7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Illinois Retaliatory Discharge Claims

The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment on Illinois state common law retaliatory discharge claims for insufficient evidence of causation.  Reid, et al. v. Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, No. 13-1768 (7th Cir.) April 1, 2014.  Although the plaintiffs had engaged in protected activity shortly before their termination, they had been making the protected complaints occasionally for six months, and the complaints had not escalated prior to the termination.  Moreover, the termination was immediately preceded by an intervening event--policy violations--that prompted the termination.  Other employees who made the same protected complaints were not terminated; and one employee who did not make any protected complaint was also terminated for the same policy violations.  The Seventh Circuit concluded that in view of the record as a whole, the evidence did not permit a reasonable inference of retaliatory intent.

In the opinion, the Seventh Circuit also stated that the Title VII burden-shifting indirect method of proof does not apply to Illinois state retaliatory discharge claims.  Rather, it is always the plaintiff's burden of proof to establish causation with direct or circumstantial evidence through a method of proof analogous to the Title VII direct method.