On April 16, 2013, the 7th Circuit Ruled in Majors v. General Electric Co., No. 12-2893.
The case was brought pursuant to the ADA, alleging that GE denied Majors a temporary position because of her shoulder condition, which precluded her from lifting more than 20 pounds.
The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court did not err in granting the employer’s motion for summary judgment because Majors failed to establish that she could perform essential function of her position, namely lifting more than 20 pounds, and her only proposed accommodation of having someone else perform said lifting duties was unreasonable. The fact that GE allegedly rejected Majors's proposal without offering counter-proposal did not require different result.
Additionally, Majors failed to present sufficient evidence to establish a retaliation claim based on GE's failure to award her overtime after filing EEOC charge, where her proposed comparable co-workers, who received more overtime, held positions with different job classifications.
On February 21, 2013, the Seventh Circuit issued a ruling in Teruggi v. The Cit Group/Capital Finance, Inc., No. 12-2314.
The Court affirmed the District Court. The Dist. Ct. granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment in an ADA and ADEA action, which alleged that the employer had terminated Teruggi because of his disability and age.
While Teruggi’s supervisor made comments regarding Teruggi's retirement plans, about being “old” and being on drugs, such evidence did not establish discriminatory motive when the comments were made at least 18 months prior to the termination decision.
Employee John Shepherd had a back injury aggravated by mopping floors, however, AutoZone required him to mop. The EEOC brought a claim under the ADA for failure to accomodate Shepherd's disability. A jury returned a verdict in Shepherds favor. He was awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages, $200,000 in punitive damages, $115,000 in back pay, and an injunction on AutoZone's anti-discrimination practices.On appeal to the Seventh Circuit, the Court affirmed the judgment except for a provision in the injunction, which was remanded for further proceedings. The Seventh Circuit held:
1. The two jury's verdicts were not inconsistent, because they were considering different time periods.
2. The district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the EEOC's expert witness, even though the EEOC did not submit his written report under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B).
3. The medical evidence of the employee's pain supported the $100,000 compensatory damage award.
4. The punitive damage award met the ADA statutory and due-process standards.EEOC v. AutoZone, Inc., No. 12-1017 (7th Cir. Feb. 15, 2013).
Recently, the Seventh Circuit reversed summary judgment in an ADA case where Olin allegedly failed to accommodate an employee with a sleeping disability.
The Court held that the record presented a genuine issue of material fact about whether the employer made overtime an essential function of the job. The Seventh Circuit also held that Feldman can prevail if genuinely disputed points are resolved in his favor: whether he is “disabled” under the ADA (where the major life activity is sleeping).
Because of fibromyalgia and sleep apnea, Feldman’s doctors had advised him to work regular day positions, without rotation and overtime. When Olin realigned its workforce, causing Feldman’s position to require rotating shifts, he tried to work under the new regime for a few weeks, but found it impossible. When he presented Olin with a medical restriction, Olin laid him off. It did not place him in a different position, claiming that no positions were available that did not require overtime or flextime.
Feldman v. Olin Corporation, No. 11-2772 (September 24, 2012).
On September 9, 2012, the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. United Airlines, Inc. (No. 11-1774), an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case. The Seventh Circuit held "that the ADA does indeed mandate that an employer appoint employees with disabilities to vacant positions for which they are qualified, provided that such accommodations would be ordinarily reasonable and would not present an undue hardship to that employer."Prior precedent held that as part of the transfer process, the disabled employee compete for the position with other applicants, but now that is not the case.You can find the full opinion here.
Yesterday, the 7th Cir. issued a ruling in Ekstrand v. School District of Somerset, No. 11-1949 (June 26, 2012) upholding a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff (teacher) in an ADA claim.The Court held that the record contained sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The teacher claimed that her employer failed to accommodate her disability by denying her request to switch to classroom that had exterior window to alleviate her symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. While the school pointed to certain evidence that supported its claims that (a) the teacher was not qualified individual with disability and (b) that decision-maker was unaware of the teacher's disability, the jury was free to credit the contrary testimony presented by the teacher and her expert witness.
Today, October 5, 2011, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments that may change what role courts can play in the hiring and firing decisions of religious institutions. The question before the Court is whether the ministerial exception to employment law litigation applies to an employee of a religious organization whose job duties include secular and religious activities in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case is based on an employment discrimination and retaliation action brought by a teacher at a religious school claiming violations of the ADA. The employer, Hosanna-Tabor, operates a church and school. It hired the employee as a “called” teacher to teach both secular and religious classes. “Called” teachers are voted into the position by the church congregation and are required to complete various religious classes, after which they are recognized as “commissioned ministers.” While the employee was on disability leave, Hosanna-Tabor terminated her. The EEOC filed a claim against Hosanna-Tabor for wrongful termination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer based on the "ministerial exception." On appeal, the Sixth Circuit vacated that decision, applying a “primary duties test.” The 6th Circuit determined that the time the employee devoted each day to religious activity was nominal, so the ministerial exception did not apply to the employee and, therefore, the suit was not barred. EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Church & School, 597 F.3d 769 (6th Cir. 2010). The 6th Cir. Opinion can be found here: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/10a0065p-06.pdf Appealing to the Supreme Court, the employer argued that the 6th Circuit’s test was improper - that the test should not compare time spent in secular and religious instruction because those minutes do not measure the importance of an individual’s religious functions and request a broader exception.