On February 20, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Stelter v. Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corporation, No. 18-3689 (7th Cir. Feb. 20, 2020). The plaintiff alleged that she was disabled under the ADA with back pain aggravated by a work injury. She claimed that the defendant failed to accommodate her disability and terminated her employment because of her disability in violation of the ADA. The record contained evidence, however, that the defendant terminated her on account of legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
On February 6, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Plaintiff, a manager of a federal government youth-wellness facility, under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Fox v. Adams and Associates, et al., 2020 IL App (1st) 182470 (February 6, 2020). The Plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident that caused injuries requiring prolonged leaves of absence. The trial court found: (1) that the Plaintiff was not a qualified individual with a disability; (2) that there was no genuine issue of material fact that she could not perform the essential functions of her job due to her disability; and (3) the employer terminated her employment due to her medical inability to work. On appeal, the Plaintiff argued that she was a qualified individual with a disability because her request for a multi-month leave of absence was not unreasonable, and that she did not request an indefinite amount of time for her leave of absence.
On January 24, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Youngman v. Peoria County, No. 18-2544 (7th Cir. Jan. 24, 2020). The plaintiff was placed on medical leave after he informed his supervisor that he could no longer work shifts in the control room. When changes in job rotations had resulted in his temporary assignment to the control room, he experienced various symptoms. He requested that he not be assigned to the control room in the future as a reasonable accommodation, but was informed that was not possible. He was instructed that he could return to work if and when his condition improved. After his leave time expired, his position was filled, and he filed a lawsuit under the ADA, alleging that the defendant had refused to accommodate his disability and forced him out of his position. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant on the ground that the plaintiff was responsible for the breakdown of the interactive process required by the ADA when an employee requests an accommodation. The 7th Circuit affirmed, but on a different ground.
On December 4, 2019, the 7th Circuit held that a jury verdict in favor of a defendant-employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Stegall v. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, No. 18-2345 (7th Cir. Dec. 4, 2019). The plaintiff claimed that after she interviewed for a position, she received an offer of employment from the defendant at the end of her interview. She also claimed that when and because she subsequently disclosed her physical and mental disabilities, the defendant rescinded the offer of employment in violation of the ADA. She filed claims of disability and race discrimination in federal court. After a trial, the jury found that the plaintiff had a disability, that the defendant regarded her as having a disability, and that the defendant failed to hire the plaintiff. However, the jury also found that even without her physical disability, the plaintiff would not have been hired; and that her non-hiring was not unlawfully motivated based on her disabilities.
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.
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.