On November 15, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Ford v. Marion County Sheriff's Office, et al., No. 18-3217 (7th Cir. 11/15/2020). The plaintiff worked as a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff's Office, until her hand was injured in a car accident while on duty. After assigning her to light duty work for about a year, the Sheriff's Office informed her that she must either transfer to a permanent position with a pay cut or be terminated. She accepted a new position as a jail visitation clerk. The plaintiff alleged that subsequently, she suffered disability-based harassment by co-workers, refusals to accommodate her scheduling needs, and several discriminatory promotion denials. She sued the Sheriff's Office for discriminatory employment practices under the ADA.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
On November 7, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the employer-defendant in a lawsuit in which a former employee alleged claims for race, sex, age, and disability discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). McCurry v. Kenco Logistics Services, No. 18-3206 (7th Cir. 11/7/2019). This case was doomed for many reasons, including that the pro se plaintiff failed to follow the local rules of procedure for the federal court of the Northern District of Illinois. In any employment discrimination case, the fundamental issue at the summary judgment stage of the litigation is whether the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the plaintiff was subjected to adverse employment action based on a statutorily prohibited factor, such as sex, age, race, or disability.
On October 29, 2019, the 7th Circuit ruled that the "regarded-as" provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") does not encompass conduct motivated by the likelihood that an employee or job applicant will develop a future disability within the scope of the ADA. Shell v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, No. 19-1030 (7th Cir. 10/29/2019). In this case, the defendant refused to hire the plaintiff solely because it believed that his obesity presented an unacceptably high risk that he would develop certain medical conditions in the future that would suddenly incapacitate him on the job. He filed a lawsuit under the ADA, alleging that the defendant discriminated against him based on disability. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that the ADA's definition of "disability" is not met where an employer regards a job applicant as not presently having a disability, but at high risk of developing one. The district court denied the motion, ruling that the ADA does reach discrimination based on future impairment. The 7th Circuit reversed, reaching a contrary conclusion of law.
On August 15, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff-employee alleged violations of the Rehabilitation Act for failure to accommodate. Yochim v. Carson, Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, No. 8-3670 (7th Cir. 8/15/2019). The plaintiff worked in the legal department of HUD. For years, she took advantage of its flexible and progressive policy permitting employees to work from home several days per week. After undergoing surgery, she requested time off and permission to work from home. HUD agreed and allowed her time to recover and to telework from home several days a week for many months as she received physical therapy.
On July 23, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), in which the plaintiff, a former employee of the defendant, claimed that the defendant failed to reasonably accommodate his disability, and terminated his employment because of his disability. Graham v. Arctic Zone Iceplex, No. 18-3508 (7th Cir. July 23, 2019). The plaintiff sued his former employer for disability discrimination in violation of the ADA. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations that will allow a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of her job. When an employee requests a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, the employer, as well as the employee, are required to engage in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation.
On June 26, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her former employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by rescinding her long-standing work-from-home reasonable accommodation, and requiring her to relocate to another state to work face-to-face. Bilinsky v. American Airlines, Inc., No. 18-3107 (7th Circuit June 26, 2019). The plaintiff was employed by the defendant for more than two decades. After she contracted multiple sclerosis ("MS"), the defendant provided her with a work-from-home arrangement as a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The accommodation permitted the plaintiff to perform her administrative job from her home in Chicago, even though her colleagues operated out of the company headquarters in Dallas. The defendant claimed that after a major corporate merger with another airline, it restructured its operations and informally "re-purposed" the plaintiff's department.
On June 14, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a complaint in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant terminated his employment because of his race and disability, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Freeman v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, No. 18-3737 (7th Cir. June 14, 2019). The plaintiff, an African-American man who suffers from alcoholism, sued his former employer for firing him because of his race and disability. The district court dismissed his complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Seventh Circuit, however, concluded that the plaintiff has pleaded enough to state his claims.
On June 12, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in an action under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), in which the plaintiff, a CTA bus driver, alleged that the CTA took adverse employment action against him because of his extreme obesity, in violation of the ADA. Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, Nos. 17-3508 & 18-2199 (7th Cir. June 12, 2019). The Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court, that extreme obesity only qualifies as a disability under the ADA if it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. To succeed on an ADA claim, an employee must show: (1) she is disabled; (2) she is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) the adverse employment action was caused by her disability.
On March 6, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the district court did not err in its jury instruction about the legal consequences of an employee's failure to cooperate with her employer in identifying a reasonable accommodation. Sansone v. Brennan, Postmaster General of the United States, No. 17-3534 & No. 17-3632 (7th Cir. March 6, 2019). The plaintiff, a postal employee confined to a wheelchair, was for years provided by the Postal Service with a parking spot with room to deploy his van's wheelchair ramp, until it took that spot away and failed to provide him with a suitable replacement. He filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service, alleging that it failed to accommodate his disability. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and he recovered compensatory damages, as well as back pay and front pay. The Service appealed on various grounds, including a jury instruction that it claimed was erroneous regarding the required interactive process between an employer and employee to find a reasonable accommodation.
On January 25, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit filed in federal court under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Scheidler v. State of Indiana, No. 17-2543 (7th Cir. Jan. 25, 2019). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her disability and terminated her employment because of her disability, in violation of the ADA. She also alleged that her employment was terminated in retaliation for opposing disability discrimination and sex discrimination, in violation of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). The ADA prohibits certain types of disability discrimination. The ADA provides that "[N]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment."