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 »
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-anticipated decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, 575 U.S. __ (2015), in which it interpreted the second clause of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in a manner that expands the rights of pregnant employees to workplace accommodation. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA") is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which extends Title VII's protection against sex discrimination to pregnant employees, making it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on pregnancy, child-birth, or related medical conditions. The second clause of the PDA requires employers to treat female employees affected by pregnancy the same, for all employment-related purposes, as non-pregnant employees, who are similar in their ability or inability to work. The issue in Young was whether an employment policy that provided disability accommodation for some but not all categories of non-pregnant employees violated the PDA by denying disability accommodation to pregnant employees. Read more »
On March 30, 2015, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a lawsuit in which a hospital patient alleged that she was a victim of disability discrimination and retaliation during her hospital stay, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Reed v. Columbia St. Mary's Hospital, No. 14-2592 (7th Cir., 3-30-2015). Title I of the ADA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Title III of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination in public accommodation. The Rehabilitation Act makes it unlawful for entities that receive federal funding to discriminate on the basis of disability in the employment context and in public accommodation. Read more »
On March 17, 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, held that a terminated employee who was not paid a discretionary bonus by his former employer may state claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and violation of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. McCleary v. Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, 2015 IL App (1st) 14128-U (March 17, 2015). The employee bonus plan at issue provided that payment of a bonus to an employee was entirely within the discretion of the employer. At the time of his employment termination, the employee had met all criterion for entitlement to a bonus, including employment for at least three months of the bonus year. After his termination, the employer unilaterally changed the terms of its bonus plan to require employment for at least six months during the bonus year as a condition to entitlement to the bonus. The employee, who was employed for less than six months during the bonus year, was denied his bonus. Read more »
On March 11, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a Title VII employment discrimination and Section 1981 lawsuit. Simpson v. Beaver Dam Community Hospitals, Inc., No. 14-2269 (7th Cir., March 11, 2015). The 7th Circuit stated that although questions have been raised about the utility of analyzing discrimination claims through both the direct and indirect methods of proof, both tests still stand and are to be considered separately (despite the typically overlapping evidence). The ultimate question is whether a reasonable jury could find unlawful discrimination. Terms commonly used by human resources to justify employment terminations, such as 'not the right fit,' 'better fit elsewhere,' and 'not a good fit,' do not amount to direct evidence of discriminatory intent, unless there is a connection between the term and a protected class or an inherently discriminatory context. Read more »
On March 9, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a general contractor defendant on the basis that the plaintiff, who was employed by its subcontractor, failed to demonstrate that the general contractor was his indirect employer for purposes of Title VII liability. Love v. JP Cullen & Sons, No. 13-3291 (7th Cir., 3-9-2015). The plaintiff brought a Title VII action alleging that his dismissal from a construction job site was racially motivated. Since the general contractor was not his direct employer, the plaintiff was required to show that the general contractor could still be held liable under Title VII as an indirect employer. Under Title VII, it is unlawful for an employer to discharge or otherwise discriminate against any individual because of the individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin. An employer is defined under Title VII as a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such a person. Read more »
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