Retaliation

Essential Guidance for Employers on COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Age Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Title VII Retaliation Claim

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."

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Title VII Hostile Work Environment and Retaliation Claims

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.

7th Circuit Upholds Employee Arbitration Agreement

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Jury Verdict for Defendant in Gender Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit

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.

Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer on Retaliation Claim under the Illinois Human Rights Act

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.

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment for Employer on Title VII Retaliation Claim

On July 26, 2019, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a Title VII retaliation lawsuit, in which the plaintiff, a former temporary employee, alleged that the employer refused to hire him permanently in retaliation for his complaints of discrimination.  Stepp v. Covance Central Laboratory Services, Inc., No. 18-3292 (7th Cir. 7/26/2019).  Based on the record, a reasonable jury could conclude that the employer refused to promote the temporary employee to permanent status because of and in retaliation for his protected activity of filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Age and Race Discrimination Lawsuit

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in ADA Reasonable Accommodation Action

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.

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