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The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court did not err in granting the employer's motion for summary judgment.  Hutt v. AbbVie Products LLC, No. 13-1481 (July 7, 2014).  

In the suit, employee Hutt claimed that her employer placed her on warning status and gave her poor job performance ratings that affected her ability to obtain bonuses, because of her age and in retaliation for having filed EEOC charge.

The Court held that Hutt failed to establish evidence of a similarly-situated younger co-worker who received more favorable treatment and that the fact that the supervisor requested that all the employees provide their birth dates did not constitute direct evidence of age discrimination. Furthermore, Hutt could not establish causal connection between her EEOC charge and warning status/ratings, where she had already been placed on a warning status at time she filed her charge, and where she could only speculate that her continued warning status was because of the filing. 

 
 
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The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court erred in granting the employer's motion for summary judgment in an FMLA action.  Gienapp v. Harbor Crest, No. 14-1053 (June 24, 2014).

In the underlying action, the employee alleged that her employer violated her rights under FMLA by assigning her job to a third-party when she attempted to come back to her job after taking care of the medical needs of her adult child. 

The Court held that Harbor Crest could not argue that Gienapp failed to keep it adequately informed about the nature of the leave, even though Gienapp failed to indicate on her FMLA form as to when she anticipated her return to work, because she regularly contacted Harbor Crest throughout her leave, and the employer could have clarified her return-to-work date during these contacts. 

Furthermore, Gienapp's care of her adult child was covered under FMLA.  The Court also rejected defendant's claim that time spent by Gienapp taking care of adult child's children disqualified her from taking any FMLA leave.

 
 
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The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court did not err in granting the employer's motion for summary judgment. Nichols v. Michigan City Plant Planning Dept., No. 13-2893 (June 19, 2014).

The employee alleged that his employer subjected him to a hostile working environment and fired him because of his race. Nichols argued that he established viable claim where he alleged that co-workers call him "boy" and "black nigger” and interfered with various job assignments as custodian. However, the Court held that because there were only six instances over a two-and-a-half week period, they were not sufficiently severe or pervasive to establish viable harassment claim. 

Furthermore, Nichols failed to establish that his termination was based on race when: (1) he was terminated after three co-workers reported that he was acting strangely that day; (2) he was going to be terminated the following week in favor of a permanent employee regardless of his job performance; and (3) Nichols failed to present evidence of comparative co-worker who was treated more favorably. 

 
 
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Employee Huang alleged that his former employer violated Title VII when it fired him from his position because of his Chinese race and in retaliation for complaining about workplace issues. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer and the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Huang v. Continental Casualty Co., No. 12-1300 (June 13, 2014).

The Seventh Circuit held that the record showed that Huang was fired because he consistently refused to accept weekend work as other members of his team were required to do. The Seventh Circuit rejected Huang's argument that the employer could not require him to do weekend work, where that requirement was not in original job description. Huang's offer to work Sunday did not require different result, where others were required to work both weekend days. 

The Seventh Circuit held that summary judgment was appropriate on retaliation claim, where subject matter of plaintiff's protests did not pertain to unlawful discrimination. 

 
 
Today, the Supreme Court ruled that for-profit employers with religious objections can opt out of providing contraception coverage under Obamacare in a 5-4 decision. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

The decision marks the first time that the Supreme Court has allowed companies the ability to declare a religious belief.

In the opinion, Justice Samuel Alito stated, “We doubt that the Congress that enacted [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] — or . . . would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans."

The dissent expressed shock at the decision's “startling breadth”, explaining that it allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent, warned that the ruling that would have wide repercussions and “untoward effects.”  Further noting that “Although the court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private.”
 
 
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The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court erred in entering judgement in favor of the defendant employer in a Title VII suit.  Whitfield v. International Truck and Engine Corp., No. 13-1876 (June 6, 2014).

In the underlying action, employee Whitfield alleged that the defendant failed to hire him for an electrician position because of his race, African-American. The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court:


(1) gave an implausible explanation for why the term "black” was contained in cover sheet of Whitfield's personnel file, as the company's "own human resources manager, Jeff Thatcher, admitted that he did not know of any reason why 'black' was written on Whitfield's file and that it must have been a mistake" and

(2) improperly ignored extensive evidence of a racially hostile work environment. The fact that the defendant had hired one African-American electrician near time of Whitfield's application did not matter because: (a) the other applicant, who had extensive experience, was finally hired after her application had been pending for two years; (b) 11 white electricians had been hired during same period; and (c) the other applicant was first African-American electrician that defendant had hired in decades.

 
 
The Illinois Supreme Court amended Supreme Court Rules 201 and 214 effective July 1, 2014, to make discovery of electronically stored information (ESI), more efficient.

Among other things, the changes add a definition of ESI to the court’s discovery rules for the first time.

Rule 201 now includes a provision to prevent abuse where the discovery requests are “disproportionate" in terms of "burden or expense.”  The notes specifically address "unallocated" data and metadata as areas of concern regarding burden, citing the 
Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Committee, "Principles Relating to the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information," Principle 2.04(d). 

Rule 214 was revised remove the requirement that ESI be provided in print form, and further stated that “if a request does not specify a form for producing electronically stored information, a party must produce it in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form or forms.”

See the new rules here.
 
 
On May 28, 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court granted a petition for leave to appeal in Michael v. Precision Alliance Group., No. 117376, 5th Dist. 

The question presented is whether the Court properly required former employees to "prove" defendant's articulated reason for firing plaintiffs was untrue.

More specifically, in the underlying case, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant terminated plaintiffs in retaliation for providing information to Illinois Bureau of Weights and Measures regarding sale of underweight seed bags. According to defendant, the trial court found that the defendant had valid, non-pretextual reason for terminating the plaintiffs.  

The Appellate Court, in entering judgment in plaintiffs' favor, found that trial court erred in requiring plaintiffs to prove not only that their terminations were based on plaintiffs' protected conduct, but also that defendant's proffered reasons for their terminations were untrue. In its petition for leave to appeal, defendant argued that Appellate Court improperly required it to "prove" its articulation for plaintiffs' terminations. 
 
 
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court's grant of summary judgement in favor of the defendant-employer.  Bunn v. Khoury Enterprises, Inc., No. 13-2292 (May 28, 2014).

Employee Bunn alleged that his employer violated the ADA when it failed to reasonably accommodate his visual disability and subjected him to disparate treatment by suspending him and reducing his hours.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed that the employer's proposed accommodation to restructure Bunn's job to require that he perform only those tasks in ice cream store that he could perform with his impairment was reasonable. The Seventh Circuit further noted that the fact that Bunn asked for different accommodations did not require a different result, as the proposed job restructuring provided the employee with equal employment opportunity. 

Additionally, Bunn failed to present evidence that his co-workers received more favorable treatment with respect to discipline or reduction in hours and that defendant's explanation that reduction in hours was based on loss of customer traffic during winter season was unworthy of belief.
 
 
Today, the Illinois House unanimously passed the Senate version of House Bill 8, which amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and related medical conditions.  The Senate had unanimously passed its version earlier this month.

The Bill also amends the anti-retaliation provision of the IHRA to outlaw retaliation for having requested, having attempted to request, having used, or having attempted to use a reasonable accommodation.  This relates to any request for reasonable accommodation under the Human Rights Act, not just those relating to pregnancy.

The Bill now goes to Governor Patrick Quinn for his signature.  If Governor Quinn signs the Bill, it becomes effective January 1, 2015.