On June 29, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, reversed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a retaliation lawsuit in which the former employee-plaintiff alleged claims for Illinois common law retaliatory discharge and violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Protection Act (the "Act"). Hubert v. The Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 2020 IL App (1st) 190790 (June 29, 2020). The plaintiff worked for the Chicago Public Schools managing bus transportation services. He became aware that private bus vendors that the school system had hired were overbilling the school system. After he worked to root out the fraud by voicing his concerns within the school system and by meeting with law enforcement, his employment with the Chicago Public Schools was terminated. The plaintiff contends that he was unlawfully terminated in retaliation for working to expose fraud.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On June 26, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a Title VII gender discrimination lawsuit. Purtue v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections, et al., No. 19-2706 (7th Cir. June 26, 2020). The plaintiff was discharged from her employment as a correctional officer for falsely claiming that a prisoner hit her with an empty snack cake box that he threw at her from his cell. The warden dismissed her for making a false report in violation of policy. She filed a federal lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), alleging that she had been discharged because of her sex, female. Because she failed to identify evidence from which a reasonable jury could draw that inference, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of summary judgment against her.
On May 21, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed (on purely procedural grounds) a decision of an administrative law judge ("ALJ") of the Illinois Human Rights Commission (the "Commission") that a female employee was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment in her employment, in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act. Cigna and Professional Consultants, Inc. v. The Illinois Human Rights Commission, The Department of Human Rights, and Lois Owen, 2020 IL App (1st) 190620 (May 21, 2020). After a two-day hearing, the ALJ recommended that the Commission find that the employer and the employee's direct supervisor sexually harassed the employee. The Commission adopted the ALJ's recommended findings and decision. The employee alleged that they sexually harassed her and created a hostile work environment on the basis of her sex. The alleged workplace sexual harassment included the supervisor calling the employee a b*** on a daily basis, having a picture of a woman with her breasts exposed hanging in his office, making sexual comments to her, and sending emails of photos and videos depicting nude women or women in suggestive poses.
On April 7, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff against her former employer in a national origin discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Vega v. Chicago Park District, Nos. 19-1926 & 19-1939 (7th Cir. April 7, 2020). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant discriminated against her because of her national origin, in violation of Title VII. After a seven-day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict in her favor and awarded her compensatory damages in the amount of $750,000. The district court remitted her award to $300,000, which is the statutory maximum under Title VII for compensatory damages. The court also awarded the plaintiff back pay in the amount of $154,707 in lost salary and $1,200 in lost bonuses, plus lost benefits in the amount of $9,255 in substituted health insurance premiums, as well as a tax-component award, and reinstatement of employment. The 7th Circuit affirmed all of the district court's rulings, except its grant of the tax-component award.
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.
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.
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