On March 25, 2014, the United States Supreme Court held that severance payments made by an employer to its involuntarily terminated employees constitute taxable wages for purposes of FICA. United States v. Quality Stores, 572 U.S.__ (2014). The Supreme Court reversed the holding of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, that severance payments are exempt from FICA taxation. The Supreme Court based its decision in part upon the broad definition of "wages" under FICA as "all remuneration for employment," as well as the broad definition of "employment" under FICA as "any service of whatever nature performed...by an employee for the person employing him." Notably, the Supreme Court stated that severance payments are also wages for purposes of income tax withholding. United States v. Quality Stores.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On February 7, 2014, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against CVS Pharmacy, Inc. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago (EEOC v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., No. 14 C 0863). The EEOC alleges that CVS's severance agreement is unenforceable because it unlawfully interferes with the right of employees to file discrimination charges and communicate/cooperate with the EEOC. The EEOC contends that this violates Section 707 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employer conduct that constitutes a pattern or practice of resistance to the rights protected by Title VII. The suit, which has been assigned to U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah, may significantly impact employers and employees as well as employment law practitioners.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a negative performance evaluation alone does not constitute actionable adverse employment action for a Title VII employment discrimination claim. Chaib v. State of Indiana, No. 13-1680 (7th Cir.), February 24, 2014. Due to the absence of the required element of materially adverse employment action, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in a Title VII case in which the plaintiff claimed that she was a victim of gender discrimination, national origin discrimination, and retaliation. In the opinion, the Seventh Circuit stated that, “Not everything that makes an employee unhappy is an actionable adverse action.”
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in an Illinois workers compensation retaliatory discharge case. Phillips v. Continental Tire, No. 13-2199 (7th Cir.), February 14, 2014. The employer discharged the employee for his refusal to take a mandatory drug test. The test was a precondition for the initiation of his workers compensation claim. In order to prevail on an Illinois workers compensation retaliatory discharge claim, a plaintiff must establish a causal connection between the exercise of a right granted under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, and the discharge.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in a case in which the plaintiff alleged that the employer terminated her employment on account of age discrimination, reverse race discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation. Andrews v. CBOCS West, No. 12-3399 (7th Cir.), February 14, 2014. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against her employer in which she brought claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, the Age Discrimination In Employment Act, and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The plaintiff was subjected to daily, derogatory age-based remarks made by her supervisor. However, the Seventh Circuit found that the plaintiff had voluntarily resigned from employment and, therefore, suffered no materially adverse employment action.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a job applicant who was promised a phony job by the job interviewer in exchange for sexual favors cannot maintain a viable sexual harassment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. Wilson v. Cook County, No. 13-1464 (7th Cir.), February 10, 2014. The Seventh Circuit reasoned that neither the phony job nor any employment relationship ever existed and, therefore, the plaintiff could not establish a failure to hire claim or a sexual harassment claim.
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