On May 18, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a lawsuit filed by a terminated employee for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Harris v. Allen County Board of Commissioners, No. 17-2577 (7th Cir. 5/18/2018). The question in this case was whether the defendant was the plaintiff's employer for purposes of ADA liability. The ADA makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in the terms and conditions of a qualified individual's employment on the basis of a physical or mental impairment that constitutes a disability within the meaning of the ADA, and requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals' disabilities. In order to establish an ADA claim, the plaintiff was required, but failed to establish that the defendant was his employer.
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
On April 30, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a federal lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant retaliated against him for exercising his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Freelain v. Village of Oak Park et al., No. 16-4074 (7th Cir. 4/30/2018). The plaintiff, an Oak Park police officer, made an internal complaint of sexual harassment, alleging that another officer made unwelcome sexual advances toward him. After he reported the alleged sexual harassment, he began to experience migraine headaches and other medical conditions that he attributed to stress related to the alleged sexual harassment, for which he took time off work. He alleged that as a result of his medical condition and use of leave time, the defendant retaliated against him, in violation of the FMLA and ADA, by classifying his sick leave as unpaid, requiring him to undergo a psychological evaluation before returning to duty, and waiting three months before approving his request to engage in outside employment. The 7th Circuit held that the subject employment actions did not constitute protected activity and that therefore, the plaintiff's FMLA and ADA retaliation claims failed as a matter of law.
On April 26, 2018, the 7th Circuit held that the disparate impact provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") protects both outside job applicants and current employees from employment practices that have a disparate impact on older workers. Kleber v. CareFusion Corporation, No. 17-1206 (7th Cir. 4/26/2018). The ADEA prohibits employment practices that discriminate intentionally against older workers as well as employment policies that are facially neutral but have a disparate impact on older workers. In this case, the 7th Circuit recognized a cause of action under the ADEA for disparate impact failure-to-hire, in the context of a hiring policy which limited the applicant pool for an attorney position to applicants with three to seven years (but no more than seven years) of legal experience.
On April 24, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") interference lawsuit on the basis that the suit was time-barred under the FMLA's two-year statute of limitations. Sampra v. United States Department of Transportation, No. 17-2621 (7th Cir. 4/24/2018). The plaintiff sued her employer alleging that it unlawfully interfered with her rights under the FMLA by reassigning her to a different position after she returned from pregnancy leave. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant on the merits, finding that the plaintiff was offered essentially the same position upon her return from FMLA pregnancy leave. The 7th Circuit affirmed, without reaching the merits, on the different ground that the plaintiff's FMLA lawsuit was time-barred because the plaintiff failed to file her complaint within the applicable two-year statute of limitations. The three-year statute of limitations did not apply because the plaintiff failed to provide evidence that the defendant willfully violated her rights under the FMLA.
On March 14, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a Section 1981 lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged race discrimination and retaliation. Madlock v. WEC Energy Group, Inc., No. 17-1278 (7th Cir. 3/14/2018). The plaintiff alleged that she was transferred from one section of her employer to another as a result of racial discrimination. She also alleged that the employer retaliated against her by disciplining her after she filed an internal discrimination complaint against her former supervisor. The 7th Circuit stated that "[w]e recently cleaned out the 'rat's nest of surplus tests' that plagued our case law on the subject of race discrimination."
On March 7, 2018, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, employer in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff, former employee alleged that her former employer interfered with her right to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), discriminated against her on the basis of her disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her disabilities, in violation of the ADA, and unlawfully retaliated against her for exercising her rights under the FMLA and ADA. Guzman v. Brown County, No. 16-3599 (7th Cir. 3/7/2018). The FMLA provides eligible employees who have serious health conditions with the right to take unpaid leave for up to 12 workweeks during each 12 month period. The FMLA also makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with an employee's attempt to exercise his or her FMLA rights, or to retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her FMLA rights.
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.
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.