On April 6, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion regarding the legal standards governing age discrimination claims for federal sector employees under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Babb v. Wilkie, 589 U.S. __ (2020). Under the ADEA, private sector employees must prove that age was the "but for" cause of the subject adverse employment action. However, the ADEA contains certain statutory language specific to federal sector employees that warrants a variation on the legal standard. The Supreme Court held that the federal-sector provision of the ADEA requires that personnel actions be "untainted by any consideration of age." However, to obtain damages arising from the end result of an employment decision, a federal sector employee must still satisfy the "but for" causation standard.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On March 27, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed the findings and decision of the Illinois Human Rights Commission ("Commission") against a former employee on her claims of age and disability discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Burns v. Bombela-Tobias, 2020 IL App (1st) 182309. Although the appellate court concluded that the record as a whole supported the Commission's findings, it also criticized the Commission's legal analysis, and stated Illinois employment law with respect to age and disability discrimination claims under the IHRA.
On March 25, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Castetter v. Dolgencorp, LLC, No. 19-2026 (March 25, 2020). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant terminated his employment because of his disability, cancer, in violation of the ADA. The defendant contended that it terminated the Plaintiff's employment for policy violations. The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against a qualified individual based on his or her disability. In order to state an ADA claim for disability discrimination, a plaintiff must plead and prove that: (1) she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA; (2) she was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of her job, with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) disability was the "but for" cause of the adverse employment action.
On March 20, 2020, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a Title VII gender discrimination failure-to-hire lawsuit. Joll v. Valparaiso Community Schools, No. 18-3630 (7th Cir. March 20, 2020). The plaintiff is an experienced running coach who applied for but was denied positions as assistant coach of the girls' and boys' cross-country teams, which were given to younger male applicants. She sued for sex discrimination under Title VII and age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer on both claims. The 7th Circuit reversed on the gender discrimination claim because the district court erred by not viewing the evidence in its totality. The plaintiff offered evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that the school district used hiring procedures tilted in favor of male applicants, applied sex-role stereotypes during the interview process, and manipulated the hiring criteria in ways that were inconsistent except that they always favored male applicants.
On February 20, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Stelter v. Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corporation, No. 18-3689 (7th Cir. Feb. 20, 2020). The plaintiff alleged that she was disabled under the ADA with back pain aggravated by a work injury. She claimed that the defendant failed to accommodate her disability and terminated her employment because of her disability in violation of the ADA. The record contained evidence, however, that the defendant terminated her on account of legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
On February 13, 2020, the 7th Circuit issued an opinion in which it explain the respective responsibilities of both employers and employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Lutes v. United Trailers, Inc., et al., No. 19-1579 (7th Cir. Feb. 13, 2020). The plaintiff sued under the FMLA, alleging that the defendant failed to properly notify him of his FMLA rights, and terminated his employment in retaliation for attempting to exercise his FMLA rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant. The 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment as to the FMLA retaliation claim, but vacated the district court's judgment on the FMLA interference claim.