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.
ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act)
On October 9, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). McDaniel v. Progress Rail Locomotive, Inc., No. 18-3565 (10/9/2019). The plaintiff alleged that his former employer unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of age and retaliated against him for complaining about a superior, in violation of the ADEA. The plaintiff failed to produce evidence of any substantially younger similarly situated employees who were treated more favorably.
On July 17, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment on an age discrimination claim in which a bus driver alleged that his employment was terminated because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Pickett v. Chicago Transit Authority, No. 18-2785 (7th Cir. July 17, 2019). After an incident with a bus passenger, the plaintiff took a six month leave of absence while recovering. After his physician concluded that he could return to work (but not as a driver), the plaintiff requested a light duty assignment. He was given one, but four days later, he was informed that the defendant was not ready to permit his return to work.
On June 27, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's order granting the defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims for age discrimination, race discrimination and retaliation. Fields v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, et al., No. 17-3136 (7th Cir. June 27, 2019). The plaintiff, a Chicago Public School teacher, sued the Board of Education and the principal of the school where she worked, alleging that they discriminated against her based on her race and age and retaliated against her for filing this lawsuit, in violation of Section 1981 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). The district court entered summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff did not suffer an adverse employment action, which is a required element of an employment discrimination claim.
On June 7, 2019, the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an age discrimination complaint on the ground that the plaintiff had incorrectly named the defendant in his EEOC charge. Trujillo v. Rockledge Furniture LLC, Nos. 18-3349 & 19-1651 (7th Cir. June 7, 2019). The plaintiff filed a charge of age discrimination and retaliation with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") after his employment was terminated. In his charge, the plaintiff failed to list the correct legal name of the defendant. The district court dismissed his claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies because he did not name his employer sufficiently, and because the EEOC did not notify the correct employer of the charge.
On January 23, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the protections against disparate impact age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") do not extend to outside job applicants. Kleber v. Carefusion Corp., No. 17-1206 (7th Cir. Jan. 23, 2019). This age discrimination case was filed by a 58-year-old attorney who applied for and was denied a position as an in-house attorney, which was given to a 29-year-old applicant. The job description required 3-7 years, but no more than 7 years, of legal experience. Section 4(a)(2) of the ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer to "limit, segregate or classify employees based on age" in such a way that results in an adverse effect on their "status as an employee." The plain statutory language of the ADEA warrants the conclusion that its protections against disparate impact age discrimination are limited to employees.
On December 18, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in an age discrimination lawsuit filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Wrolstad v. CUNA Mutual Insurance Society, No. 17-1920 (7th Cir. 12/18/2018). The plaintiff was employed by the defendant for 25 years. His position was eliminated in a corporate restructuring, when he was 52-years-old. He applied for several open positions, but was not rehired. One particular position for which he had applied was given to a 23-year-old. He signed a severance agreement waiving all claims against the defendant in exchange for 50 weeks of severance pay. Subsequently, he filed a charge of age discrimination with the EEOC.
On October 11, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of the district court that granted the employer-defendant's motion for summary judgment on a disparate-impact claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Dayton v. Oakton Community College, et al., No. 18-1668 (7th Cir. 10/11/2018). The ADEA prohibits an employer from taking adverse job actions against employees who are forty years old or older because of their age. To prevail on a disparate-impact claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a specific, facially neutral employment practice caused a significantly disproportionate adverse impact based on age. Unlike disparate treatment claims, disparate-impact claims do not require proof of discriminatory motive.
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 20, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a disparate impact age discrimination lawsuit filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). O'Brien, et al. v. Caterpillar, Inc., No. 17-2956 (7th Cir. 8/20/2018). This age discrimination lawsuit was filed by a group of retirement-eligible employees who refused to retire under a "liquidation plan," through which employees who agreed to retire would receive a pro rata share of funds that resulted from the company's elimination of certain unemployment benefits for laid-off employees. The plaintiffs alleged that the liquidation plan violates the ADEA because it has a disparate impact on older employees. The 7th Circuit held that although the liquidation plan has a disparate impact on older workers, it was justified by several reasonable factors other than age.