On June 20, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a federal lawsuit in which the former employee plaintiff alleged that the employer discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, female, and retaliated against her on account of her prior complaints of employment discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Nicholson v. City of Peoria, Illinois, et al., No. 16-4162 (7th Cir. June 20, 2017). In this case the plaintiff, a Peoria police officer, alleged that she was not reappointed to a certain position because of her sex, in violation of Title VII. The 7th Circuit, in its opinion, reiterated that it has "entirely done away with the distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' evidence and methods of proof for Title VII discrimination claims....Evidence is evidence. Relevant evidence must be considered and irrelevant evidence disregarded, but no evidence should be treated differently from other evidence because it is labeled 'direct' or 'indirect'." The proper legal standard at the summary judgment stage for a Title VII employment discrimination claim "is simply whether the evidence would permit a reasonable factfinder to conclude that [the plaintiff's] sex caused her reassignment."
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On June 19, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a Title VII lawsuit in which the plaintiff, an elementary school principal, alleged that her employment contract was not renewed because of her race and in retaliation for her protected activity. Ferrill v. Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District, et al., No. 15-3805 (7th Cir. June 19, 2017). The plaintiff sued the School Board alleging racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). The 7th Circuit concluded that the plaintiff was not meeting the Board's legitimate performance expectations and therefore failed to establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination. The retaliation claim failed for lack of evidence of a causal connection between the Board's decision and any protected activity.
On June 19, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant employer in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff employee alleged that she was fired in retaliation for exercising her right to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Tibbs v. Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, No. 16-1671 (7th Cir. June 19, 2017). The FMLA provides eligible employees with the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave of absence for serious medical conditions or other circumstances. A covered employer is required to restore an employee to her position or an equivalent position upon her return to work from FMLA leave, with certain exceptions. The FMLA makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising her right to take an FMLA leave.
On May 23, 2017, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, held that the non-renewal of an independent contractor's employment contract with the State of Illinois constitutes adverse job action for purposes of a retaliatory discharge claim under the State Ethics Act. Wynn v. Illinois Department of Human Services, 2017 IL App (1st) 160344 (May 23, 2017). In this case, a contract employee alleged that the state violated the Illinois Ethics Act by intentionally not renewing his independent contractor employment agreement in retaliation for his protected activity of reporting an alleged improper, unauthorized state expenditure to an auditor. After a one-day bench trial, the plaintiff was awarded $782,253.
On May 4, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") in which the plaintiff, an assistant principal until she injured her knee while restraining a student, alleged that the defendant school district failed to accommodate her disability. Brown v. Milwaukee Board of School Directors, No. 16-1971 (7th Cir. May 4, 2017) The ADA requires an employer to provide an employee with a reasonable accommodation as long as the employee has a mental or physical impairment that qualifies as a disability under the ADA and the accommodation enables the employee to perform the essential functions of her job, provided that the accommodation does not result in undue hardship to the employer.
On April 24, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant employer in a Title VII employment discrimination lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to hire him as a truck driver because of his race, after his routine drug test was allegedly positive for marijuana use. Turner v. Hirschbach Motor Lines, No. 15-3263 (7th Cir. April 24, 2017). The plaintiff alleged that the decision to not hire him was racially discriminatory. However, he failed to offer evidence that the racial animus of an employee who was involved in the drug testing procedures, but was not a decision-maker on the hiring decision, caused the defendant to not hire him.
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