U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

What is Required for an Employee to Prevail on a Claim for FMLA Interference?

On February 12, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a federal lawsuit under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") alleging FMLA interference and retaliation.  Hickey v. Protective Life Corporation, No. 20-1076 (7th Cir. 2/12/2021).  The plaintiff brought his lawsuit under the FMLA alleging that his former employer had interfered with the exercise of his FMLA rights and had retaliated against him for exercising those rights.  The district court held that he could not succeed on his FMLA interference claim because he could not prove that he had suffered any monetary damages as a result of the alleged interference or was otherwise entitled to equitable relief.  The 7th Circuit concluded that the plaintiff had no cognizable claim for FMLA interference in the absence of any evidence that he suffered harm for which the FMLA provides a monetary or equitable remedy.

What Is Required For An Employee To Prove Employment Discrimination?

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.

7th Circuit Reverses Dismissal of USERRA Lawsuit

On February 4, 2021, the 7th Circuit reversed a district court's order dismissing a USERRA lawsuit.  White v. United Airlines, Inc., No. 19-2546 (7th Cir. Feb. 4, 2021).  In 1994, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employee and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA"), with the goal of prohibiting civilian employers from discriminating against employees because of their military service. 38 U.S.C. § 4301(a).  The question in this case was whether USERRA’s mandate that military leave be given the same “rights and benefits” as comparable, nonmilitary leave requires an employer to provide paid military leave to the same extent that it provides paid leave for other absences.  The 7th Circuit held that paid leave falls within the set of “rights and benefits” defined by USERRA and, therefore, employers are required to provide paid military leave under USERRA to the same extent that employers provide paid leave for non-military absences such as paid sick leave and the like.  This was a question of first impression for the 7th Circuit.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer on Age Discrimination Claims for Employment Termination and Failure to Re-hire in RIF Context

On January 22, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in an age discrimination lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA").  Marnocha v. St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc., No. 20-1374 (7th Cir. Jan. 22, 2021).  The plaintiff, a neonatologist, alleged that the defendant terminated her employment and failed to rehire her for an open position in the context of a reduction-in-force.  The ADEA was enacted by Congress in 1967 to protect older workers from employment discrimination.  The ADEA protects employees who are age 40 or older.  It is unlawful for employers to take adverse employment action against employees who are in the protected age class because of their age.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Title VII Lawsuit

On January 19, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a Title VII employment discrimination lawsuit alleging wrongful termination on the basis of national origin, race, and religion, as well as unlawful retaliation.  Khungar v. Access Community Health Network, No. 20-1958 (Jan. 19, 2021).  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, and genetic information.  To defeat a summary judgment motion in a Title VII case, a plaintiff must raise factual disputes sufficient to support a reasonable finding of discrimination by a jury.  A plaintiff may prove employment discrimination with direct or circumstantial evidence under the direct or indirect burden-shifting method.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Title VII Lawsuit

On January 19, 2012, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a Title VII employment discrimination lawsuit alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, and religion, as well as unlawful retaliation.  Khungar v. Access Community Health Network, No. 20-1958 (Jan. 19, 2021).  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, and genetic information.  To defeat a summary judgment motion in a Title VII case, a plaintiff must raise factual disputes sufficient to support a reasonable finding of discrimination by a jury.  A plaintiff may prove employment discrimination with direct or circumstantial evidence under the direct or indirect burden-shifting method.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Failure to Accommodate Claim

On January 14, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a failure to accommodate lawsuit under the federal Rehabilitation Act.  Conners v. Robert Wilke, No. 19-2426 (7th Cir. Jan. 14, 2021).  The plaintiff worked as a nurse at a VA hospital.  Her job duties included treating and observing patients, giving immunizations, managing the front desk, teaching classes, and filling out paperwork.  After she was involved in an automobile accident, her injuries impeded her ability to perform most of her nursing duties.  Her supervisor initially permitted her to retain her position, but reduced her job responsibilities to only teaching and paperwork.  Subsequently, the VA concluded that she could not perform the essential duties of her position, even with reasonable accommodations, and it terminated her employment.

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment in Pay Discrimination Lawsuit

On January 5, 2021, in its first employment law decision of 2021, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a sex discrimination and equal pay lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Equal Pay Act ("EPA").  Kellogg v. Ball State University, No. 20-1406 (7th Cir. 1/5/2021).  The decision turned on a single statement that the Director made to the plaintiff when he hired her, that she "didn't need any more starting salary because he knew her husband worked."  The 7th Circuit found that this statement is "evidence of unequivocal discrimination."  The statement contradicted the defendant's proffered explanations for the pay disparity, and put them into dispute.  This was so even though the statement was made long ago and well outside of the statute of limitations, because it affected paychecks that the plaintiff received within the statute of limitations.  Thus, the 7th Circuit held that the defendant blatantly discriminated against the plaintiff by telling her that, because her husband worked, she did not need any more starting pay.  "Such clear discrimination calls the sincerity of the defendant's rationales into question."

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on ADA Claim

On December 30, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a federal lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").  McAllister v. Innovation Ventures, LLC, No. 20-1779 (7th Cir. 12/30/2020).  The plaintiff, a machine operator, was injured in a car accident and consequently could not return to work.  The defendant terminated her employment since she could still not return to work after she had exhausted her leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA").  The defendant maintained a company policy that employees who were unable to return to work after six months of leave would be terminated.  The plaintiff filed a failure-to-accommodate lawsuit under the ADA.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Title VII and ADA Employment Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit

On December 8, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit filed by a social worker against the Chicago Board of Eduction alleging gender and disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation.  Williams v. Board of Education of City of Chicago, No. 19-3152 (7th Cir. 12/8/2020).  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to award him certain positions on account of his gender and disability, as well as in retaliation for his protected activity of requesting an accommodation for his disability and filing discrimination claims.

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