On June 9, 2014, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, held that an arbitration clause contained in an employment contract is valid and enforceable. Fuqua v. SVOX AG, 2014 IL App (1st) 131429. The arbitration clause stated that arbitration is the exclusive remedy for, "[a]ny dispute or controversy arising under or in connection with this Agreement or any other dispute concerning [employee's] employment with [employer]." However, the clause carved out an exception for restrictive covenants and confidentiality provisions, which could be enforced in court. The Appellate Court stated that the Illinois Uniform Arbitration Act (710 ILCS 5/1) is controlling, which applies contract law to arbitration agreements. The Appellate Court found that the arbitration clause is supported by the offer of employment, acceptance of the offer, and consideration--the employment (which lasted only 8 months). The Appellate Court also found that there are no grounds for revocation of the arbitration clause because it is not procedurally or substantively unconscionable. The employment law claims subject to the arbitration clause in Fuqua include breach of contract and retaliatory discharge, as well as alleged violations of the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, the Illinois Whistleblower Act, and the Illinois Personnel Record Review Act.
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On June 6, 2014, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment on Title VII and Section 1981 race discrimination failure-to-hire claims. Whitfield v. International Truck and Engine Corp., No. 13-1876 (June 6, 2014). Stating that the same evidentiary standards apply to Title VII and Section 1981 claims, the 7th Circuit applied the direct and indirect methods of proof for employment discrimination. Direct or circumstantial evidence may be used under the direct method. Direct evidence is rare. A "mosaic" of circumstantial evidence, from which intentional discrimination may be inferred, works under the direct method. The mosaic must point to the discriminatory reason for the employer's action and directly relate to the employment decision. Remarks and other circumstantial evidence that reflect a propensity by the decision-maker to evaluate a job-candidate based on illegal criterion is enough under the direct method, even if the evidence "stops short of a virtual admission of illegality."
The 7th Circuit applies a modified McDonnell Douglass test to reverse discrimination claims. Under McDonnell Douglass, a plaintiff must show that: (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was meeting his employer's legitimate expectations; (3) he suffered an adverse job action; and (4) similarly situated individuals were treated more favorably than he was. However, when the plaintiff is a member of a "majority" (such as a male plaintiff alleging gender discrimination), he is required to establish "background circumstances" that demonstrate that the employer discriminates against the majority, or that there is something "fishy" going on. Farr v. St. Francis Hospital, 570 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2009).
On May 28, 2014, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in an Americans with Disabilities Act case, in which the plaintiff alleged failure-to-accommodate and disparate treatment. Bunn v. Khoury Enterprises, Inc., No. 13-2292 (May 28, 2014). The opinion states the elements and methods of proof for ADA failure-to-accommodate and disparate treatment claims. The ADA provides that a covered employer shall not discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability. Discrimination includes not making reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation its business. The 7th Circuit has established a three-part test for failure-to-accommodate claims: (1) the employee is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) the employer is aware of the employee's disability; and (3) the employer failed to reasonably accommodate the disability.
On May 28, 2014, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 8, which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to require Illinois employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for conditions related to pregnancy and child-birth. The reasonable accommodations would include, for example, modification to job duties or work schedules, assistance with physical work, seating, frequent water and restroom breaks, time-off to recover from child-birth, and private non-bathroom space for breast-feeding or pumping. House Bill 8, which was already passed by the Illinois Senate, will become effective January 1, 2015, if it is signed into law by Governor Quinn.
On May 20, 2014, the Illinois State Senate approved legislation that would expand the rights of pregnant employees. House Bill 8, passed by a vote of 57-0, would require Illinois employers to provide employees with reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth. The accommodations would include frequent water and bathroom breaks, help with manual labor, time-off to recover from childbirth, private non-bathroom space for breast-feeding or pumping, as well as modifications to job duties or work schedules. The legislation, which is a proposed amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act, is expected to be passed by the Illinois House of Representative and signed into law by Governor Quinn.
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