U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in FMLA Lawsuit

On March 9, 2022, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant employer in a lawsuit filed by a former employee, who alleged that the employer violated the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") by terminating her employment four days after she returned to work from an FMLA leave of absence.  Anderson v. Nations Lending Corporation, No. 21-1885 (7th Cir. March 9, 2022).  She filed a federal lawsuit for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as for interference and retaliation under the FMLA.  In an FMLA interference lawsuit, the employee has the burden to demonstrate that the interference occurred.  To prevail on an FMLA interference claim, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) she was eligible for the FMLA; (2) her employer was covered by the FMLA; (3) she was entitled to leave under the FMLA; (4) she provided notice of her intent to take leave; and (5) her employer denied her FMLA benefits to which she was entitled.  At issue in this case was the fifth element.

Americans with Disabilities Act--Direct Threat Analysis

On February 11, 2022, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").  Pontinen v. US Steel Corporation, No. 21-1612 (7th Cir. Feb. 11, 2022).  The employer rescinded an offer of employment after determining that the potential employee's disability--seizure disorder--posed a direct threat to himself and to others in the workplace.  The 7th Circuit concluded that summary judgment was appropriate because the undisputed evidence demonstrated that the disability was not the 'but for' cause of the rescission of the job offer. 

What is Required to Establish a Title VII Retaliation Claim?

On December 17, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer in a lawsuit for race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended ("Title VII") and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA").  Miller et al. v. Chicago Transit Authority, et al., No. 20-3005 (7th Cir. Dec. 17, 2021).  After being fired by the Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA"), the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit alleging that they were terminated because of their race and in retaliation for complaining about discrimination.  The district court concluded that the racial discrimination claims failed because the undisputed evidence showed that the CTA had legitimate, non-discriminatory, non-pretextual reasons for terminating the plaintiffs.  On appeal, the 7th Circuit discussed the retaliation claims.

What is a Disparate Impact Employment Discrimination Claim?

On September 22, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a Title VII disparate impact employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the Chicago Teachers Union ("CTU") against the Board of Education of the City of Chicago ("Board"), in which the CTU alleged that 2011 mass layoffs disparately impacted African-American teachers.  Chicago Teachers Union, et al. v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, No. 20-1167 (7th Cir. Sept. 22, 2021).  Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to fire or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants in any way which would deprive any individual of employment opportunities on account of race.

Race, Religion, and National Origin Discrimination Claims under Title VII and the Illinois Human Rights Act.

On September 1, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer, in a Title VII and Illinois Human Rights Act employment discrimination lawsuit, in which the plaintiff, an Egyptian Muslim pharmacist, alleged that: (i) the employer failed to accommodate his need for prayer breaks; (ii) disciplined and later fired him based on his race, religion, and national origin; (iii) retaliated against him for reporting racial and religious discrimination; and (iv) subjected him to a hostile work environment based on his race, religion, and national origin.  Mahran v. Advocate Christ Medical Center, et al., No. 19-2911 (7th Cir. Sept. 1, 2021).

What are the Elements of a Reverse Discrimination Claim?

On August 17, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment for an employer in a reverse race discrimination lawsuit, in which the plaintiff claimed that he fired because he is white.  Bless v. Cook County Sheriff's Office, et al., No. 20-2733 (7th Cir. Aug. 17, 2021).  The plaintiff, a Cook County Illinois Sheriff's police officer, was fired in connection with an internal review board determination that he had committed misconduct.  The plaintiff sued the County, alleging reverse race discrimination and political retaliation against him as a white Republican.  The protections of Title VII are not limited to members of historically discriminated-against groups.

Title VII Retaliation Claims--Jury Instructions for Single Act of Retaliaiton Based on Multiple Acts of Protected Activity.

On August 4, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the plaintiff's motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial, in a Title VII retaliation lawsuit tried before a jury in federal court.  Brooks v. City of Kankakee, Illinois, No. 20-1395 (7th Cir. Aug. 4, 2021).  The plaintiff, an African-American police officer, made three statements complaining that his employer, the City of Kankakee, favored white police officers.  The City viewed the statements as false and disparaging.  It issued a written reprimand, ordering him to stop making such statements and threatening disciplinary action if he didn't.  The written reprimand specifically referenced all three statements.  The plaintiff alleged retaliation based on failure to promote and discipline.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer on ADEA and Title VII Failure-to-Hire Disrimination and Retaliation Claims.

On July 20, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer on ADEA and Title VII employment discrimination and retaliation claims, in which the plaintiff alleged that the employer failed to re-hire her for various positions in the Chicago Public School System because of her age and race, as well as in retaliation for her prior discrimination complaint.  Chatman v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, No. 20-2882 (7th Cir. July 20, 2021).  She alleged violations of Title VII's anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions, as well as a violation of the anti-discrimination provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA").  Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire any individual with respect to her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

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

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,

What are the Elements of a Title VII Retaliation Claim?

On June 16, 2021, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant in a Title VII retaliation and sex discrimination lawsuit, in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant refused to hire her twice, in retaliation for filing an earlier complaint of sex discrimination.  Eaton v. J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc., No. 20-1731 (7th Cir. June 16, 2021).  The plaintiff had filed a charge of discrimination against the company with the EEOC, alleging that her layoff amounted to unlawful discrimination on the basis of her sex.  Subsequently, she filed her federal lawsuit, claiming both sex discrimination and retaliation for previously complaining about sex discrimination.  Only the retaliation claim was at issue on appeal.  In order to establish a retaliation claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must demonstrate that:

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