U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Employment Discrimination Claim under the Illinois Human Rights Act

On August 25, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a race discrimination lawsuit under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA").  Reed v. Freedom Mortgage Corporation, No. 16-3661 (7th Cir. 8/25/2017).  The plaintiff, a broker liaison, had been given verbal and written warnings for violations of the defendant's attendance policy, after which he committed further violations.  He was subsequently selected for elimination in a reduction-in-force because of a history of attendance and disciplinary problems and lack of seniority.  The remaining broker liaisons were eventually terminated, and the office was later closed.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Title VII Sex Discrimination and FMLA Retaliation Lawsuit

On August 18, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that she was fired because of her gender, female, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), and in retaliation for taking a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), in violation of the FMLA.  Mourning v. Ternes Packaging, Indiana, Inc., No. 16-1650 (7th Cir. 8/18/2017).  The employer granted the employee's request for FMLA leave to undergo medical treatment.  While she was on medical leave, a group of her subordinate employees submitted an internal complaint about her to management.  The employer fired the employee after she returned from her FMLA leave for performance-based reasons relating to the complaint against her.  She was replaced by another female.

EEOC Can Enforce its Own Subpoenas After Issuance of Notice of Right-to-Sue and Resolution of Underlying Charges of Employment Discrimination in Private Lawsuit

On August 15, 2017, the 7th Circuit rejected a company's challenge to the legal authority of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") to continue an enforcement action after issuing a notice of right-to-sue letter and subsequent resolution of the underlying charges of discrimination in a private lawsuit.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, No. 15-3452 (7th Cir. 8/15/2017).  The EEOC petitioned the district court to enforce its subpoena for the defendant's employment records related to the charges.  The 7th Circuit stated that the U.S. Supreme Court and the 7th Circuit have recognized the EEOC's broad role in promoting the public interest by preventing employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended ("Title VII"), including its independent authority to investigate charges of discrimination, especially company-wide pattern and practice of discrimination cases.  Thus, the 7th Circuit agreed with the district court that neither the issuance of the right-to-sue letter nor the entry of judgment in a lawsuit filed by the charging parties bars the EEOC from continuing its own investigation.

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on ADEA Retaliation Claim

On August 14, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant employer in a federal lawsuit filed by a Chicago Public High School maintenance supervisor, in which he alleged that he was given an unsatisfactory rating that resulted in the loss of his employment, because of his age and in retaliation for his prior age discrimination lawsuit against the Board, of which he had informed his supervisor before she gave him the negative rating.  Owens v. Chicago Board of Education, No. 16-3607 (7th Cir. 8/14/2017)  The plaintiff alleged that he informed his supervisor that he had an age discrimination lawsuit pending against the Board, and that she then replied 'do you think you're going to keep your job working for the Chicago Public Schools and you're filing a lawsuit?'.

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on Race Discrimination Claim

On August 8, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in a Title VII race discrimination lawsuit filed by an African-American police officer.  McKinney v. Office of the Sheriff of Whitley County, No. 16-4131 (7th Cir. 8/8/2017).  The plaintiff was the first black police officer ever in Whitley County, Indiana.  He was fired nine months after he was hired.  He sued for race discrimination.  The 7th Circuit stated that his evidence supports a strong case of race discrimination.  The expanding and shifting nature of the defendant's proffered reasons for the termination of the plaintiff's employment were the kiss of death for the defendant in this employment discrimination lawsuit.

7th Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment on Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

On August 2, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in a sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit that was filed in federal court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA").  Nischan v. Stratosphere Quality, LLC et al., No. 16-3464 (7th Cir. 8/2/2017).  The plaintiff alleged that she was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment in her employment, and that she was fired in retaliation for filing a complaint about it.  The 7th Circuit held that the plaintiff offered sufficient evidence to support her sexual harassment claim to survive summary judgment.  The plaintiff alleged that a co-worker relentlessly sexually harassed her, including unwelcome sexual advances and sexual propositions as well as offensive, outrageous physical touchings of private areas of her body, and sexually offensive comments and questions. She also alleged that managerial level employees knew about the sexual harassment, but failed to do anything about it.

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