On November 20, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her employer violated the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Riley v. City of Kokomo, Indiana Housing Authority, No. 17-1701 (7th Cir. 11/20/2018). The plaintiff worked for the Kokomo Housing Authority for eight years before the termination of her employment. During her employment, the plaintiff suffered from various disabilities, which required her to take leaves of absence. She alleged that the housing authority improperly denied her requests for medical leave and retaliated against her for those requests by disciplining and terminating her, in violation of the FMLA. She further alleged that the housing authority failed to provide her with reasonable accommodations for her disabilities and discriminated as well as retaliated against her in violation of the ADA. She also claimed that she was subjected to retaliation for engaging in protected activity in violation of Title VII.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
Effective August 24, 2018, the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA") is amended by Public Act 100-1066. Under the amended IHRA, complainants may opt out of the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") investigation and commence a lawsuit in circuit court. To do so, complainants must submit, within 60 days after receipt of notice of the right to opt out, a written request seeking notice from the Director indicating that the Complainant has opted out of the investigation and may commence a civil action in the appropriate circuit court. This amendment may dramatically change Illinois employment law litigation. Plaintiff-side Illinois employment lawyers may choose to take advantage of the opt-out provision by quickly opting out of the IDHR investigation and filing employment lawsuits with jury demands in state court. Before the amendment, IDHR complainants were required to wait 365 days from the charge filing date or until the IDHR investigator completed her investigation, before they could file a lawsuit in court. With the long wait out of the way, the new opt-out provision may also influence plaintiff-side Illinois employment lawyers to file charges of discrimination first at the IDHR, rather than first at the EEOC. It will still be crucial for complaining parties to have their charges cross-filed with both the IDHR and the EEOC, and to perfect all federal law and state law employment discrimination claims, in order to preserve the right to obtain complete relief.
On August 24, 2018, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit filed by an employee who claimed that the employer discriminated against her because she had a disability, failed to accommodate her disability, and retaliated against her for exercising her right to request reasonable accommodations, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Rowlands v. United Parcel Service, No. 17-3281 (7th Cir. 8/24/2018). The district court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment on all of the employee's ADA claims, finding that she did not have a disability within the meaning of the ADA, had waived her failure to accommodate claim, and failed to establish a prima facie case of ADA retaliation. The employee appealed her failure to accommodate and retaliation claims. The 7th Circuit reversed the district court, finding that there are genuine issues of fact that are material to the employee's failure to accommodate and retaliation claims, which were not waived.
On August 16, 2018, 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"), in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant discriminated against him, failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation, and retaliated against him, in violation of the ADA. Koty v. DuPage County, Illinois, No. 17-3159 (7th Cir. 8/16/2018). The plaintiff, a deputy in the DuPage County Sheriff's Department, requested a different model of squad car with more legroom to accommodate a hip condition. After the Department denied his request, the plaintiff filed charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that the Department had discriminated against him in violation of the ADA. Not long after that, the Department reassigned the plaintiff to courthouse duty, for which he would not need to drive a squad car. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against his employer in federal court alleging that the Department violated the ADA when it denied his request for an SUV, and unlawfully retaliated against him for filing his EEOC charge of employment discrimination by re-assigning him and taking other various employment actions against him.
On May 18, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a lawsuit filed by a terminated employee for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Harris v. Allen County Board of Commissioners, No. 17-2577 (7th Cir. 5/18/2018). The question in this case was whether the defendant was the plaintiff's employer for purposes of ADA liability. The ADA makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in the terms and conditions of a qualified individual's employment on the basis of a physical or mental impairment that constitutes a disability within the meaning of the ADA, and requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals' disabilities. In order to establish an ADA claim, the plaintiff was required, but failed to establish that the defendant was his employer.
On April 30, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a federal lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant retaliated against him for exercising his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Freelain v. Village of Oak Park et al., No. 16-4074 (7th Cir. 4/30/2018). The plaintiff, an Oak Park police officer, made an internal complaint of sexual harassment, alleging that another officer made unwelcome sexual advances toward him. After he reported the alleged sexual harassment, he began to experience migraine headaches and other medical conditions that he attributed to stress related to the alleged sexual harassment, for which he took time off work. He alleged that as a result of his medical condition and use of leave time, the defendant retaliated against him, in violation of the FMLA and ADA, by classifying his sick leave as unpaid, requiring him to undergo a psychological evaluation before returning to duty, and waiting three months before approving his request to engage in outside employment. The 7th Circuit held that the subject employment actions did not constitute protected activity and that therefore, the plaintiff's FMLA and ADA retaliation claims failed as a matter of law.
On March 7, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, employer in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff, former employee alleged that her former employer interfered with her right to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), discriminated against her on the basis of her disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her disabilities, in violation of the ADA, and unlawfully retaliated against her for exercising her rights under the FMLA and ADA. Guzman v. Brown County, No. 16-3599 (7th Cir. 3/7/2018). The FMLA provides eligible employees who have serious health conditions with the right to take unpaid leave for up to 12 workweeks during each 12 month period. The FMLA also makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with an employee's attempt to exercise his or her FMLA rights, or to retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her FMLA rights.
On February 13, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a disability discrimination lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her former employer fired her because of her disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc., No. 17-2332 (7th Cir. 2/13/2018). The defendant argued that the First Amendment's ministerial exception to employment discrimination laws, including the ADA, barred the plaintiff's lawsuit. The district court agreed, concluding that the defendant, a Jewish day school, is a religious institution and that the role of the plaintiff as a Hebrew teacher for the school was ministerial.
On January 2, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), in which the plaintiff, a medical resident, claimed that his employer, a hospital, violated the ADA by discriminating against him because of his disability, a sleep disorder, failing to provide him with reasonable accommodation for his disability, and retaliating against him for asserting his rights under the ADA. Rodrigo v. Carle Foundation Hospital, et al., No. 16-1403 (7th Cir. 1/2/2018). The plaintiff contended that the hospital allowed another resident in its medical residency program to complete the program without passing the required Step 3 test, which the plaintiff did not pass, and that therefore he could establish a claim for disability discrimination under federal law. He also argued that the hospital denied his accommodation requests that it reinstate him to the program and give him the opportunity to re-take the Step 3. On his ADA retaliation claim, the plaintiff asserted that the hospital's termination of his residency and refusal to reinstate him were in retaliation for his protected activity of requesting reasonable accommodation. However, the plaintiff's disability discrimination and failure to accommodate claims failed because he is not a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA. His retaliation claim failed for lack of evidence of any causal connection between any protected activity and adverse job action.
On December 27, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant terminated his employment because of his race, national origin, disability, and exercise of his right to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Ennin v. CNH Industrial America, LLC, No. 17-2270 (7th Cir. 12/27/2017). The record indicated that the defendant terminated the plaintiff's employment before it had knowledge of his alleged disability or his FMLA leave; and there was no evidence that the defendant's proffered reasons for the termination were pretext for employment discrimination.