The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court erred in granting defendant-employer's motion to dismiss employee Lavalais' race discrimination claim. Lavalais v. Village of Melrose Park, No. 13-1200 (October 24, 2013).The race discrimination claim alleged that the Village treated similarly-situated police officers more favorably "as to policies and re-assigment" because the Village placed Sergeant Lavalais on the midnight shift indefinitely because of his race, refusing to re-assign him to another shift.The Seventh Circuit rejected the Village's argued that the race discrimination claim was untimely because it was not measured from the initial placement on midnight shift, but from the request to transfer him to different shift. Furthermore, the Seventh Circuit rejected the Village's argument that the transfer denial claim was not within scope of original EEOC charge. Finally, the Seventh Circuit held that Lavalais' claim alleged a sufficient material adverse act where he asserted that his placement on the midnight shift was tantamount to stripping him of his authority as sergeant on force.
The Seventh Circuit reversed the District Court in Mullin v. Temco Machinery, Inc., No. 13-1338, in favor of the employee. (October 10, 2013).
The District Court had granted the employer Temco’s motion for summary judgment in the ADEA action. The employee Mullin claimed that Temco fired him from his fire-truck salesman job because of his age, 56 years old.
The Seventh Circuit explained that the record contained a triable issue regarding the actual reason for the employee's termination where the record showed: 1. Temco had recently terminated another 50-year-old salesman and replaced him with younger employee; 2. Temco's initial explanation that Mullin, who was top selling salesman, was too expensive to employ was contradicted by fact that the employer replaced Mullin with two younger, inexperienced employees at little cost savings 3. A factual dispute existed as to whether Mullin actually failed to show up to work, leaving several visitors to wander around the plant unsupervised. While his supervisor said that was the case, the visitors each gave depositions confirming that Mullin was with them at all times and gave them a good tour; and4. The record did not support Temco's claim that Mullin was underperforming in terms of sales at time he was fired.
The Seventh Circuit reversed the District Court in Perez v. Thornton's, Inc. on September 30, 2012. No. 12-3669. The District Court had granted the employer's motion for summary judgment in the Title VII action, which alleged that the employer fired Ms. Perez from her store manager position because of her gender and national origin.
The Seventh Circuit lead with pointing out that "All employees, not only perfect employees, are protected by Title VII."
The Seventh Circuit held that Ms. Perez could survive summary judgment both under the direct method and indirect method of proving her claim.
The Seventh Circuit noted that the record supported the employer's conclusion that Ms. Perez had committed a workplace infraction by selling large quantity of candy to herself at unauthorized discount price. However, the Seventh Circuit held a jury could conclude that the employer gave unwarranted preferential treatment to Ms. Perez's male, non-Hispanic supervisor, when it failed to fire him for committing similar infraction. (He made up a fake purchase on his personal credit card for beer in an effort to cover up fact that the store had been missing a quantity of beer.) The fact that the supervisor’s actions did not cause loss to defendant did not require different result since both infractions were sufficiently similar to require jury to resolve instant disparate treatment claim.
The Seventh Circuit further rejected the employer's argument that Ms. Perez could not contest the employer's claim that different supervisors made the decisions, so as to preclude Ms. Perez from establishing disparate treatment claim, even though Ms. Perez had admitted such in response to the employer's Rule 56.1 statement, because the Seventh Circuit found that the employer had undermined its own Rule 56.1 statement through presentation of contradictory assertions and evidence.
Ms. Perez's manager told her that “he [didn’t] want to work with [a] woman;” “this is the reason why I don’t like to work with women, always have something to do with the kids or they have a period;” and that he “did not like” Hispanics.
In Tank v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 2013 WL 4401375, the Northern District of Illinois examined res judicata and claim-splitting doctrines in an employment discrimination suit.
In 2012, Tank sued T-Mobile for employment discrimination and for violating the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (“TCA”), which makes it illegal to access customers’ cell phone records without consent. Tank claimed that T-Mobile accessed his cell phone records while investigating him after he filed an EEOC charge.
Tank previously sued T-Moble for discrimination in 2011. After Tank filed his second suit in 2012. T-Mobile moved to dismiss based on res judicata and claim-splitting which prevent repetitive or duplicative litigation.
Res judicata requires: (1) an identity of causes of actions (the second claim is based on the same core of operative facts as the previously litigated “first” claim); (2) identity of parties or their privies; and (3) a final judgment on the merits. Res judicata is used for separate, sequential lawsuits, while claim-splitting applies to currently pending lawsuits without final judgment where the two pending lawsuits are duplicative.
The Court denied T-Mobile's motion to dismiss Tank's TCA claim and granted the motion to dismiss his employment discrimination claims because the core of underlying facts giving rise to the 2011 suit differed from the 2012 suit with regard to the TCA violation.
The Seventh Circuit ruled in Bates v. City of Chicago, No. 12-1500 on August 9, 2013, affirming the grant of the employer’s motion for summary judgment.
The case alleged violations of Title VII because the employer purportedly demoted the firefighter from his District Chief position to Deputy District Chief position on account of his race.
However, the record:
(1) Showed that the firefighter’s replacement shared plaintiff’s African-American race.
(2) Failed to contain evidence that the firefighter was treated worse than similarly-situated co-workers (where five of eight demotions were of non-African-Americans).
(3) Failed to show that defendant’s explanation for his demotion, that plaintiff did not share decision-maker’s management style, was pretextual.
Three former employees sued Target for discrimination and retaliation, citing, among other things, racial slurs from managers and a training document (for managers) titled, “Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips.” According to the complaint, the training manual “instructs managers to note differences among Hispanic employees, and states the following:
a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;
b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;
c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;
d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);
e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher education level); and
f. They may say 'OK, OK' and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.”
The lawsuit, Robert N. Gonzalez, Bulmaro Fabian, Pedro-Garcia-Ayala v. Target Corp. was filed on June 21, 2013, in Yolo Superior Court (California state court). The full complaint can be found here.
On June 24, 2013, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a person must be able to hire and fire someone to be considered a supervisor in discrimination lawsuits, making it harder to blame a business for a co-worker's racism or sexism. Vance v. Ball State University, 11-556.
Maetta Vance accused a co-worker (Davis) of racial harassment and retaliation in 2005. Vance sued the school under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying the university was liable since Davis was her supervisor. The District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying that since Davis could not fire Vance, she was only a co-worker, and since the university had taken corrective action, it was not liable for Davis' actions. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision, and Vance appealed to the Supreme Court.
In Justice Samuel Alito's majority opinion, he said that for the university to be liable, Davis must have had the authority to "hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline" Vance. Therefore, the Supreme Court held that "an employee is a `supervisor' for purpose of vicarious liability under Title VII if he or she is empowered by the employer to take tangible employment actions against the victim." Furthermore, "Because there is no evidence that BSU empowered Davis to take any tangible employment actions against Vance, the judgment of the Seventh Circuit is affirmed."
Alito shook his head as Ginsburg read her dissent of his opinion. Justice Ginsburg explained that "[t]he Court's disregard for the realities of the workplace means that many victims of workplace harassment will have no effective remedy."
Ginsburg said she hopes Congress intervenes "to correct this Court's wayward interpretations of Title VII."
On June 11, 2013, the Seventh Circuit ruled in Hitchcock v. Angel Corps, Inc., No. 12-3515. The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court had erred in granting the employer’s motion for summary judgment in a Pregnancy Discrimination Act action.The employee claimed that the employer had terminated her after learning of her pregnancy and showed that her supervisor gave the her extra duties shortly after learning of her pregnancy. Furthermore, the employer provided shifting and implausible reasons for the employee's termination. In addition, the supervisor’s anti-pregnancy animosity was evident because the supervisor asked the employee if she was quitting after the birth of her child and suggested to pregnant co-worker that she should get abortion because pregnancy could lead to attendance problems.
On May 29, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued a trucking company for allegedly violating the religious rights of two former employees in U.S. District Court in Peoria.
The suit claims that Star Transport, Inc.: (1) fired the two Muslim truck drivers because they refused to deliver alcohol in 2009; (2) failed to provide the two men with a reasonable accommodation; and (3) terminated them because of their religion.
On May 28, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a order denying United Airlines' request for appeal of the September 7, 2012, Seventh Circuit decision in EEOC v. United Airlines, Case No. 11-1774.
The Seventh Circuit decision held that employees have the right to seek reassignment to vacant positions as a form of reasonable accommodation for their disabilities. For more on the underlying case, read here.