On April 6, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of an employer in a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") in which the plaintiff, a hotel desk clerk, alleged that his former employer failed to accommodate his alleged disability, discriminated against him on account of his alleged disability, and fired him in retaliation for complaining about related work conditions. Hirmiz v. New Harrison Hotel Corp., d/b/a Travelodge Hotel Chicago, No. 16-3915 (7th Cir. 4/6/2017). The employer claimed that it fired him after he was caught on video sleeping in the hotel lobby while a fight broke out among several hotel guests. The district court granted summary judgment on the grounds that he had failed to present evidence that he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, that he had not engaged in any protected activity before his termination, and that the complaint he'd filed with OSHA had not played any role in his employment termination.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On April 4, 2017, the 7th Circuit held that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, No. 15-1720 (7th Cir. 4/4/2017) (rehearing en banc). This case was filed by an openly lesbian teacher who alleged that her employer failed to promote her or renew her contract on the basis of her sexual orientation. The district court dismissed her complaint on the ground that Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination does not include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. On appeal, in an earlier decision, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court, but later agreed to rehear the issue en banc. The 7th Circuit is the first federal appellate court to hold that sexual orientation discrimination is actionable under Title VII.
On April 3, 2017, the United States Supreme Court delivered an opinion in which it discussed the authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), to issue a subpoena to obtain evidence from an employer that is relevant to its investigation of a charge of employment discrimination. McLane Company, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 581 U.S. __ (2017). Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin and provides the EEOC with enforcement authority. When a charge of discrimination is filed, the EEOC is required to notify the employer and conduct an investigation of the charge. It is authorized to issue, and seek enforcement from a district court, of a subpoena to obtain documents, data or witness testimony that is relevant to its investigation of the unlawful employment practices alleged in a charge.
On March 24, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed the dismissal of a complaint which alleges that employers jointly employed, as a supervisor, an employee with a known history of sexually harassing, verbally abusing, and physically intimidating his young female subordinates; and that they failed to take reasonable steps in response to multiple complaints of sexual harassment against him as well as other misconduct known to more senior managers. Anicich v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., et al., No. 16-1693 (7th Cir. 3/24/2017). In this decision, the 7th Circuit clarifies and explains the scope of Illinois employers' tort liability for intentional torts committed by their supervisors against other employees, where the employer has been negligent. Illinois law permits recovery from employers whose negligent hiring, supervision, or retention of their employees causes injury.
On March 17, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a Title VII lawsuit in which a university professor alleged that her supervisors took several retaliatory actions against her because of her protected activities of reporting a student's complaint of sexual harassment against another professor and filing a charge of gender discrimination with the EEOC. Burton v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, et al., No. 16-2982 (7th Cir. 3/17/2017). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") makes it unlawful for an employer to take materially adverse employment action against an employee because he or she engaged in statutorily protected activity such as reporting or opposing sexual harassment or another unlawful employment practice. To succeed on a retaliation claim, a plaintiff must produce enough evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that: (1) she engaged in protected activity; (2) the employer took a materially adverse job action against her; and (3) there was a "but-for" causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse job action.
On March 13, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of an employer in a lawsuit in which an employee alleged that the employer breached and waived its right to terminate an employment agreement that was terminable only for cause. Burford v. Accounting Practice Sales, Inc., et al., No. 16-1871 (7th Cir. 3/13/2017). This case involved an employment contract that provided the employee with an exclusive sales territory. The employment agreement stated that the employer could not terminate the contract unless it was violated by the employee. Based on this language, the contract was not terminable "at will," but only terminable for cause. The contract gave the employer the option to terminate the agreement if the employee failed to meet his sales goals.
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