On November 15, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Ford v. Marion County Sheriff's Office, et al., No. 18-3217 (7th Cir. 11/15/2020). The plaintiff worked as a deputy in the Marion County Sheriff's Office, until her hand was injured in a car accident while on duty. After assigning her to light duty work for about a year, the Sheriff's Office informed her that she must either transfer to a permanent position with a pay cut or be terminated. She accepted a new position as a jail visitation clerk. The plaintiff alleged that subsequently, she suffered disability-based harassment by co-workers, refusals to accommodate her scheduling needs, and several discriminatory promotion denials. She sued the Sheriff's Office for discriminatory employment practices under the ADA.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On November 12, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff-employee who sued the defendant-employer for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Valdivia v. Township High School District 214, No. 19-1410 (7th Cir. 11/12/2019). The plaintiff claimed that the defendant interfered with her rights under the FMLA by failing to provide her with notice or information about her right to take job-protected leave. After a jury trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her $12,000 in damages. The plaintiff informed her supervisor that she was considering leaving for medical reasons. She submitted a letter of resignation but shortly thereafter asked to rescind her resignation, which request was denied, resulting in the conclusion of her employment.
On November 7, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the employer-defendant in a lawsuit in which a former employee alleged claims for race, sex, age, and disability discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). McCurry v. Kenco Logistics Services, No. 18-3206 (7th Cir. 11/7/2019). This case was doomed for many reasons, including that the pro se plaintiff failed to follow the local rules of procedure for the federal court of the Northern District of Illinois. In any employment discrimination case, the fundamental issue at the summary judgment stage of the litigation is whether the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the plaintiff was subjected to adverse employment action based on a statutorily prohibited factor, such as sex, age, race, or disability.
On October 29, 2019, the 7th Circuit ruled that the "regarded-as" provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") does not encompass conduct motivated by the likelihood that an employee or job applicant will develop a future disability within the scope of the ADA. Shell v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, No. 19-1030 (7th Cir. 10/29/2019). In this case, the defendant refused to hire the plaintiff solely because it believed that his obesity presented an unacceptably high risk that he would develop certain medical conditions in the future that would suddenly incapacitate him on the job. He filed a lawsuit under the ADA, alleging that the defendant discriminated against him based on disability. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that the ADA's definition of "disability" is not met where an employer regards a job applicant as not presently having a disability, but at high risk of developing one. The district court denied the motion, ruling that the ADA does reach discrimination based on future impairment. The 7th Circuit reversed, reaching a contrary conclusion of law.
On October 9, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). McDaniel v. Progress Rail Locomotive, Inc., No. 18-3565 (10/9/2019). The plaintiff alleged that his former employer unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of age and retaliated against him for complaining about a superior, in violation of the ADEA. The plaintiff failed to produce evidence of any substantially younger similarly situated employees who were treated more favorably.
On September 26, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a class action lawsuit alleging that it violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act ("the Act") by failing to provide a group of employees with sixty days' notice of their "temporary lay-off." Leeper v. Hamilton County Coal, LLC, No. 19-1109 (7th Cir. 9/26/2019). The WARN Act requires employers to give affected employees sixty days' notice before imposing a "mass layoff." The Act defines a "mass layoff" as a "reduction in force" in which at least 33% of a single worksite's full-time workforce, and at least fifty employees suffer an "employment loss." The district court entered summary judgment for the employer coal company because the worksite did not experience a "mass layoff" as defined by the Act.