On August 19, 2016, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment in an employment discrimination claim under Section 1981 and the Illinois Human Rights Act. Ortiz v. Werner Enterprises, Inc., No.15-2574 (7th Cir. 8/19/ 2016). The plaintiff worked as a freight broker for the defendant for seven years until he was discharged. The defendant claims that it fired the plaintiff for falsifying business records. The Plaintiff claims that the defendant fired him because of his Mexican ethnicity. He also claims that he was subjected to a hostile work environment in the form of ongoing ethnic slurs throughout his employment that increased in frequency and intensity in the months leading up to his discharge.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On August 12, 2016, Governor Rauner signed the Illinois Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights into law, which becomes effective on January 1, 2017. This new Illinois employment law amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to extend its protections against sexual harassment and other forms of employment discrimination to domestic workers in Illinois who work more than 8 hours per week in the aggregate, including nannies, housekeepers, private caregivers, and other domestic workers. Before the amendment, domestic workers were excluded from coverage under the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Effective July 1, 2017, Chicago City Ordinance will require employers to provide employees with paid sick leave. This new requirement will apply to all employers, regardless of the number of employees, that maintain a business facility within the geographic boundary of the City or who are subject to one of the City's licensing requirements. Coverage extends to all employees who perform at least 2 hours of work within the City in any 2-week period and who work at least 80 hours during any 120-day period. Eligibility begins after an initial 6-month probationary period. Employers will be required to provide 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours in each 12-month period. Employees will be allowed to carry over 2.5 paid sick days into the following 12-month period, but employers will not be required to pay employees for unused sick days. Significantly, eligible employees will be able to use paid sick leave for their own illness, injury or medical care, or for that of their covered family members, including domestic partners.
On August 2, 2016, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed the trial court's judgment that the City of Chicago violated the Illinois Human Rights Act (the "Act") by using the fact of an employee's alleged arrest as the basis to alter the terms of her employment. Murillo v. City of Chicago, 2016 IL App (1st) 143002 (8/2/2016). The Act prohibits employers from using the fact of an arrest as a basis to discriminate in employment. The plaintiff, after working for the City for three years as a janitor, was required to submit to a background check to keep her job. The check revealed an alleged prior arrest, which had been dismissed for lack of probable cause. The City refused to give the plaintiff security clearance and ultimately terminated her employment. The appellate court rejected the City's argument, that it permissibly used other information that indicated that the plaintiff engaged in the conduct for which she was allegedly arrested (and did not use the fact of the arrest itself), because the City failed to investigate the alleged arrest beyond the bare police reports.
On July 28, 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a sexual orientation discrimination claim for failure to state a cause of action under Title VII, and held that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual preference is not covered by Title VII's prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex. Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, No. 15-1720 (7th Cir. 7/28/2016). A lesbian part-time professor filed this case under Title VII alleging that the college denied her full-time employment on the basis of her sexual orientation. The college filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that sexual orientation is not a protected classification under Title VII. The district court agreed. In a lengthy opinion, the 7th Circuit clarified that sexual orientation discrimination is outside of the scope of and therefore not unlawful under Title VII. The 7th Circuit's decision addresses and rejects the (opposite) position advanced by the EEOC, that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII.
On July 21, 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit in which a federal employee alleged that his lack of promotion or salary increase was discriminatory on the basis of his race and sex, that he was subjected to unlawful retaliation for complaining about it, and that he was subjected to a hostile work environment. Poullard v. McDonald, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, No. 15-1962 (7th Cir. 7/21/2016). In the Title VII disparate-pay context, the question is whether a plaintiff may show equal work for unequal pay based on his or her protected class. The federal employee's pay discrimination claim failed because he did not identify a similarly situated employee outside of his protected classes who was paid more for the same work. It was difficult for the plaintiff to argue that his supervisor was similarly situated, especially where the supervisor had more work experience and a higher grade level.
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