On July 20, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of the district court that had dismissed Title VII claims for hostile work environment, disparate treatment and retaliation. Alamo v. Bliss et at., No. 15-2849 (7th Cir. 7/20/2017). The plaintiff, a Hispanic City of Chicago firefighter, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court. He alleged various forms of unlawful discrimination on the basis of his national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), a failure to accommodate claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and a retaliation claim under Title VII. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim, and dismissed all of the plaintiff's federal claims.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On July 17, 2017, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, held that punitive damages are recoverable under Illinois law in the employment law claim for negligent hiring, supervision or retention of a dangerous employee, even if the employer lacked actual knowledge of the employee's dangerous propensity. John Doe v. The Catholic Bishop of Chicago, et al., 2017 IL App (1st) 162388 (First Dist. 7/17/2017). The plaintiff in this case filed a negligent employment claim against the defendant, in which he alleged that a former priest sexually molested him while he attended a school that employed the priest. He claimed punitive damages. On appeal, the First District considered the question of whether a claim for punitive damages requires proof of an employer's conscious disregard for an employee's particular unfitness, where the underlying claim is for negligent hiring, supervision and retention of that employee.
On July 17, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of the district court that denied an employer's motion to compel arbitration of an employee's Title VII sexual harassment and retaliation claims based on an arbitration agreement between the employee and the staffing agency who placed her with the employer. Scheurer v. Fromm Family Foods LLC, No. 16-3327 (7th Cir. July 17, 2017). The employee filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). The employee's contract with the staffing agency that placed her with the employer contained an arbitration clause. The employer moved to compel arbitration of the employee's claims, but the district court denied the motion.
On July 13, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. Lauth v. Covance, No. 16-2939 (7th Cir. July 13, 2017). The plaintiff claimed that the defendant terminated his employment because of his age and in retaliation for his EEOC Charges, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). The question on appeal was whether a triable issue of fact existed as to whether the defendant terminated the plaintiff because of his age or in retaliation for his protected activity. The 7th Circuit has discarded the distinction between direct and indirect methods of proof in employment discrimination cases, and has clarified that all evidence must be evaluated as a whole. The proper inquiry is whether a reasonable jury could determine, based on all the evidence, that the plaintiff's age or protected activity was the cause of his termination.
On July 12, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of the district court that granted summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a Title VII retaliation case, in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant intentionally retaliated against her for complaining about employment discrimination in her 2009 EEOC Charge, when it refused to rehire her in 2014. Baines v. Walgreen Co., No. 16-3335 (7th Cir. July 12, 2017). The 7th Circuit stated that, "[t]his appeal provides an example of circumstantial evidence that allows a reasonable inference that an employer acted with unlawful intent." The circumstantial evidence included evidence that the manager who had handled her earlier EEOC charges intervened in the 2014 decision to not rehire her, and that the manager did so in ways that deviated significantly from the employer's standard hiring procedures.
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."
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