The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court did not err in granting defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment in a Title VII action. Wilson v. Cook County, No. 13-1464 (February 10, 2014).The plaintiff, Wilson, alleged that the defendant's employee, Vanaria, promised Wilson a (phony) job to convince her to give him erotic massages and to engage in sexual conduct. Vanaria went to great lengths to convince Wilson that there was a position and that she was being interviewed, however no position existed and Vanaria had no authority to hire.The Seventh Circuit explained that Title VII protects job applicants even though there is no employer/employee relationship at time of adverse act. However, to use Title VII, a plaintiff must at least have been passed over for a job that actually existed before she can claim an "unlawful employment practice." Therefore, Wilson's failure to hire claim could not succeed since there was no “massage therapist” position to which plaintiff had applied.
The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court did not err in granting employer’s motion for summary judgment in a Title VII and ADEA action, where the employee claimed that her employer fired her from her because of her age and national origin. Zayas v. Rockford Memorial Hospital, No. 13-2555 (January 30, 2014).The Seventh Circuit explained that the record showed that Zayas was fired after she sent insubordinate emails to her supervisor after having been warned not to. The fact that Zayas was the oldest technician and that she was replaced by a younger employee alone was insufficient to establish a viable discrimination claim. Additionally, Zayas’s insubordinate emails established that she was not meeting the hospital's job expectations at time she was fired, and Zayas failed to present evidence that other employees were treated more favorably.
The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court did not err in denying defendant-employer’s motion for summary judgment in an action alleging FMLA violations. Despite the employee's loss, there is a silver lining for employees in that the court recognized ongoing care during "pleasure trips."Employee Ballard claimed that she was fired in violation of FMLA because she spent six days of unapproved absence taking care of her disabled mother during Las Vegas pleasure trip. While the Park District argued that her time spent during trip was not covered under FMLA because the trip was not related to the continuing course of medical treatment, the Court found that time spent on trip was covered under FMLA because Ballard tended to mother’s basic medical, hygienic, and nutritional needs during said trip.The Court addressed the Park District's concern that employees will abuse FMLA provisions by taking similar leaves by pointing out employers can insist that employees obtain certification for the trip by a medical provider.
Ballard v. Chicago Park District, No. 13-1445 (January 28, 2014).
The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court erred in granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment in an ADA action alleging that an employer terminated the plaintiff because of her narcolepsy disability. Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., No. 13-1708 (January 13, 2014).The District Court had found that the employer's issuance of an April 15, 2010 email notifying the plaintiff that she was suspended pending termination constituted plaintiff’s effective termination date, the Seventh Circuit he'd that it did not as it merely initiated investigation into her termination. Accordingly, plaintiff was still employed at time defendant became aware of her disability - the April 28, 2010 notification of plaintiff’s disability.Additionally, the employer failed to engage plaintiff in interactive process to determine an appropriate accommodation, management ignored the medical evaluation of plaintiff's narcolepsy, and plaintiff’s accommodation of additional time to seek medical testing and prescription to control her narcolepsy was readily available.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued a decision explaining "but for" causation. Burrage v. United States, 2014 WL 273243 (Jan. 27, 2014) (No. 12-7515).
While this was a criminal case, the Supreme Court construed the meaning of "but for" causation across the entire body of the law, explicitly clarifying its own precedents in employment discrimination law to mean that there can be more than one but-for cause. In discussing its prior opinions in University of Tex. Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 133 S.Ct. 2517, 2528 (2013), slip opinion at 11-12, and Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., 557 U.S. 167, 176 (2009), it quoted Nassar and Gross but substituted a bracketed "[a]" for the word "the" preceding the expression "'but for' cause." Accordingly, "but for" causation does not require a showing that an impermissible motive was the sole cause of the challenged action."
The Seventh Circuit held that the District Court (1) did not err in granting employer’s motion for summary judgment in employee’s Title VII and FLSA claims, but (2) did err in with regard to the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) retaliation claim in Gaines v. K-Five Construction Corp., No. 12-2249 (January 3, 2014).
Gaines alleged that K-Five fired him after K-Five had cited him for insubordination associated with his initial refusal to drive two trucks that had been assigned to him. However, Gaines failed to establish that a similarly situated peer (his co-worker, who had been accused of similar misconduct) had received more favorable treatment.
He also claimed unpaid wages for working an extra 15 minutes at the start of his shift. However, he could not demonstrate that he told anyone that he was working unauthorized overtime or that his notations at the bottom of his Daily Driver Report (DRR) were meant to indicate as such.
On the other hand, the Seventh Circuit held that the District Court erred in granting K-Five's motion for summary judgment in Gaines's STAA claim. There, Gaines alleged that he was fired in retaliation for complaining about safety of K-Five's trucks. The record showed that Gaines's concerns about driving both trucks was reasonable, as one had a steering-wheel problem and other had an unsafe tail pan. Furthermore, K-Five's discipline of Gaines revolved around his refusal to drive those trucks. Additionally, Gaines could also base an STAA claim on fact that he had previously filed a DRR complaint that one of K-Five's truck was unsafe, even though that complaint contained an inaccurate statement about the condition of truck, where Gaines had good-faith belief that he was complaining about safety of truck.
In EEOC v. Mach Mining LLC, No. 13-2456 (December 20, 2013), the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded the District Court's denial of the EEOC's motion for summary judgment.
The EEOC's motion challenged employer Mach Mining's affirmative defense which sought to dismiss the underlying discrimination claim on ground that EEOC failed to satisfy 42 USC § 2000e-5(b) - a mandate to make good faith effort to settle underlying claim prior to filing lawsuit in court.
The Seventh Circuit held that any alleged failure to conciliate underlying discrimination claim is not affirmative defense to merits of underlying claim because: (1) conciliation, as set forth in § 2000e-5(b), is informal process entrusted solely to EEOC’s expert judgment; and (2) any meaningful review regarding whether EEOC negotiated in good faith would require prohibited inquiry into substantive reasonableness of particular settlement offers.
Choate Law is pleased to announce that Antoinette Choate has been named 2014 Illinois Rising Stars by Super Lawyers magazine, as one of the top attorneys in Illinois. This is the 5th year she has been selected.
Rising Stars are top up-and-coming attorneys who are no more than 40 years old or who have been practicing for no more than 10 years. No more than 2.5 percent of lawyers in a state are named to Rising Stars.
Earlier this month, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court in its grant of defendant-employer’s motion for summary judgment. Diadenko v. Folino, No. 12-3091 (December 19, 2013).
The underlying case alleged that Chicago's Board of Education disciplined Diadenko, a special education teacher, in retaliation for her drafting a letter to the Chicago Mayor that was critical of the Board's special education program, in violation of section 1983.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed that Diadenko failed to present evidence that the contents of her letter played role in issuance of discipline, where: (1) the first suspension occurred prior to date letter was drafted; and (2) plaintiff failed to show that the relevant decision-maker was aware of letter at time the second suspension was issued.
The Seventh Circuit held that the Dist. Ct. erred in dismissing employee Gogos' ADA action. Gogos v. AMS Mechanical Systems, Inc., No. 13-2571 (December 16, 2013).
The suit claimed that the employer, AMS, fired Gogos because of his vision and circulatory problems caused by high blood pressure.
The Dist. Ct. found that Gogos could not establish that he was disabled under ADA because his medical conditions were only transitory.
However, the Seventh Circuit held that his periodic episodes of blood-pressure spikes and vision loss are covered disabilities when Gogos alleged that such episodes substantially impaired two major life activities (i.e. his circulatory function and eyesight.) Furthermore, Gogos' alleged chronic blood-pressure condition could also qualify as disability under 2008 Amendments to ADA, if Gogos could show that he would be substantially limited in major life activity without taking his medication.