On January 13, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a wage discrimination lawsuit in which the plaintiff claimed that she was denied a pay increase and subjected to disparate pay on the basis of her age, sex and race, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), and the Equal Pay Act ("EPA"). David v. Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 508, No. 15-2132 (7th Cir. 1/13/2017). She alleged that employees who were younger, non-African-American, or male were paid more than she was paid for equivalent work.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On December 22, 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to the defendant on a claim under Illinois law that it violated the covenant of good faith and fair dealing by failing to pay the plaintiff his bonuses under his employment contract. Wilson v. Career Education Corporation, No. 16-1063 (7th Cir. 12/22/2016). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant owed him the payment of bonuses under an incentive compensation provision in his employment agreement. He alleged that the defendant violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which is implied in all contracts under Illinois law. The bonus plan explicitly reserved to the company the right to terminate or amend the plan at any time for any reason at its sole discretion. However, this type of discretionary provision in a bonus plan is still subject to the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and, therefore, does not provide a company with absolute unfettered discretion to terminate an employee's bonus payments.
On December 20, 2016, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, reversed an order of the trial court that had dismissed an employee's claims for breach of an employment agreement and promissory estoppel. Boswell v. City of Chicago, 2016 IL App (1st) 150871 (12/20/2016). Promissory estoppel is an employment law claim that is not dependent upon the existence of an employment contract. To state a claim for promissory estoppel, a employee must allege: (1) the employer made an unambiguous promise; (2) he relied on the promise; (3) his reliance was expected and foreseeable; and (4) he relied on the promise to his detriment. In this case, the employee alleged that the employer made representations that his employment would include certain terms and conditions, upon which he reasonably relied to his detriment by resigning from his previous employment and relocating his family to Chicago.
On January 9, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of an employee in a lawsuit in which the employee alleged that her former employer violated her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Wink v. Miller Compressing Company, No. 16-23365, 16-2339 (7th Cir. 1/9/2017). After a three-day trial, the jury reached a verdict in favor of the employee on her claim that the company unlawfully retaliated against her for exercising her FMLA right to take leave necessary to care for her sick child. She had asked the employer's human resources department to allow her FMLA leave to enable her to work from home two days a week, which would give her enough time to care for her child.
Here is a look back at 2016 7th Circuit employment law decisions, including significant trends and changes in employment law in the 7th Circuit, as well as a tally of decisions affirming and reversing summary judgments in employment law cases. Notably, in 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed orders of summary judgment in 22 employment law cases, but reversed orders of summary judgment in only 5 employment law cases (10 calendar days remain, so the numbers may change). But as of this date the ratio is 4.4/1, i.e., 4.4 summary judgments were affirmed for every 1 summary judgment that was reversed. Put another way, of the 27 employment law summary judgments on appeal to the 7th Circuit in 2016, 81.5% were affirmed, while 18.5% were reversed. The 27 cases include employment discrimination, harassment, failure-to-accommodate, and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Rehabilitation Act, Section 1981, the Illinois Human Rights Act, and Illinois common law.
In 2016, several new Illinois employment law statutes as well as a City of Chicago Ordinance were enacted, many of which expand employee leave of absence rights. Here is a summary of the new Illinois and Chicago employment laws.
Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act:
Illinois employers who provide paid sick leave must allow employees to use their paid sick leave time to care care for their immediate family members, parents-in-law, grandchildren or grandparents.
Illinois Child Bereavement Leave Act:
This blog is provided for general informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and shall not be relied upon for any particular matter. Reading, reviewing, or otherwise using the blog shall not create any attorney-client relationship.