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.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
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.
On August 11, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff, a terminated employee who claimed that he was fired because of his race, African-American, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). Morris v. BNSF Railway Company, No. 19-2808 & 19-2913 (7th Cir. Aug. 11, 2020). The crux of his employment discrimination lawsuit was disparate discipline--that he was disciplined more harshly than similarly situated non-African-American employees who committed the same or similar violations of the same company policy. Specifically, he claimed that he was subjected to a formal disciplinary process that culminated in his termination, while non-African-American employees were given a more lenient informal disciplinary process that practically guaranteed that they would not be terminated.
On August 10, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a federal lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated the ADA by placing him on temporary paid administrative leave and ordering him to undergo a fitness-for-duty evaluation in connection with a disciplinary incident. Kurtzhals v. County of Dunn, No. 19-3111 (7th Cir. Aug. 10, 2020). The plaintiff was employed by the Sheriff's Office of Dunn County, Wisconsin. After he allegedly threatened physical violence against one of his fellow officers, the County put him on temporary paid administrative leave and ordered him to undergo a fitness-for-duty evaluation. The plaintiff alleged that his supervisors took this course of action because of his history of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD"), and not because his alleged conduct violated the County's Workplace Violence Policy and implicated public safety.
On August 6, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged associational disability discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Pierri v. Medline Industries, Inc., No. 19-3356 (7th Cir. Aug. 6, 2020). The plaintiff was a chemist for the defendant. Initially, he did well at the company, but problems arose after he asked for accommodations to enable him to take care of his ailing grandfather. The defendant gave him time off to take care of his grandfather under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). However, the plaintiff claimed that his supervisor then became so hostile to him that he required personal time off because of the stress. He took FMLA leave and never returned to work. The defendant eventually terminated his employment for his failure to return to work or provide a return date.
On August 5, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a Title VII race discrimination lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her teaching contract was not renewed on account of her race. Allen-Noll v. Madison Area Technical College, et al., No. 19-2639 (7th Cir. Aug. 5, 2020). When her teaching contract with the MATC was not renewed, the plaintiff sued her former employer, alleging racial discrimination and harassment. The primary adverse employment action that the plaintiff claimed to have suffered was the college's decision to not renew her contract. However, she offered no evidence that this was because of her race, or in retaliation for her internal complaint of discrimination. Her allegations of racial discrimination and retaliation were unsupported by any facts.
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