On March 27, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed the findings and decision of the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("Commission") against a former employee on her claims of age and disability discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Burns v. Bombela-Tobias, 2020 IL App (1st) 182309. Although the appellate court concluded that the record as a whole supported the Commission's findings, it also criticized the Commission's legal analysis, and stated Illinois employment law with respect to age and disability discrimination claims under the IHRA.
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
On March 25, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Castetter v. Dolgencorp, LLC, No. 19-2026 (March 25, 2020). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant terminated his employment because of his disability, cancer, in violation of the ADA. The defendant contended that it terminated the Plaintiff's employment for policy violations. The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against a qualified individual based on his or her disability. In order to state an ADA claim for disability discrimination, a plaintiff must plead and prove that: (1) she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA; (2) she was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of her job, with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) disability was the "but for" cause of the adverse employment action.
On March 20, 2020, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a Title VII gender discrimination failure-to-hire lawsuit. Joll v. Valparaiso Community Schools, No. 18-3630 (7th Cir. March 20, 2020). The plaintiff is an experienced running coach who applied for but was denied positions as assistant coach of the girls' and boys' cross-country teams, which were given to younger male applicants. She sued for sex discrimination under Title VII and age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer on both claims. The 7th Circuit reversed on the gender discrimination claim because the district court erred by not viewing the evidence in its totality. The plaintiff offered evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that the school district used hiring procedures tilted in favor of male applicants, applied sex-role stereotypes during the interview process, and manipulated the hiring criteria in ways that were inconsistent except that they always favored male applicants.
On February 20, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Stelter v. Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corporation, No. 18-3689 (7th Cir. Feb. 20, 2020). The plaintiff alleged that she was disabled under the ADA with back pain aggravated by a work injury. She claimed that the defendant failed to accommodate her disability and terminated her employment because of her disability in violation of the ADA. The record contained evidence, however, that the defendant terminated her on account of legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
On February 13, 2020, the 7th Circuit issued an opinion in which it explain the respective responsibilities of both employers and employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Lutes v. United Trailers, Inc., et al., No. 19-1579 (7th Cir. Feb. 13, 2020). The plaintiff sued under the FMLA, alleging that the defendant failed to properly notify him of his FMLA rights, and terminated his employment in retaliation for attempting to exercise his FMLA rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant. The 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment as to the FMLA retaliation claim, but vacated the district court's judgment on the FMLA interference claim.
On February 7, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the employer-defendant in a Title VII retaliation lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged retaliation for complaining about discrimination in the workplace. Robertson v. State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, et al., No. 19-1179 (7th Cir. Feb. 7, 2020). The plaintiff's retaliation claim failed due to lack of evidence of a causal connection between her protected activity--reporting discrimination--and the defendant's decision to not promote her, and because she did not establish that she suffered an adverse job action.
On January 24, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Youngman v. Peoria County, No. 18-2544 (7th Cir. Jan. 24, 2020). The plaintiff was placed on medical leave after he informed his supervisor that he could no longer work shifts in the control room. When changes in job rotations had resulted in his temporary assignment to the control room, he experienced various symptoms. He requested that he not be assigned to the control room in the future as a reasonable accommodation, but was informed that was not possible. He was instructed that he could return to work if and when his condition improved. After his leave time expired, his position was filled, and he filed a lawsuit under the ADA, alleging that the defendant had refused to accommodate his disability and forced him out of his position. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant on the ground that the plaintiff was responsible for the breakdown of the interactive process required by the ADA when an employee requests an accommodation. The 7th Circuit affirmed, but on a different ground.
On January 3, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting a defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment in a Title VII race discrimination failure-to-promote lawsuit. Barnes v. Board of Trustees Of The University of Illinois, et al., No. 19-1781 (7th Cir. Jan. 3, 2020). The plaintiff filed a federal lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") after an administrator of the defendant-employer promoted a white applicant instead of the plaintiff, who is African-American. The 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment because the plaintiff did not present evidence that the administrator's stated reason for selecting the white applicant was pretext for unlawful racial discrimination.
On December 4, 2019, the 7th Circuit held that a jury verdict in favor of a defendant-employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Stegall v. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, No. 18-2345 (7th Cir. Dec. 4, 2019). The plaintiff claimed that after she interviewed for a position, she received an offer of employment from the defendant at the end of her interview. She also claimed that when and because she subsequently disclosed her physical and mental disabilities, the defendant rescinded the offer of employment in violation of the ADA. She filed claims of disability and race discrimination in federal court. After a trial, the jury found that the plaintiff had a disability, that the defendant regarded her as having a disability, and that the defendant failed to hire the plaintiff. However, the jury also found that even without her physical disability, the plaintiff would not have been hired; and that her non-hiring was not unlawfully motivated based on her disabilities.
On December 4, 2019, the 7th Circuit held that the plain language of the Uniformed Service Members Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA") covers full-time National Guard duty. Mueller v. City of Joliet, No. 18-3609 (7th Cir. Dec. 4, 2019). USERRA prohibits discrimination against those in "service in a uniformed service." In this case, a Police Sergeant took a leave of absence to report for active duty in the Illinois National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. When the Police Department placed him on unpaid leave, he resigned from his National Guard position and sued the City of Joliet and his supervisors for employment discrimination under USERRA. The issue on appeal was whether USERRA protected his National Guard duty.