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.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
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.
On September 14, 2020, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit filed by a hearing-impaired train conductor, who alleged that the defendant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Mlsna v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, No. 19-2789 (7th Cir. 9/14/2020). A railroad policy required that train employees who are exposed to noise of a certain level wear a hearing protection device. This was not a problem for the plaintiff, until a new federal railroad regulation mandated that train conductors pass a hearing test. The defendant required the plaintiff to take the test wearing a certain hearing protective device, which prevented him from passing the test. The railroad would not re-certify him, so he lost his job.
On September 4, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged discrimination on the basis of sexual-orientation and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Marshall v. Indiana Department of Correction, No. 19-3270 (7th Cir. Sept. 4, 2020). In its opinion, the 7th Circuit recognized that in Hively v. Ivy Tech Cmty. Coll. of Ind., 853 F.3d 339, 341 (7th Cir. 2017), the 7th Circuit extended Title VII to include sexual-orientation discrimination; and that in Bostock v. Clayton Cty., Ga., 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020), the Supreme Court did the same. According to the Supreme Court, Title VII prohibits employers from firing an employee on the basis of sexual orientation.
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