On July 23, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), in which the plaintiff, a former employee of the defendant, claimed that the defendant failed to reasonably accommodate his disability, and terminated his employment because of his disability. Graham v. Arctic Zone Iceplex, No. 18-3508 (7th Cir. July 23, 2019). The plaintiff sued his former employer for disability discrimination in violation of the ADA. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations that will allow a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of her job. When an employee requests a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, the employer, as well as the employee, are required to engage in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation.
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
On July 17, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment on an age discrimination claim in which a bus driver alleged that his employment was terminated because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Pickett v. Chicago Transit Authority, No. 18-2785 (7th Cir. July 17, 2019). After an incident with a bus passenger, the plaintiff took a six month leave of absence while recovering. After his physician concluded that he could return to work (but not as a driver), the plaintiff requested a light duty assignment. He was given one, but four days later, he was informed that the defendant was not ready to permit his return to work.
On June 27, 2019, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's order granting the defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims for age discrimination, race discrimination and retaliation. Fields v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, et al., No. 17-3136 (7th Cir. June 27, 2019). The plaintiff, a Chicago Public School teacher, sued the Board of Education and the principal of the school where she worked, alleging that they discriminated against her based on her race and age and retaliated against her for filing this lawsuit, in violation of Section 1981 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). The district court entered summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff did not suffer an adverse employment action, which is a required element of an employment discrimination claim.
On June 26, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her former employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by rescinding her long-standing work-from-home reasonable accommodation, and requiring her to relocate to another state to work face-to-face. Bilinsky v. American Airlines, Inc., No. 18-3107 (7th Circuit June 26, 2019). The plaintiff was employed by the defendant for more than two decades. After she contracted multiple sclerosis ("MS"), the defendant provided her with a work-from-home arrangement as a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The accommodation permitted the plaintiff to perform her administrative job from her home in Chicago, even though her colleagues operated out of the company headquarters in Dallas. The defendant claimed that after a major corporate merger with another airline, it restructured its operations and informally "re-purposed" the plaintiff's department.
On June 14, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a complaint in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant terminated his employment because of his race and disability, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Freeman v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, No. 18-3737 (7th Cir. June 14, 2019). The plaintiff, an African-American man who suffers from alcoholism, sued his former employer for firing him because of his race and disability. The district court dismissed his complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Seventh Circuit, however, concluded that the plaintiff has pleaded enough to state his claims.
On June 13, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a Title VII retaliation case in which the plaintiff-employee alleged that he was constructively discharged in retaliation for complaining about a racially charged employment incident. Mollet v. City of Greenfield, No. 18-3685 (7th Cir. June 13, 2019). The question in every retaliation case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") is whether the statutorily protected activity was the "but-for" cause of the adverse employment action. In this case, the 7th Circuit agreed with the district court that it wasn't. Title VII prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about discrimination. The plaintiff, a firefighter, argued that the defendant fire department retaliated against him for complaining about a discriminatory incident involving a co-worker. To establish a retaliation claim under Title VII, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) he engaged in protected activity; (2) his employer took a materially adverse employment action against him; and (3) there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse job action.
On June 12, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in an action under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), in which the plaintiff, a CTA bus driver, alleged that the CTA took adverse employment action against him because of his extreme obesity, in violation of the ADA. Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, Nos. 17-3508 & 18-2199 (7th Cir. June 12, 2019). The Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court, that extreme obesity only qualifies as a disability under the ADA if it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. To succeed on an ADA claim, an employee must show: (1) she is disabled; (2) she is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) the adverse employment action was caused by her disability.
On June 7, 2019, the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an age discrimination complaint on the ground that the plaintiff had incorrectly named the defendant in his EEOC charge. Trujillo v. Rockledge Furniture LLC, Nos. 18-3349 & 19-1651 (7th Cir. June 7, 2019). The plaintiff filed a charge of age discrimination and retaliation with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") after his employment was terminated. In his charge, the plaintiff failed to list the correct legal name of the defendant. The district court dismissed his claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies because he did not name his employer sufficiently, and because the EEOC did not notify the correct employer of the charge.
On June 5, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a Title VII race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. LaRiviere v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, et al., No. 18-3188 (7th Cir. June 5, 2019). The plaintiff, an African-American woman, who was notified that she would not be reappointed to her position, sued for race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Absent evidence that her ethnicity was the reason for her termination, or of a causal connection between her protected activity and her termination, her claims could not survive summary judgment. While "[u]nmistakable evidence of racial animus--racial epithets or explicitly race-motivated treatment--makes for simply analysis....[t]he more complicated cases arise when there is no 'smoking gun' showing intentional employment discrimination."
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.