On March 8, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor the defendant in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that his former employer unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of his age and national origin, as well as retaliated against him for complaining about a supervisor, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), by failing to promote him to various positions and ultimately demoting him. Skiba v. Illinois Central Railroad Company, No. 17-2002 (7th Cir. 3/8/2018). To survive a motion for summary judgment on a retaliation claim, a plaintiff must offer evidence of: (1) statutorily protected activity; (2) materially adverse job action; and (3) a causal connection between the two. The 7th Circuit concluded that the plaintiff did not engage in any statutorily protected activity when he complained about a supervisor's harsh management style.
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
On February 13, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a disability discrimination lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her former employer fired her because of her disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc., No. 17-2332 (7th Cir. 2/13/2018). The defendant argued that the First Amendment's ministerial exception to employment discrimination laws, including the ADA, barred the plaintiff's lawsuit. The district court agreed, concluding that the defendant, a Jewish day school, is a religious institution and that the role of the plaintiff as a Hebrew teacher for the school was ministerial.
On January 2, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), in which the plaintiff, a medical resident, claimed that his employer, a hospital, violated the ADA by discriminating against him because of his disability, a sleep disorder, failing to provide him with reasonable accommodation for his disability, and retaliating against him for asserting his rights under the ADA. Rodrigo v. Carle Foundation Hospital, et al., No. 16-1403 (7th Cir. 1/2/2018). The plaintiff contended that the hospital allowed another resident in its medical residency program to complete the program without passing the required Step 3 test, which the plaintiff did not pass, and that therefore he could establish a claim for disability discrimination under federal law. He also argued that the hospital denied his accommodation requests that it reinstate him to the program and give him the opportunity to re-take the Step 3. On his ADA retaliation claim, the plaintiff asserted that the hospital's termination of his residency and refusal to reinstate him were in retaliation for his protected activity of requesting reasonable accommodation. However, the plaintiff's disability discrimination and failure to accommodate claims failed because he is not a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA. His retaliation claim failed for lack of evidence of any causal connection between any protected activity and adverse job action.
On December 27, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant terminated his employment because of his race, national origin, disability, and exercise of his right to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Ennin v. CNH Industrial America, LLC, No. 17-2270 (7th Cir. 12/27/2017). The record indicated that the defendant terminated the plaintiff's employment before it had knowledge of his alleged disability or his FMLA leave; and there was no evidence that the defendant's proffered reasons for the termination were pretext for employment discrimination.
On December 11, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a sex discrimination lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her former employer fired her on the basis of her gender, in violation of Title VII. Milligan-Grimstad v. Morgan Stanley, et al., No. 16-4224 (7th Cir. 12/11/2017). The 7th Circuit agreed with the district court, that the defendant terminated the plaintiff on the basis of her job performance. To survive a motion for summary judgment in a Title VII employment discrimination case, a plaintiff must present evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the plaintiff's race, ethnicity, sex, religion or other proscribed factor caused the discharge. In this case, the plaintiff failed provide a sufficient evidentiary basis for a jury to conclude that her sex influenced the decision to terminate her employment.
On November 30, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that she was paid substantially less than her male colleague, despite taking on twice the responsibility, in violation of the Equal Pay Act ("EPA") and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended ("Title VII"). Lauderdale v. Illinois Department of Human Services, et al., No. 16-3830 (7th Cir. 11/30/2017). The EPA and Title VII both prohibit employers from paying an employee less based on sex. The 7th Circuit concluded that the pay discrepancy in this case was not based on sex.
On November 15, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a Title VII reverse race discrimination lawsuit filed by a civil servant against his former employer, the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County, Illinois. Golla v. Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County, Illinois, et al., No. 15-2524 (7th Cir. 11/15/2017). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant engaged in intentional reverse racial discrimination by paying an African-American co-worker a significantly higher salary than him, a Caucasian, even though they worked in the same department performing the same duties under essentially the same title.
On October 2, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment on a former employee's sexual harassment, retaliation and FMLA claims. King v. Ford Motor Company, No. 16-3391 (7th Cir. 10/2/2017). The plaintiff, who was an assembly line worker, claimed that she was sexually harassed by a supervisor. She was discharged after missing several weeks of work for medical reasons that her former employer claims she failed to properly document. In her federal lawsuit, she filed claims for sexual harassment, FMLA interference, and retaliation based on her complaints of sexual harassment and for taking FMLA leave. Since she failed to file suit within 90 days of receipt of her notice of right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, her Title VII sexual harassment claim was time-barred. Her FMLA interference and retaliation claims failed too, for substantive reasons.
On September 26, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a disability discrimination lawsuit in which the plaintiff, a special education teacher, alleged that her receipt of an "unsatisfactory" rating, which resulted in her dismissal in reduction-in-force, constituted unlawful interference in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. Frakes v. Peoria School District No. 150, No. 15-3091 (7th Cir. 9/26/2017). The Rehabilitation Act is a federal statute analogous to the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), that prohibits recipients of federal funding, including public schools, from discriminating against individuals on the basis of disability. The district court granted summary judgment for the school district on the basis that the plaintiff did not establish that she had engaged in any protected activity, which is required for an interference claim under the Rehabilitation Act. The 7th Circuit agreed, stating that the plaintiff "...provided no evidence that she complained about or discouraged discrimination based on disability or engaged in any other activity protected by law."
On September 20, 2017, the 7th Circuit held that a long-term medical leave of absence does not constitute a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., No. 15-3754 (7th Cir. 9/20/2017). The plaintiff took a 12-week medical leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") to get medical treatment for a bad back. On the last day of his leave, he had back surgery, which required that he remain off of work for another two or three months. He requested continuation of his medical leave from his employer, the defendant, but by then he had used up all of his FMLA leave. The employer denied his request, terminated his employment, but invited him to reapply when he was medically cleared to work. Three months later, his doctor cleared him to return to work, but he did not reapply; instead, he sued the company, claiming that it had discriminated against him on the basis of his disability, in violation of the ADA, by failing to provide him with a reasonable accommodation in the form of a three-month leave of absence after his FMLA leave expired.