On June 27, 2016, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in a workers' compensation retaliatory discharge lawsuit under Illinois law. Baptist v. Ford Motor Company, No. 15-2913 (7th Cir. 6/27/2016). The plaintiff, a former forklift operator, claimed that he was fired in retaliation for exercising his right to pursue a claim under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. To prevail on a common-law claim for retaliatory discharge under Illinois law, a plaintiff must establish that the discharge was primarily in retaliation for his exercise of a protected right. The 7th Circuit concluded that summary judgment was improper due to conflicting evidence about whether the defendant's motivation for the discharge was retaliatory.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On June 14, 2016, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") published expansive new guidelines that explain and clarify the legal rights of pregnant employees under federal law. Federal law protects employees against pregnancy-based discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA") prohibits employers from discrimination against employees based on present or past pregnancy, intended pregnancy, medical conditions related to pregnancy, and having or considering an abortion. Employers cannot terminate, refuse to hire or promote, or demote an employee based on any of these factors. Employers are also prohibited from forcing an employee to take a leave of absence for any of these reasons, even if the employer believes that work would pose a risk to the employee or her pregnancy. However, an employer is not required to keep an employee in a job that she is unable to perform or in which she would pose a significant safety risk to others in the workplace.
On June 13, 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a disability discrimination and failure to accommodate lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Wheatley v. Factory Card And Party Outlet, No. 15-2083 (7th Cir. 6/13/2016). The employer terminated the employee for failure to report to work while she was off work due to a non-work related foot injury. Her leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") had already expired. So had an additional four-week leave with which the employer had provided her, with the ultimatum that if she could not return to work when that time-period expired, her employment would be terminated. The employee alleged that the employer violated the ADA by terminating her employment and failing to accommodate her (foot injury) disability.
On May 20, 2016, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed a decision of the Cook County Commission on Human Rights ("Commission") in favor of a County employee on her sexual harassment and age discrimination claims against the County under Cook County ordinance. Cook County Sheriff's Office v. Cook County Commission On Human Rights, 2016 IL App (1st) 150718 (5/20/2016). The employee filed a claim with the Commission in which she alleged that she was subjected to ongoing sexual harassment as well as harassment on the basis of her age. She alleged that her co-worker and eventual supervisor subjected her to ongoing sexual discrimination by engaging in unwanted physical touching and sexually offensive remarks in the workplace. She also alleged that he made age-based jokes and derogatory remarks toward her in front of co-workers. The alleged sexual harassment and age-related harassment continued unabated despite the employee's complaints to the director of her department.
On May 6, 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in an age discrimination lawsuit filed by a tenured professor against a college under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Roberts v. Columbia College Chicago, et al., No. 15-2079 (7th Cir., 5/6/2016). In this case, a college terminated a professor after it discovered that he had allegedly plagiarized several chapters in a textbook. He claimed that his termination was unlawful discrimination on the basis of his age. The ADEA prohibits an employer from terminating or otherwise discriminating against an employee because of his or her age. The protected class under the ADEA covers individuals who are 40 years of age or older. The plaintiff did not produce any evidence that the decision-maker harbored any age-based discriminatory animus against him. Instead, he tried to advance his claim under the "cat's paw" theory of liability--that the decision-maker's decision was influenced by a subordinate employee--who acted for discriminatory reasons.
On May 3, 2016, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed an order of the trial court which granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's age and disability discrimination employment discharge claims brought under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Kreczko v. Triangle Package Machinery Co., 2016 IL App (1st) 151762 (5/3/2016). This was an employment discrimination case under the IHRA, Illinois' state anti-discrimination law, rather its federal counterpart, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). The defendant discharged the plaintiff after receiving several customer complaints about his job performance. Four months later, the defendant replaced the plaintiff with a newly hired younger Hispanic employee. The plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and subsequently filed a lawsuit in state court in which he alleged age, race, and disability discrimination. The trial court dismissed the race discrimination claim, and granted summary judgment on the age and disability claims. The plaintiff did not establish a case of unlawful discrimination because he failed to meet the defendant's legitimate performance expectations, and the defendant offered a reason for his discharge (unsatisfactory job performance) that was not pretext for unlawful discrimination.
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