U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

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.

7th Circuit Affirms Jury Verdict for Employee in Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuit

On July 31, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury award of $225,000 in damages to a terminated employee-plaintiff who sued his former employer for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").  Stragapede v. City of Evanston, Illinois, No. 16-1344 (7th Cir. 7/31/2017).  The plaintiff worked in the City of Evanston Water Department for 14 years.  After he suffered a traumatic brain injury at home, the City placed him on temporary leave of absence.  When he was cleared to return to work, he resumed full-time employment, but just a few weeks later, the City again placed him on administrative leave and subsequently terminated his employment.  In federal court, the plaintiff alleged that the City discriminated against him and terminated his employment because of his disability.

7th Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment on Age Discrimination Lawsuit

On July 26, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in an age discrimination lawsuit filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA").  Carson, et al. v. Lake County Indiana, No. 16-3665 (7th Cir. 7/26/2017).  A group of rehired retirees who were fired filed the lawsuit alleging that the County had discriminated against them on the basis of their age in violation of the ADEA.  The 7th Circuit concluded that there was no evidence that the County engaged in unlawful age discrimination.  The key criterion that distinguished the terminated employees from all other County employees was not their age but rather their impermissible participation in a group health insurance plan supplement while they worked part-time, which necessitated the termination of their employment.

7th Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Title VII Harassment, Disparate Treatment and Retaliation Claims

On July 20, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of the district court that had dismissed Title VII claims for hostile work environment, disparate treatment and retaliation.  Alamo v. Bliss et at., No. 15-2849 (7th Cir. 7/20/2017).  The plaintiff, a Hispanic City of Chicago firefighter, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court.  He alleged various forms of unlawful discrimination on the basis of his national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), a failure to accommodate claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and a retaliation claim under Title VII.  The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim, and dismissed all of the plaintiff's federal claims.

Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit Against Employer not Subject to Arbitration Agreement Between Employee and Staffing Agency

On July 17, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of the district court that denied an employer's motion to compel arbitration of an employee's Title VII sexual harassment and retaliation claims based on an arbitration agreement between the employee and the staffing agency who placed her with the employer.  Scheurer v. Fromm Family Foods LLC, No. 16-3327 (7th Cir. July 17, 2017).  The employee filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").  The employee's contract with the staffing agency that placed her with the employer contained an arbitration clause.  The employer moved to compel arbitration of the employee's claims, but the district court denied the motion.

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