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.
Title VII (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended)
On March 20, 2020, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a Title VII gender discrimination failure-to-hire lawsuit. Joll v. Valparaiso Community Schools, No. 18-3630 (7th Cir. March 20, 2020). The plaintiff is an experienced running coach who applied for but was denied positions as assistant coach of the girls' and boys' cross-country teams, which were given to younger male applicants. She sued for sex discrimination under Title VII and age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer on both claims. The 7th Circuit reversed on the gender discrimination claim because the district court erred by not viewing the evidence in its totality. The plaintiff offered evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that the school district used hiring procedures tilted in favor of male applicants, applied sex-role stereotypes during the interview process, and manipulated the hiring criteria in ways that were inconsistent except that they always favored male applicants.
On February 7, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the employer-defendant in a Title VII retaliation lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged retaliation for complaining about discrimination in the workplace. Robertson v. State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, et al., No. 19-1179 (7th Cir. Feb. 7, 2020). The plaintiff's retaliation claim failed due to lack of evidence of a causal connection between her protected activity--reporting discrimination--and the defendant's decision to not promote her, and because she did not establish that she suffered an adverse job action.
On January 3, 2020, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting a defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment in a Title VII race discrimination failure-to-promote lawsuit. Barnes v. Board of Trustees Of The University of Illinois, et al., No. 19-1781 (7th Cir. Jan. 3, 2020). The plaintiff filed a federal lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") after an administrator of the defendant-employer promoted a white applicant instead of the plaintiff, who is African-American. The 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment because the plaintiff did not present evidence that the administrator's stated reason for selecting the white applicant was pretext for unlawful racial discrimination.
On December 4, 2019, the 7th Circuit held that a jury verdict in favor of a defendant-employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Stegall v. Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, No. 18-2345 (7th Cir. Dec. 4, 2019). The plaintiff claimed that after she interviewed for a position, she received an offer of employment from the defendant at the end of her interview. She also claimed that when and because she subsequently disclosed her physical and mental disabilities, the defendant rescinded the offer of employment in violation of the ADA. She filed claims of disability and race discrimination in federal court. After a trial, the jury found that the plaintiff had a disability, that the defendant regarded her as having a disability, and that the defendant failed to hire the plaintiff. However, the jury also found that even without her physical disability, the plaintiff would not have been hired; and that her non-hiring was not unlawfully motivated based on her disabilities.
On November 7, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the employer-defendant in a lawsuit in which a former employee alleged claims for race, sex, age, and disability discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). McCurry v. Kenco Logistics Services, No. 18-3206 (7th Cir. 11/7/2019). This case was doomed for many reasons, including that the pro se plaintiff failed to follow the local rules of procedure for the federal court of the Northern District of Illinois. In any employment discrimination case, the fundamental issue at the summary judgment stage of the litigation is whether the evidence would permit a reasonable jury to conclude that the plaintiff was subjected to adverse employment action based on a statutorily prohibited factor, such as sex, age, race, or disability.
On October 29, 2019, the 7th Circuit ruled that the "regarded-as" provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") does not encompass conduct motivated by the likelihood that an employee or job applicant will develop a future disability within the scope of the ADA. Shell v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, No. 19-1030 (7th Cir. 10/29/2019). In this case, the defendant refused to hire the plaintiff solely because it believed that his obesity presented an unacceptably high risk that he would develop certain medical conditions in the future that would suddenly incapacitate him on the job. He filed a lawsuit under the ADA, alleging that the defendant discriminated against him based on disability. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the ground that the ADA's definition of "disability" is not met where an employer regards a job applicant as not presently having a disability, but at high risk of developing one. The district court denied the motion, ruling that the ADA does reach discrimination based on future impairment. The 7th Circuit reversed, reaching a contrary conclusion of law.
On October 9, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). McDaniel v. Progress Rail Locomotive, Inc., No. 18-3565 (10/9/2019). The plaintiff alleged that his former employer unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of age and retaliated against him for complaining about a superior, in violation of the ADEA. The plaintiff failed to produce evidence of any substantially younger similarly situated employees who were treated more favorably.
On August 28, 2019, the 7th Circuit issued an opinion in which it explained the exhaustion of administrative remedies doctrine for Title VII employment discrimination claims. Chaidez v. Ford Motor Company, No. 18-2753 (7th Cir. 8/28/2019). The plaintiffs alleged a racially discriminatory hiring scheme that resulted in a lack of Hispanic and Latino line workers at the defendant's Chicago assembly plant. The district court dismissed the lawsuit for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, holding that the plaintiffs' claims were not "like or reasonably related to" the claims alleged in their EEOC charges. The 7th Circuit concluded that the claims alleged in Count I of the plaintiffs' complaint were not exhausted before the EEOC and therefore affirmed the district court's dismissal of Count I.
On August 22, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a Title VII retaliation lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her former employer terminated her employment in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment. Rozumalski v. W.F. Baird & Associates, Ltd., No. 18-3586 (7th Cir. 8/22/2019). In this case it was undisputed that the plaintiff was sexually harassed by her direct supervisor. It was also undisputed that when she reported the sexual harassment to the employer, the employer promptly investigated and terminated the alleged harasser. At issue was whether the employer terminated the plaintiff in retaliation for her role in the alleged harasser's termination. The 7th Circuit agreed with the district court, that no reasonable jury could find in favor of the plaintiff on her retaliation claims, stating that "while it may be possible for workplace harassment to haunt a victim's ability to succeed long after the incident, the facts that [the plaintiff] has presented do not support a finding of retaliation."