On November 24, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a federal lawsuit in which an employee alleged retaliation and interference claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Curtis v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, No. 14-3354 (7th Cir., 11/24/2015). This case involves a unique fact pattern. A subordinate of the plaintiff employee reported to management that he had informed her that he planned to take a medical leave to secure his managerial rate of pay and position in case he was demoted. A few weeks later, the employee was demoted from manager to cashier. Two days after the demotion, he formally requested and was allowed a second FMLA leave of absence. During his leave, he requested a transfer, which was refused, since he had not yet been released to return to work by his doctor. He was reinstated at his desired location once he was cleared to return to work. Read more »
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On November 23, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of an employer in a Title VII race discrimination lawsuit, in which the employee claimed he was discharged because of his race, and the employer contended that he was discharged for alleged violation of its sexual harassment policy. Smith v. CTA, No. 14-2622 (7th Cir., 11/23/2015). The employer conducted an investigation of a complaint of sexual harassment against the employee made by a co-worker, who alleged that he had subjected her to unwelcome sexual propositions. Unwelcome sexual propositions or unwelcome sexual advances may constitute unlawful sexual harassment, if they create a sexually hostile work environment. After completing its internal investigation, the employer discharged the employee for violation of its sexual harassment policy. Read more »
An Illinois jury recently returned a large verdict in a reverse discrimination lawsuit against the Springfield Urban League, in which the plaintiff alleged that her employment was terminated on account of her race, white, and because she refused to participate in workplace religious activities. The plaintiff was awarded $46,718 in back pay and lost benefits, $4,403 in litigation costs, and $160,222 in attorneys' fees. The plaintiff alleged that she was fired because she objected to prayer meetings at work organized by a supervisor, and alleged that members of the supervisor's congregation who worked at the Urban League were given preferential treatment. She also alleged that African-Americans and members of the congregation were hired over more qualified job candidates. The Urban League, which disagrees with the verdict, has filed post-trial motions objecting to the verdict on various legal grounds, and is expected to file an appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court. Read more »
On October 26, 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court held that non-competition, non-solicitation, and confidentiality provisions contained in an employment contract were unenforceable as a matter of law. Assured Partners, Inc., et al. v. Schmitt, 2015 IL App (1st) 141863. This case involved a "take it or leave it" employment agreement that an employer required an employee to sign during his employment in order to keep his job. The agreement contained the usual restrictive covenants. After the employee resigned, the employer filed a lawsuit to enforce the restrictive covenants against him. A non-competition agreement is enforceable only if it: (1) is no greater than is required to protect a legitimate business interest of the employer; (2) does not impose an undue hardship on the employee; and (3) is not injurious to the public. In addition, the scope of the activity, temporal, and geographic restrictions must be reasonable. The court found the non-competition provision unreasonably broad in terms of activity, temporal, and geographic scope. The non-compete prohibited the employee, an professional liability insurance broker, from working in that industry for 28 months in all 50 states. Read more »
On October 26, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a disability discrimination and failure to accommodate lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Hooper v. Proctor Health Care Inc., No. 14-2344 (7th Cir., 10/26/2015). The employer terminated the employee, an M.D., after he was cleared to return to work but did not do so, despite warning. The employee filed suit against the employer under the ADA, alleging that the employer discriminated against him on the basis of disability by terminating his employment, and failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation for his disability. However, his federal complaint did not allege any facts sufficient to put the employer on notice that he was pursuing a failure to accommodate claim, and, moreover, he did not need any accommodation. In addition, he did not present enough evidence to raise an inference of disability discrimination. Read more »
On October 21, 2015, the 7th Circuit reversed the dismissal of a Title VII lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her employer subjected her to a hostile work environment on account of her race and national origin and retaliated against her for complaining about that discrimination. Huri v. Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 12-2217 (7th Cir., 10/21/2015). The district court had dismissed the plaintiff's hostile work environment claims on the grounds that they were outside of the scope of the charges of discrimination that she filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The filing of an EEOC charge is an administrative prerequisite to the filing of a Title VII lawsuit for discrimination or retaliation. The purpose of an EEOC charge is to provide the EEOC and the employer with an opportunity to settle the employment dispute, and to put the employer on notice of the employee's claims. A federal lawsuit for a Title VII claim must be reasonably related to the allegations contained in the underlying EEOC charge. The lawsuit and charge must at least describe the same conduct and implicate the same individuals. Read more »
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