On July 14, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a Title VII employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit, in which the plaintiff alleged that he was disciplined and denied a promotion because of his race and gender as well as in retaliation for opposing unlawful sexual harassment. Logan v. City of Chicago, et al., No. 20-1669 (7th Cir. July 14, 2021). Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. For a failure-to-promote claim,
On April 8, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of the district court that granted summary judgment in favor of an employer on a former employee's claims for race, age, and disability discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Gamble v. PCA US LLC, No. 20-2254 (7th Cir. April 8, 2021). The employer fired the plaintiff for violating its anti-harassment policy for a second time. The plaintiff asserted that he was treated unfairly during the employer's investigation, and that he was ultimately fired on account of his race, age, and disability. He sued the employer for employment discrimination in federal court.
On February 17, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a federal employment discrimination lawsuit for age, sex, race, and disability discrimination, as well as retaliation. Igasaki v. Illinois Department Of Financial And Professional Regulation, No. 18-3351 (7th Cir. 2/17/2021). The plaintiff, a 62-year-old gay Japanese man with gout, worked as a staff attorney for the State of Illinois. He alleged five claims: (1) race discrimination based on his Asian ethnicity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), arising from the treatment of his job performance and his employment termination; (2) sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, arising from gender stereotyping and a hostile work environment based on his sexual orientation; (3) age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), arising from the treatment of his job performance and employment termination; (4) retaliation in violation of Title VII, arising from his employment termination after he filed his EEOC charge of discrimination; and (5) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), arising from the failure to accommodate his gout disability.
On May 21, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed (on purely procedural grounds) a decision of an administrative law judge ("ALJ") of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (the "Commission") that a female employee was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment in her employment, in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act. Cigna and Professional Consultants, Inc. v. The Illinois Human Rights Commission, The Department of Human Rights, and Lois Owen, 2020 IL App (1st) 190620 (May 21, 2020). After a two-day hearing, the ALJ recommended that the Commission find that the employer and the employee's direct supervisor sexually harassed the employee. The Commission adopted the ALJ's recommended findings and decision. The employee alleged that they sexually harassed her and created a hostile work environment on the basis of her sex. The alleged workplace sexual harassment included the supervisor calling the employee a b*** on a daily basis, having a picture of a woman with her breasts exposed hanging in his office, making sexual comments to her, and sending emails of photos and videos depicting nude women or women in suggestive poses.
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.
On July 26, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment on a Title VII sexual harassment hostile work environment claim. Hunt v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 18-3403 (7th Cir. 7/26/2019). The plaintiff filed a complaint in federal court alleging that a supervisor sexually harassed her by creating a hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII). A Title VII hostile work environment sexual harassment claim requires a plaintiff to show: (1) the work environment was objectively and subjectively offensive; (2) the harassment complained of was based on gender; (3) the conduct was either severe or pervasive; and (4) there is a basis for employer liability.
On May 17, 2019, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, held that a corporate employer may be liable under the Illinois Gender Violence Act ("IGVA") (740 ILCS 82/10 (West 2016)) arising from gender-related violence perpetrated by the employer's corporate employees (which would include 'physical' workplace sexual harassment). Gasic v. Marquette Management, Inc., 2019 IL App (3d) 170756 (3d Dist. May 17, 2019). The Gasic decision expands the liability of Illinois employers for gender-based workplace violence, workplace sexual assault, and physical sexual harassment committed by their employees. In this case, the plaintiff, an alleged victim of sexual violence, filed a complaint against the employer of the alleged perpetrator, alleging a statutory cause of action against the defendant employer under section 10 of the IGVA, based on the alleged acts of the employer's employee. The trial court dismissed the claim on the basis that the IGVA does not apply to corporate conduct. The following question was certified for appeal: "[C]an an entity be considered a 'person' committing acts 'personally' for purposes of liability under the Gender Violence Act?" The Illinois Appellate Court answered the question in the affirmative, and reversed the trial court's dismissal of the plaintiff's statutory claim under the IGVA.
On December 26, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment for the defendant-employer in a sexual harassment lawsuit in which the plaintiff-former employee alleged that she was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Swyear v. Fare Foods Corporation, No. 18-2108 (7th Cir. 12/26/2018). The sexual harassment claim was based on offensive nicknames used by employees for co-workers and customers, but not for the plaintiff, and a business trip incident with a co-worker involving inappropriate behavior by the co-worker. The plaintiff reported the incident to management and subsequently was given two negative performance reviews and fired. In its decision, the 7th Circuit discussed the elements and legal standards for sexual harassment claims.
On September 11, 2018, the 7th Circuit issued an opinion in which it explained the joint employer doctrine and reversed the district court's decision on summary judgment that an employer management services company was not a joint employer of the plaintiff-employee in her sexual harassment, retaliation, and pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against multiple separate companies. Frey v. Hotel Coleman, et al., No.17-2267 (7th Cir. 9/11/2018). This case presented issues regarding the employer-employee relationship that arise in the increasingly common scenario in which one employer hires another entity to manage the day-to-day operations of an enterprise. One entity provides the paycheck but another entity manages the tasks typically associated with an employer, such as hiring, firing, training, supervising, and evaluating employees. In this case, a hotel hired a management company to handle its daily operations. Under the hotel management agreement, the management company was responsible for hiring, supervising, directing, and discharging employees, and determining the compensation, benefits, and terms and conditions of their employment. The hotel agreed that it would not give direct instructions to any employee of the hotel or the management company that may interfere, undermine, conflict with or affect the authority and chain of command established by the management company. The plaintiff and other staff members who worked at the hotel were on the hotel's payroll, and the management agreement stated that all personnel are in the employ of the hotel.
On September 10, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a former employee of a big box company, who alleged and testified that she was harassed by a store customer. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, Nos. 17-2432 & 17-2454 (7th Cir. 9/10/2018). The employee testified at trial that she was stalked by a store customer for over a year. Things got so bad at the end that she secured a no-contact order from an Illinois state court. She took unpaid medical leave due to emotional trauma from the experience, and when she did not return to work from medical leave, the company terminated her employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") filed a lawsuit against the company on behalf of the employee, alleging that the company had subjected her to a hostile work environment by tolerating the customer's harassment. The 7th Circuit held that a reasonable jury could conclude that the customer's conduct was severe or pervasive enough to render the employee's work environment hostile.