On August 14, 2015, the 7th Circuit held that an employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by ordering an employee to submit to a fitness-for-duty medical examination as a condition of employment. Wright v. Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Nos. 13-1552 & 13-1553 (7th Cir. 8/14/2015). Under the ADA, it is unlawful for an employer to require an employee to submit to a medical exam unless it is consistent with business necessity and job-related. The employer must have a reasonable belief, based on pre-exam objective evidence, that a medical condition will impair an employee's ability to perform the essential functions of his or her job, or that the employee will pose a threat due to the medical condition. This is a very high standard for the employer--it essentially must show that the exam is vital to its business. In Wright, the employer failed to establish that the exam was consistent with business necessity and job related because: (1) the employer had inconsistently applied its evaluation procedures; (2) the employee did not pose a risk; and (3) the exam was unrelated to the employer's actual concerns about the employee. Read more »
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On August 13, 2015, the 7th Circuit reversed an Order of summary judgment on Title VII and Section 1981 claims in an employment law case in which a former employee alleged that her employer terminated her employment because of her race and in retaliation for her complaints of employment discrimination. Miller v. Polaris Laboratories, No. 14-2621 (7th Cir. 8-13-2015). The employer contended that it terminated the employee due to her demonstrably poor job performance. The employee claimed that her immediate supervisor and a co-worker, both motivated by a discriminatory and retaliatory animus, sabotaged her work to get rid of her. The employee supported her position with evidence that they had made racist remarks about her. The higher-level manager who actually made the termination decision had no unlawful motive for the termination. However, the employer can still be held liable under the "cat's paw" theory--that the lower-level supervisor and co-worker deliberately influenced the actual decision-maker to unwittingly terminate the employee for their own unlawful reasons. The "cat's paw" theory applies to employment discrimination and retaliation claims. Read more »
On June 5, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment on claims of race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII and Section 1981. An employer who discriminates against an employee because of his or her race or retaliates against him or her for protesting unlawful discrimination violates Title VII. An employment discrimination case may be established through the direct or indirect method of proof. Under the indirect method, the employee must show: (1) that he or she is a member of a protected class; (2) that he or she suffered an adverse employment action; (3) that he or she was meeting the employer's legitimate expectations at the time of the adverse action; and (4) that similarly situated employees not in the protected class were treated more favorably by the employer under similar circumstances. If these elements are met, the employer must articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action; and then the employee must prove that the reason is pretext for discrimination. Read more »
On July 30, 2015, the 7th Circuit published an opinion in an employment discrimination lawsuit that was filed against a college by a professor under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") Silk v. Board of Trustees, Moraine Valley Community College, No. 14-2405 (7th Cir. July 30, 2015). Under the ADA, it is unlawful for a covered employer to take adverse job action against a qualified employee on the basis of his or her: (1) disability, (2) record of disability, or (3) the employer's perception of the employee as disabled. The employee alleged that the employer terminated his employment and took various other adverse job actions against him on the basis of its decision-makers' perception of him as disabled. Read more »
Illinois employers can now give preference to veterans when hiring new employees under the newly enacted Veterans Preference in Private Employment Act, which Governor Rauner signed into law on July 28, 2015. The new Illinois law permits private employers to voluntarily adopt hiring policies that give preference to job applicants who served in the military, on active or reserve duty, including the Illinois National Guard. The hiring preference policies must be in writing and posted at the workplace or on the employer's website, as well as on job applications. A similar Illinois law has already been enacted for public employers. Read more »
On July 29, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of a preliminary injunction that enforced a non-competition clause and a non-solicitation provision contained in an employment contract. Turnell v. Centimark Corporation, No. 14-2758 (7th Cir. July 29, 2015). The employment agreement contained restrictive covenants that barred the employee from competing with the employer or soliciting its customers for two years after termination. Fired after 35 years, the employee defected to a competitor. Litigation ensued. The court enjoined the employee from selling his former employer's products to its customers in the Midwest for two years. Read more »
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