U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

Physician with Hospital Practice Privileges not an Employee of the Hospital for Purposes of Title VII Discrimination Claims

On May 8, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a hospital on Title VII employment discrimination claims brought by a physician whose practice privileges were terminated by the hospital.  Levitin v. Northwest Community Hospital, No. 16-3774 (7th Cir. May 8, 2019).  The physician sued the hospital, alleging that it terminated her hospital practice privileges on the basis of her sex, religion, and ethnicity, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").  The hospital argued that the physician was not an employee of the hospital and, therefore, her Title VII discrimination claims were precluded.  The district court found that she was an independent physician with practice privileges at the hospital, not the hospital's employee.

7th Circuit Explains the ADA Interactive Process to Identify a Reasonable Accommodation

On March 6, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the district court did not err in its jury instruction about the legal consequences of an employee's failure to cooperate with her employer in identifying a reasonable accommodation.  Sansone v. Brennan, Postmaster General of the United States, No. 17-3534 & No. 17-3632 (7th Cir. March 6, 2019).  The plaintiff, a postal employee confined to a wheelchair, was for years provided by the Postal Service with a parking spot with room to deploy his van's wheelchair ramp, until it took that spot away and failed to provide him with a suitable replacement.  He filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service, alleging that it failed to accommodate his disability.  A jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and he recovered compensatory damages, as well as back pay and front pay.  The Service appealed on various grounds, including a jury instruction that it claimed was erroneous regarding the required interactive process between an employer and employee to find a reasonable accommodation.

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on Title VII Race and National Origin Discrimination Claims

On February 22, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a Title VII race and national origin discrimination lawsuit.  Silva v. State of Wisconsin, Department of Corrections, et al., No. 18-2561 (7th Cir. Feb. 22, 2019).  Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of the employee's race, sex, religion, color, or national origin.  The plaintiff claimed that his employer terminated his employment because of his race and national origin, in violation of Title VII.  As evidence of discrimination, the plaintiff raised disparate discipline and pretext.

Seventh Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer on Illinois Common Law Retaliatory Discharge Claim

On February 20, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer on an Illinois common law retaliatory discharge claim.  Walker v. Ingersoll Cutting Tool Company, No. 18-2673 (7th Cir. Feb. 20, 2019).  The employer discharged the employee after he was involved in a physical altercation with another employee.  He sued the employer, alleging race discrimination under Title VII and retaliatory discharge under Illinois law.  The district court granted summary judgment for the employer on all claims.  On appeal, the plaintiff abandoned his Title VII racial discrimination claim.  The retaliatory discharge claim failed for lack of evidence of a causal connection between any protected activity and the plaintiff's discharge.

7th Circuit Restates the Legal Standard for Workplace Harassment

On February 20, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of an employer in a Title VII racial harassment lawsuit, in which the employee's immediate supervisor made racial epithets directly to the employee.  Gates v. Board of Education Of The City of Chicago, No. 17-3143 (7th Cir. Feb. 20, 2019).  The plaintiff's supervisor used the N-word twice and threatened to write up his "black ass."  The district court applied the wrong legal standard for hostile work environment claims, erroneously stating that "the workplace that is actionable is one that is hellish."  However, "[h]ellish is not the standard a plaintiff must satisfy to prevail on a hostile work environment claim."

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer on Title VII Race and National Origin Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

On January 29, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"), in which the plaintiff-employee claimed that the employer failed to promote, disciplined, and demoted him because of his race and national origin, and in retaliation for his previous internal complaints of employment discrimination and workplace harassment.  Cervantes v. Ardagh Group, No. 17-3536 (7th Cir. Jan. 29, 2019).  His discrimination claims failed because he did not exhaust his administrative remedies.  His retaliation claim failed because he did not engage in protected activity, and there was no evidence of any causal connection between any protected activity and the adverse employment actions.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on ADA Disability Discrimination, Failure to Accommodate, and Retaliation Claims

On January 25, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit filed in federal court under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").  Scheidler v. State of Indiana, No. 17-2543 (7th Cir. Jan. 25, 2019).  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her disability and terminated her employment because of her disability, in violation of the ADA.  She also alleged that her employment was terminated in retaliation for opposing disability discrimination and sex discrimination, in violation of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").  The ADA prohibits certain types of disability discrimination.  The ADA provides that "[N]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment."

7th Circuit Holds that ADEA Protections Against Disparate Impact Age Discrimination Do Not Extend to Outside Job Applicants

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment in Age Discrimination Lawsuit

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Title VII Sex Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

On December 14, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a Title VII sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.  Terry v. Gary Community School Corporation, No. 18-1270 (7th Cir. 12/14/2018).  The plaintiff worked as a teacher and a Principal for thirty-five years.  The defendant closed the elementary school where the plaintiff had served as Principal due to declining enrollment, and reassigned her to serve as the Assistant Principal at another elementary school.  She considered this a demotion.  In addition, the defendant also selected a male employee over the plaintiff for a separate promotion, even though the plaintiff had earned the highest ranking of all the applicants from the interviewers.  In her lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").

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