U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in ADA Failure to Accommodate Lawsuit

On July 17, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor the employer-defendant in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), in which the employee-plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated the ADA by failing to accommodate her disability.  Kotaska v. Federal Express Corporation, No. 19-2730 (7th Cir. July 17, 2020).  The defendant twice terminated the employment of the plaintiff because she could not lift up to 75 pounds.  The first time, she was limited to lifting only 60 pounds after a shoulder injury.  Eventually, her condition improved so that she could lift 75 pounds to her waist, and she was rehired.  Within three weeks, the defendant terminated her again, after it learned that her capabilities above the waist remained severely limited.

Employer's Delay in Providing Accommodation May Constitute Disability Discrimination Failure to Accommodate Claim

On July 16, 2020, the 7th Circuit reversed the 12(b)(6) dismissal of a disability discrimination failure to accommodate claim predicated on the employer's delay in providing the employee with a reasonable accommodation.  McCray v. Wilkie, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, No. 19-3145 (7th Cir. July 16, 2020).  The plaintiff sued his employer for the failure to accommodate his disabilities as required by the Rehabilitation Act (the federal sector equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").  The district court dismissed his complaint for failure to state a claim.  The 7th Circuit reversed and held that an employer's delay in providing an employee with a reasonable accommodation may form the basis of a disability discrimination claim for failure to accommodate.

7th Circuit Affirms Jury Verdict for Employer in Age and Race Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit

On July 15, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of an employer-defendant in an age and race discrimination and retaliation case under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").  Henderson v. Wilkie, Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, No. 19-1369 (7th Cir. July 15, 2020).  The case went to trial on the plaintiff's claim that he was not selected for a promotion on the basis of his race.  The other claims were decided against the plaintiff on summary judgment.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, and the district court entered final judgment.  The plaintiff appealed on evidentiary grounds.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Disability and Age Discrimination Lawsuit

On July 14, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in an age discrimination and disability discrimination lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").  McCann v. Badger Mining Corporation, No. 19-2420 (7th Cir. July 14, 2020).  The plaintiff alleged that her former employer discriminated against her on the basis of her age and disability when it failed to transfer her to a position in a different department, and when it eliminated her employment position as part of a reduction in force.  On appeal, the plaintiff only challenged the grant of summary judgment on her ADA claim as to the elimination of her position.  The 7th Circuit concluded that under the ADA, the plaintiff was required, but failed to come forward with evidence that, but for her disability, the defendant would not have eliminated her position.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Age Discrimination Lawsuit

On July 1, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in an age discrimination lawsuit filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA").  Tyburski v. City of Chicago, No. 18-3000 (7th Cir. July 1, 2020).  The plaintiff, a City of Chicago employee, applied for a promotion when he was age seventy-four, but the city rejected his application.  He filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that the city violated the ADEA by denying him the promotion because of his age.  He also filed a claim for age-based workplace harassment under the ADEA.  The 7th Circuit concluded that the plaintiff failed to present evidence that his age, rather than his failing test score for the promotion, was the reason he was denied the promotion.  In addition, the 7th Circuit ruled that he did not supply evidence that the alleged age-based harassment was severe or pervasive, which is required to support a hostile work environment claim.

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

On June 26, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a Title VII gender discrimination lawsuit.  Purtue v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections, et al., No. 19-2706 (7th Cir. June 26, 2020).  The plaintiff was discharged from her employment as a correctional officer for falsely claiming that a prisoner hit her with an empty snack cake box that he threw at her from his cell.  The warden dismissed her for making a false report in violation of policy.  She filed a federal lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), alleging that she had been discharged because of her sex, female.  Because she failed to identify evidence from which a reasonable jury could draw that inference, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment against her.

7th Circuit Affirms Jury Verdict for Plaintiff in Title VII National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit

On April 7, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff against her former employer in a national origin discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").  Vega v. Chicago Park District, Nos. 19-1926 & 19-1939 (7th Cir. April 7, 2020).  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant discriminated against her because of her national origin, in violation of Title VII.  After a seven-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in her favor and awarded her compensatory damages in the amount of $750,000.  The district court remitted her award to $300,000, which is the statutory maximum under Title VII for compensatory damages.  The court also awarded the plaintiff back pay in the amount of $154,707 in lost salary and $1,200 in lost bonuses, plus lost benefits in the amount of $9,255 in substituted health insurance premiums, as well as a tax-component award, and reinstatement of employment.  The 7th Circuit affirmed all of the district court's rulings, except its grant of the tax-component award.

Illinois Appellate Court Explains the Elements and Burden of Proof for Age and Disability Discrimination Claims under the Illinois Human Rights Act.

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer in Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuit

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.

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on Title VII Sex Discrimination Failure-to-Hire Claim

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.

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