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.
On February 13, 2020, the 7th Circuit issued an opinion in which it explain the respective responsibilities of both employers and employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Lutes v. United Trailers, Inc., et al., No. 19-1579 (7th Cir. Feb. 13, 2020). The plaintiff sued under the FMLA, alleging that the defendant failed to properly notify him of his FMLA rights, and terminated his employment in retaliation for attempting to exercise his FMLA rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant. The 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment as to the FMLA retaliation claim, but vacated the district court's judgment on the FMLA interference claim.
On February 7, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the employer-defendant in a Title VII retaliation lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged retaliation for complaining about discrimination in the workplace. Robertson v. State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, et al., No. 19-1179 (7th Cir. Feb. 7, 2020). The plaintiff's retaliation claim failed due to lack of evidence of a causal connection between her protected activity--reporting discrimination--and the defendant's decision to not promote her, and because she did not establish that she suffered an adverse job action.
On March 18, 2020, the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ("FFCRA"), which creates two new emergency paid leave requirements in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act ("EPSLA") entitles certain employees to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act ("EFMLEA") permits certain employees to take up to twelve weeks of expanded family and medical leave, ten of which are partially paid. On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act ("CARES Act"), which amended certain provisions of the EPSLA and EFMLEA.
The FFCRA generally covers private employers with fewer than 500 employees and certain public agencies with one or more employees.
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 August 22, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a Title VII retaliation lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her former employer terminated her employment in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment. Rozumalski v. W.F. Baird & Associates, Ltd., No. 18-3586 (7th Cir. 8/22/2019). In this case it was undisputed that the plaintiff was sexually harassed by her direct supervisor. It was also undisputed that when she reported the sexual harassment to the employer, the employer promptly investigated and terminated the alleged harasser. At issue was whether the employer terminated the plaintiff in retaliation for her role in the alleged harasser's termination. The 7th Circuit agreed with the district court, that no reasonable jury could find in favor of the plaintiff on her retaliation claims, stating that "while it may be possible for workplace harassment to haunt a victim's ability to succeed long after the incident, the facts that [the plaintiff] has presented do not support a finding of retaliation."
On August 21, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment in a Title VII lawsuit, in which the plaintiff-former employee alleged that the employer had subjected him to a hostile work environment and discharged him in retaliation for his complaints about racial discrimination, in violation of Title VII. Smith v. Illinois Department of Transportation, No. 18-2948 (7th Cir. 8/21/2019). To survive summary judgment on his retaliation claim, the plaintiff was required to show that a reasonable jury could find that he engaged in protected activity, that he suffered an adverse employment action, and that the adverse action was motived by a protected activity. The only issue was whether the employer terminated the plaintiff because he complained about racial discrimination. The 7th Circuit agreed with the district court, that a reasonable jury could not find in Smith's favor. Because there was extensive evidence that the plaintiff failed to meet his employer's legitimate expectations, a reasonable jury could not find that the employer fired him for his protected activity, rather than for his poor job performance.
On August 19, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of the district court that granted an employer's motion to compel arbitration pursuant to an employee arbitration agreement that required arbitration of employment-related disputes. Gupta v. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, et al., No. 18-3584 (7th Cir. 8/19/2019). The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against his former employer for employment discrimination and retaliation. The company moved to compel arbitration. It argued that the employee agreed to arbitrate the employment claims after he did not opt out of the company's arbitration agreement. The plaintiff contended that during his employment, he never saw an arbitration offer or agreed to arbitrate employment-related disputes.
On August 14, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the plaintiff's motion for a new trial in a lawsuit alleging unequal pay due to gender discrimination and retaliation. O'Donnell v. Caine Weiner Company, LLC, No. 18-1826 (7th Cir. 8/14/2019). The plaintiff lost on all counts at a jury trial. She filed a motion for a new trial on numerous grounds, including that the allegedly erroneous jury instructions and verdict forms prejudiced her case. The 7th Circuit affirmed because the plaintiff's arguments on appeal related only to damages, but the jury found against her on liability and, therefore, the alleged errors did not prejudice her case.
On August 7, 2019, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, affirmed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a retaliation claim under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Zoepfel-Thuline v. Black Hawk College, 2019 IL App (3d) 180524 (Third Dist. August 7, 2019). The plaintiff, a teacher, alleged that the defendant delayed offering her employment contracts in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, then later terminated her employment in retaliation for the employment discrimination lawsuit that she filed against the defendant. In order to prevail on a retaliation claim under the IHRA, a plaintiff must establish that he or she engaged in protected activity under the IHRA. The IHRA provides two ways in which a person's civil rights may be violated through retaliation.