U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment in Age Discrimination Case Due to Disparate Discipline

On April 25, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment in an age discrimination case.  Baker v. Macon Resources, Inc., No. 13-3324 (April 25, 2014).  The Seventh Circuit found that the employer treated a younger employee more leniently than the plaintiff for the same policy violation.  In an ADEA disparate discipline case, the inquiry is whether a younger employee engaged in similar misconduct but received lighter punishment.  The Seventh Circuit rejected the employer's proffered reason as pretext.  The Seventh Circuit stated that pretext may be inferred from inaccuracies or inconsistencies in an employer's proffered reason as well as selective enforcement of a disciplinary policy.  In Baker, the proffered reason--an attempt to distinguish the plaintiff from the younger employee--was inconsistent with the employer's own policy, which it had selectively enforced.  Therefore, the Seventh Circuit concluded that the pretext evidence could lead a jury to reasonably believe that age is the true reason the employer fired the plaintiff but retained the younger employee after both violated the same company rule. 

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment in Title VII Race and Retaliation Termination Claims.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed summary judgment on Title VII race and retaliation employment termination claims in Gosey v. Aurora Medical Center, No. 13-3375 (April 11, 2014).  In Gosey, the defendant's sole proffered reason for the termination was alleged chronic tardiness on the part of the plaintiff, in violation of the defendant's employee handbook punctuality policy.  However, a former chief officer of defendant testified that there was a workplace custom and practice of allowing employees a 7-minute grace-period within which to arrive.  Defendant's time-records showed that the plaintiff arrived within the grace-period on all but one of the occasions upon which the defendant based its termination decision.  The Seventh Circuit found that there were genuine issues of material fact surrounding the time-records and the defendant's attendance policy that precluded summary judgment.  The Seventh Circuit stated that the existence of a uniform practice or policy that is in doubt cannot serve as a reason for an employment termination.  Therefore, a rational jury could conclude that the defendant took the adverse job action on account of the plaintiff's protected class, and not for any non-invidious reason. 

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Illinois Retaliatory Discharge Claims

The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment on Illinois state common law retaliatory discharge claims for insufficient evidence of causation.  Reid, et al. v. Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, No. 13-1768 (7th Cir.) April 1, 2014.  Although the plaintiffs had engaged in protected activity shortly before their termination, they had been making the protected complaints occasionally for six months, and the complaints had not escalated prior to the termination.  Moreover, the termination was immediately preceded by an intervening event--policy violations--that prompted the termination.  Other employees who made the same protected complaints were not terminated; and one employee who did not make any protected complaint was also terminated for the same policy violations.  The Seventh Circuit concluded that in view of the record as a whole, the evidence did not permit a reasonable inference of retaliatory intent.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment in Title VII Sex Discrimination Case.

On March 26, 2014, the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in a Title VII gender discrimination case.  Bass v. Joliet Public School District No. 86, No. 13-1742 (March 26, 2014).  The Defendant established that it terminated the Plaintiff for job abandonment since she failed to return to work after exceeding all of her available leave time.  The Plaintiff claimed that she was terminated because of her sex, in violation of Title VII.  The Seventh Circuit found that the Plaintiff failed to present any evidence of disparate treatment.  Plaintiff's bare assertion that similarly situated males were treated differently, without any substantiation or names, was insufficient to raise any issue of fact.  Moreover, three similarly situated male employees were terminated for the same reason.

Negative Performance Review Alone Does Not Satisfy Adverse Employment Action Element of Title VII Claim

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a negative performance evaluation alone does not constitute actionable adverse employment action for a Title VII employment discrimination claim.  Chaib v. State of Indiana, No. 13-1680 (7th Cir.), February 24, 2014.  Due to the absence of the required element of materially adverse employment action, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in a Title VII case in which the plaintiff claimed that she was a victim of gender discrimination, national origin discrimination, and retaliation.  In the opinion, the Seventh Circuit stated that, “Not everything that makes an employee unhappy is an actionable adverse action.” 

No Illinois Workers Compensation Retaliatory Discharge Claim for Employee Discharged for Refusing to Take Drug Test

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in an Illinois workers compensation retaliatory discharge case.  Phillips v. Continental Tire, No. 13-2199 (7th Cir.), February 14, 2014.  The employer discharged the employee for his refusal to take a mandatory drug test.  The test was a precondition for the initiation of his workers compensation claim.  In order to prevail on an Illinois workers compensation retaliatory discharge claim, a plaintiff must establish a causal connection between the exercise of a right granted under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, and the discharge.

No Adverse Employment Action, No Viable Employment Discrimination Claim

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in a case in which the plaintiff alleged that the employer terminated her employment on account of age discrimination, reverse race discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation.  Andrews v. CBOCS West, No. 12-3399 (7th Cir.), February 14, 2014.  The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against her employer in which she brought claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, the Age Discrimination In Employment Act, and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.  The plaintiff was subjected to daily, derogatory age-based remarks made by her supervisor.  However, the Seventh Circuit found that the plaintiff had voluntarily resigned from employment and, therefore, suffered no materially adverse employment action. 

Title VII of No Avail to Job Applicant Promised Phony Job in Exchange for Sexual Favors

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a job applicant who was promised a phony job by the job interviewer in exchange for sexual favors cannot maintain a viable sexual harassment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.  Wilson v. Cook County, No. 13-1464 (7th Cir.), February 10, 2014.  The Seventh Circuit reasoned that neither the phony job nor any employment relationship ever existed and, therefore, the plaintiff could not establish a failure to hire claim or a sexual harassment claim. 

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