According to recently published EEOC Guidance (summarized below), the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations raises employment law questions under the ADA, GINA, and Title VII. These laws do not prohibit employers from requiring their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or even administering the vaccine to their employees themselves, except under certain circumstances. Pre-vaccination medical screening of employees, however, raises a whole host of employment law concerns, of which employers should familiarize themselves.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On December 8, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit filed by a social worker against the Chicago Board of Eduction alleging gender and disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation. Williams v. Board of Education of City of Chicago, No. 19-3152 (7th Cir. 12/8/2020). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to award him certain positions on account of his gender and disability, as well as in retaliation for his protected activity of requesting an accommodation for his disability and filing discrimination claims.
On November 23, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service under the Rehabilitation Act, which is the equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act for federal employees. Vargas v. Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General, No. 20-1116 (7th Cir. Nov. 23, 2020). After he aggravated an old foot injury on the job, the plaintiff was placed on work restrictions that prohibited him from lifting and carrying heavy weights. This created a problem for him because his job duties included carrying heavy loads and packages. He requested accommodations from the employer, but without any alternative jobs for him to do, his accommodation request was denied. Consequently, he had to take paid sick leave for several weeks and eventually went on unpaid leave. He sued his employer under Title VII for race discrimination and retaliation, and for disability discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act.
On November 4, 2020, 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"), in which the plaintiff claimed that he was dismissed from a police academy because of his actual or perceived disability. Sandefur v. Thomas J. Dart and Cook County, Illinois, No. 19-2787 (7th Cir. Nov. 4, 2020). Plaintiff was a corrections officer for the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois. The ADA prohibits covered employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. To establish an ADA claim, a plaintiff must plead and prove that she: (1) was disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) was qualified to perform the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) suffered an adverse employment action because of her disability.
On October 27, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in an Illinois state court lawsuit for retaliatory discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Dipietro v. GATX Corp., 2020 IL App (1st) 192196. The plaintiff alleged that her termination of employment violated clearly mandated public policy announced in the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act (the "Act") and the Chicago Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) the plaintiff did not engage in any protected activity; (2) her discharge did not violate public policy; (3) there was no causal connection between her complaints and her termination; and (4) the proffered reason for her termination was not pretextual. The defendant also argued that its alleged conduct was not sufficiently outrageous to support the plaintiff's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and that her claimed emotional distress was not actionable.
On October 21, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendants in a Title VII employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuit, on the ground that the company for which the plaintiff worked had fewer than fifteen employees and, therefore, was not an "employer" subject to Title VII. Prince v. Appleton Auto, LLC, et al., No. 20-1106 (7th Cir. Oct. 21, 2020). The defendant company is a member of a network of affiliated but corporately distinct used-car dealerships in Wisconsin. The plaintiff claimed that his employment termination resulted from unlawful discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). The plaintiff argued that the court should aggregate the number of employees from the other dealerships to meet the jurisdictional requirement of 15 employees. The 7th Circuit concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the plaintiff's theory that the court should pierce the corporate veil of the dealership network to aggregate the number of employees so that Title VII would apply.
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