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.
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
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.
On November 15, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Ford v. Marion County Sheriff's Office, et al., No. 18-3217 (7th Cir. 11/15/2020). The plaintiff worked as a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff's Office, until her hand was injured in a car accident while on duty. After assigning her to light duty work for about a year, the Sheriff's Office informed her that she must either transfer to a permanent position with a pay cut or be terminated. She accepted a new position as a jail visitation clerk. The plaintiff alleged that subsequently, she suffered disability-based harassment by co-workers, refusals to accommodate her scheduling needs, and several discriminatory promotion denials. She sued the Sheriff's Office for discriminatory employment practices under the ADA.
On November 12, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff-employee who sued the defendant-employer for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Valdivia v. Township High School District 214, No. 19-1410 (7th Cir. 11/12/2019). The plaintiff claimed that the defendant interfered with her rights under the FMLA by failing to provide her with notice or information about her right to take job-protected leave. After a jury trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her $12,000 in damages. The plaintiff informed her supervisor that she was considering leaving for medical reasons. She submitted a letter of resignation but shortly thereafter asked to rescind her resignation, which request was denied, resulting in the conclusion of her employment.
On November 7, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the employer-defendant in a lawsuit in which a former employee alleged claims for race, sex, age, and disability discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). McCurry v. Kenco Logistics Services, No. 18-3206 (7th Cir. 11/7/2019). This case was doomed for many reasons, including that the pro se plaintiff failed to follow the local rules of procedure for the federal court of the Northern District of Illinois. In any employment discrimination case, the fundamental issue at the summary judgment stage of the litigation is whether the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the plaintiff was subjected to adverse employment action based on a statutorily prohibited factor, such as sex, age, race, or disability.