U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Title VII Gender Discrimination Claims

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Title VII Pay Discrimination and Equal Pay Act Claims

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Title VII Reverse Discrimination Lawsuit

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Sexual Harassment, Retaliation and FMLA Claims

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.

7th Circuit Rules in Favor of School District on Special Ed Teacher's Disability Discrimination Interference Claim

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."

Long-term Leave of Absence not a Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA

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.

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

On September 18, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer in a federal lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by a transportation worker, who alleged that he was terminated on the basis of his mental disability in violation of the ADA.  Monroe v. Indiana Department of Transportation, et al., No. 16-1959 (7th Cir. 9/18/2017).  The plaintiff worked for the Indiana Department of Transportation for over 21 years.  One of his job duties was to clean up human remains after traffic fatalities.  He also witnessed the death of a co-worker in a work-related accident; and he served in combat in the Gulf War.  He was discharged from employment for allegedly creating a hostile and intimidating work environment based on the investigation of a complaint against him by a group of his subordinates, who alleged that he mistreated them.  During the investigation, the plaintiff disclosed that he had recently been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Race Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

On August 31, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer in a federal lawsuit in which the plaintiff, a tenured university professor, alleged that the university discriminated against him because of his race, retaliated against him for complaining about discrimination, denied him due process of law, defamed him, and breached an employment contract created by an employee handbook.  Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University, et al., No. 16-1958 (7th Cir. 8/31/2017).  The question on summary judgment is whether the defendants have shown that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  On appeal, the appellate court resolves all factual disputes and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.  However, he is only entitled to the benefit of inferences supported by admissible evidence, not those supported only by speculation or conjecture.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment for Employer on Title VII Sex Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

On August 31, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer in a Title VII sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit in which the former employee, a Human Resources Manager, alleged that her employment was terminated because of her sex, female, and in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment.  Owens v. Old Wisconsin Sausage Company, Inc., No. 16-3875 (7th Cir. 8/31/2017).  The plaintiff was the only female manager.  Another manager commented to her that the employer tended to be a "boys' club."  After the decision terminate her employment, the employer produced a memo that listed a myriad of performance-based and other reasons for her termination.

7th Circuit Clarifies Standard for Preemption of Employment-Related Tort Claims under the Illinois Human Rights Act

On August 28, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant on an Illinois state-law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress in the employment law context.  Richards v. U.S. Steel, No. 16-2436 (7th Cir. 8/28/2017).  The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against her employer for sexual harassment, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The sexual harassment and retaliation claims were dismissed based on timeliness grounds prior to this appeal.  The issue on appeal was whether the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress failed as a matter of law based on preemption by the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA") and on substantive grounds.  The case involved various incidents of workplace and sexual harassment.  The IHRA provides that no court shall have jurisdiction over the subject of an alleged civil rights violation other than as set forth in the IHRA, which means that jurisdiction is limited to the claims enumerated in the IHRA.

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