On July 30, 2015, the 7th Circuit published an opinion in an employment discrimination lawsuit that was filed against a college by a professor under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") Silk v. Board of Trustees, Moraine Valley Community College, No. 14-2405 (7th Cir. July 30, 2015). Under the ADA, it is unlawful for a covered employer to take adverse job action against a qualified employee on the basis of his or her: (1) disability, (2) record of disability, or (3) the employer's perception of the employee as disabled. The employee alleged that the employer terminated his employment and took various other adverse job actions against him on the basis of its decision-makers' perception of him as disabled.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
On July 24, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on a claim alleging failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended. Swanson v. Village of Flossmoor, No. 14-3309 (7th Cir. July 24, 2015). The plaintiff in this case was a police detective who suffered two strokes. After the first, he requested a reasonable accommodation under the ADA--that he be allowed to work at a desk job. The employer satisfied its obligation to provide him with a reasonable accommodation for his disability by allowing him to use his paid time off to work part-time, in accordance with his physician's instructions. After his second stroke, unable to perform the essential functions of his job, he resigned. The 7th Circuit held that his failure to accommodate claim was without merit. The employer reasonably accommodated the employee after his first stroke by permitting him to use paid leave to work part-time. Since he was unable to perform his essential job functions after his second stroke, the employer was no longer required to accommodate him.
On June 25, 2015, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published new Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination in response to the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 1338 (2015). The Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA") is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of current, past, intended or potential pregnancy, as well as medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. An employer faces liability for pregnancy discrimination if it makes an employment decision that was motivated by any of these prohibited factors. Pregnancy discrimination also includes an employer's failure to treat female employees affected by pregnancy the same, for all employment related purposes, as non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. An employer is required to treat an employee who is temporarily unable to perform her job functions due to a pregnancy-related condition the same as it treats similarly situated non-pregnant employees, by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments or fringe benefits, such as disability leave and leave without pay, as well as medical and retirement benefits.
On June 15, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed the order of the district court that granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Shell v. City of Anderson, No. 14-2958 (7th Cir. June 15, 2015). The plaintiff worked as a day shift mechanic's helper for the City of Anderson Transit System until his employment was terminated by the new General Manager after 12 years. He sued under the ADA alleging that the defendant failed to accommodate his disabilities (hearing and vision impairments), leading to his termination. The issue on appeal was whether occasional bus driving, which the plaintiff had never done during his 12 years of employment, was an essential function of the plaintiff's job. A Commercial Drivers License ("CDL") is required to drive a bus, but the plaintiff's disabilities precluded him from obtaining a CDL. The defendant terminated him on the basis that his written job description required a CDL (because it included bus driving), but he could not obtain one. The job description stated that a mechanic's helper "may occasionally" drive buses to field locations.
On June 4, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment for the defendant in a disability discrimination and failure to accommodate lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Stern v. St. Anthony's Health Center, No. 14-2400 (7th Cir., 6-4-2015). In this case, the plaintiff's employment was terminated in connection with short-term memory loss that the defendant contended made him unable to perform the essential functions of his job, with or without reasonable accommodation. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. A qualified individual under the ADA is a person who can perform the essential functions of his or her job, with or without reasonable accommodation. There is a two-part test to determine whether a person is a qualified individual: (1) whether he or she meets the prerequisites for the position (education, job experience, skills, licenses); and (2) whether he or she can perform the essential functions of the position. Unless an employee is a qualified individual under the ADA, he or she cannot prevail on an ADA disability discrimination claim.
On May 5, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed an order of the district court that had dismissed a disability discrimination claim brought under the Rehabilitation Act. Rutledge v. Illinois Department of Human Services, No. 15-1028 (7th Cir.). Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act prohibits government agencies that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of disability. The elements of proof and eligibility requirements a discrimination case under Section 504 are analogous to the requirements for a discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of these requirements is that the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of his or her job with or without reasonable accommodation. Otherwise, there is no viable ADA or Section 504 claim.
On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-anticipated decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, 575 U.S. __ (2015), in which it interpreted the second clause of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in a manner that expands the rights of pregnant employees to workplace accommodation. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA") is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which extends Title VII's protection against sex discrimination to pregnant employees, making it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on pregnancy, child-birth, or related medical conditions. The second clause of the PDA requires employers to treat female employees affected by pregnancy the same, for all employment-related purposes, as non-pregnant employees, who are similar in their ability or inability to work. The issue in Young was whether an employment policy that provided disability accommodation for some but not all categories of non-pregnant employees violated the PDA by denying disability accommodation to pregnant employees.
On March 30, 2015, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a lawsuit in which a hospital patient alleged that she was a victim of disability discrimination and retaliation during her hospital stay, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Reed v. Columbia St. Mary's Hospital, No. 14-2592 (7th Cir., 3-30-2015). Title I of the ADA prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Title III of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination in public accommodation. The Rehabilitation Act makes it unlawful for entities that receive federal funding to discriminate on the basis of disability in the employment context and in public accommodation.
On November 26, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The former employee alleged that the employer had failed to accommodate her disability as required by the ADA, had discriminated and retaliated against her based on her disability, had interfered with her FMLA rights, and had discriminated against her based on her race. The 7th Circuit held that: (1) her ADA discrimination claim failed because she did not establish that she was a qualified individual with a disability, or that she met the employer's legitimate job expectations; (2) her failure to meet expectations also precluded her race discrimination claim; (3) her ADA failure-to-accommodate claim failed because her accommodation was not reasonable; (4) there was insufficient evidence to support her ADA retaliation claim; and (5) her FMLA interference claim failed because she was not denied FMLA leave.
On November 25, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in a lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and employment termination for disability-related reasons. The ADA creates a cause of action for qualified individuals with a disability where there has been discrimination in regard to the discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment by a covered entity. An employee must establish that she was employed by the entity that she seeks to hold liable under the ADA.