discharged him in retaliation for complaining to its Human Resources Department about racially and ethnically offensive remarks made by his manager.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, makes it unlawful for an employer to take adverse employment action against an employee in retaliation for complaining about an unlawful employment practice.  This sort of complaining is referred to as protected activity.  To prove a retaliatory discharge case, a plaintiff must establish the following elements: (1) protected activity; (2) adverse job action; and (3) a causal relationship between the two.  A variety of circumstantial evidence may support a retaliatory discharge claim. Read more »

  • Employment Contracts not always Terminable At-Will

    On May 13, 2015, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment in a case involving an alleged breach of an employment contract.  Burford v. Accounting Practice Sales, Inc., et al., No. 14-2692 (7th Cir. 2015).  The parties had entered into a contract to market and facilitate the sale and purchase of accounting practices.  The contract provided that APS could terminate the contract only if Burford violated it, while Burford could terminate any time on 30-days' notice.  Under Illinois law, employment contracts of indefinite duration are terminable at-will by either party at any time.  For instance, a contract with an initial term of 12 months that automatically renews every year for another 12 month term, without the need for either party to take action, is of indefinite duration and therefore terminable at will. Read more »

  • Federal Lawsuit Alleges Sexual Harassment Against Ford

    More than 30 women have joined a federal lawsuit against Ford Motor Company which alleges that female employees were sexually harassed at two Ford assembly plants on the south side of Chicago.  The suit alleges that female employees were subjected to a hostile work environment, including unwanted sexual advances, touching and groping.  The suit also alleges that the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducted an investigation and found that several women were sexually harassed and subjected to gender discrimination. Read more »

  • 7th Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Disability Discrimination Claim

    On May 5, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed an order of the district court that had dismissed a disability discrimination claim brought under the Rehabilitation Act.  Rutledge v. Illinois Department of Human Services, No. 15-1028 (7th Cir.).  Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act prohibits government agencies that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of disability.  The elements of proof and eligibility requirements a discrimination case under Section 504 are analogous to the requirements for a discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  One of these requirements is that the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without reasonable accommodation.  Otherwise, there is no viable ADA or Section 504 claim. Read more »

  • EEOC Must Attempt Conciliation Before Filing Suit

    On April 29, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission must try to conciliate with an employer before suing the employer for unlawful employment practices.  Mach Mining v. EEOC, 575 U.S. __ (2015).  The EEOC may fulfill this precondition by providing the employer with notice of the allegations against it and an opportunity to cure the alleged violations of employment law.  The Supreme Court also ruled that the issue of whether conciliation was attempted is subject to judicial review. Read more »

  • 7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment in Race Discrimination Case

    On March 24, 2015, the 7th Circuit reversed summary judgment in a Title VII race discrimination case.  Hutchens v. Chicago Board of Education, et al., No. 13-3648 (7th Cir.).  The case involved a large-scale layoff and reorganization.  The plaintiff alleged that she was laid off while a less qualified white employee was selected for retention instead of her because of her race (black).  There was only one open position.  The district court accepted the defendant's explanation for its selection as a non-pretextual justification.  The 7th Circuit, however, stated that there was considerable doubt about the honesty of the main witnesses for the defense as well as an absence of any corroborating documentary evidence. Read more »

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