Seventh Circuit Seal
A former member of a law firm sued the firm for breech of his employment contract. Hess v. Kanosky Bresney, No. 14-1921 (May 4, 2015). The member sought legal fees from the settlement of cases worked on by him that the firm had received after he had been fired. The firm moved for summary judgment. The District Court granted the motion.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed.  It held that the terms of the contract allowed the former member to obtain percentage of legal fees received by the firm during time of his employment. Moreover, at time the member was fired, there was no guarantee that any of his efforts would result in contingent fees accruing in cases at issue. As such, the plaintiff had no right under agreement to fees received from cases that had settled after effective date of his termination.

The Supreme Court held that a courts have authority to review whether the EEOC has fulfilled its statutory obligation to attempt conciliation of claims before suing an employer for employment discrimination under Title VII. Mach Mining v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (12-1019) April 2, 2015. 

However this review is narrow, enforcing only the EEOC's statutory obligation under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b) to give the employer notice and an opportunity to achieve voluntary compliance.

The EEOC has extensive discretion under Title VII to determine what kind and amount of communication with an employer is appropriate in any given case. Thus, the Court made held: "A sworn affidavit from the EEOC stating that it has performed the obligations noted above but that its efforts have failed will usually suffice to show that it has met the conciliation requirement."

However, should the obligation not be met, the remedy is not dismissal, but remand to the EEOC for further settlement efforts. "Should the court find in favor of the employer, the appropriate remedy is to order the EEOC to undertake the mandated efforts to obtain voluntary compliance. See §2000e-5(f)(1) (authorizing a stay of a Title VII action for that purpose)." 

Clock spiral
Plaintiffs (window-washers) sued defendant for overtime pay under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Alvarado v. Corporate Cleaning Services, Inc., No. 13-3818 (7th Cir. April 1, 2015). The employer moved for summary judgement and the District Court granted the motion, finding that the defendant was not required to pay plaintiffs overtime pay under FLSA.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed. It held that the record showed that: (1) plaintiffs' regular pay exceeded 1.5 times federal minimum wage; (2) more than half of plaintiffs' compensation was in form of commissions pursuant to a "point system;" and (3) defendant's business qualified as retail or service establishment. The Seventh Circuit also held that the fact that plaintiffs worked irregular hours and days at various times of year that often included working more than 8 hours per day justified exemption from overtime pay requirement. 

The Seventh Circuit rejected plaintiff's argument that the defendant did not qualify as retail or service establishment since, according to plaintiffs, defendant's sale of its window-washer services lacked retail concept. 

The City of Des Plaines fired Police Officer Bueno after investigating allegations that he used unnecessary or excessive force against arrestees and failed to report it. City of Des Plaines v. Metropolitan Alliance of Police Chapter No. 240, 2015 Ill. App. (1st) 140957 (March 31, 2015). The Union, representing Bueno, submitted his grievance to arbitration. The arbitrator concluded that Bueno had violated certain General Orders, but found that his termination was not appropriate based on due process concerns - namely City's delay in investigating and department's condoning conduct. 

The City filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award as it violated public policy. The circuit court agreed with the City but also denied the Union's motion to remand to the arbitrator for additional findings concerning Bueno's likelihood of engaging in the same misconduct following reinstatement. The Union appealed.

The Appellate Court reversed the circuit court's judgment and remand the matter for further proceedings.  It held that 
the arbitrator's award was incomplete, as it did not include any findings from which to infer that the arbitrator found Bueno was unlikely to reengage in offending conduct upon his reinstatement, which is necessary to fully assess public policy implications of reemployment.

Plaintiff, a registered nurse, sued her employer for retaliating against her based on her refusal to follow her supervisor's instructions to falsify residents' medication administration records in violation of the Whistleblower Act. Young v. Alden Gardens of Waterford, LLC, 2015 Ill. App (1st) 131887 (March 31, 2015). The jury found that the long-term care facility was liable and the Circuit Court awarded attorney's fees to the Plaintiff.

The Appellate Court found that the award of attorney's fees was within the Circuit Court's discretion and not contrary to manifest weight of evidence. The Appellate Court further held that evidentiary hearings are not required, as a matter of course, on fee petitions, but only where other party's response raises issue of fact that cannot be resolved without hearing further evidence.

Prescription drugs. Image from Wikipedia, Created by en:User:Sponge
Plaintiff was deputy sheriff for 32 years, and was randomly selected for drug testing. Walker v. Dart, 2015 Ill. App. (1st) 140087 (March 27, 2015). He tested positive for a controlled substance, but provided prescriptions from 1995 and 2000 to explain the result. 

The Merit Board found that Plaintiff’s prescriptions were not valid prescriptions, and that use of them was abuse of prescription. Therefore, the Merit Board fired Plaintiff for violating the Sheriff's Drug Free Work Place policy. 

On appeal the the Illinois Appellate Court, the court noted that the policy did not prohibit the use of prescription medication beyond a certain date. Thus, it reversed, holding that the Sheriff cannot terminate employees for violating unwritten policies.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Seal
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) addressed the question of whether the Board should order the conditional reinstatement of employees who, at the time they were unlawfully discharged by Respondent, lacked proper documentation to work in the United States. Mezonos Maven Bakery, Inc. and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, 29-CA-025476 (March 27, 2015).

The NLRB affirmed that Hoffman Plastic precludes a backpay award in such a situation, but noted that the Hoffman Plastic decision is silent as to reinstatement. The NLRB held that conditional reinstatement remains an appropriate remedy where undocumented workers are fired in violation of the Act.

Pregnant Woman
Employee Young was pregnant and requested light duty work.  Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 12-1226 (March 25, 2015). Her employer, defendant UPS, denied her light duty for her pregnancy lifting restriction. Young brought suit against UPS for unlawfully refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restriction. Young also alleged that UPS had, pursuant to its internal policies, accommodated several individuals whose disabilities created work restrictions similar to hers. UPS moved for summary judgement, which the District Court granted and the Fourth Circuit affirmed. 

The Supreme Court  vacated and the case and remanded. It held that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires that employers provide similar accommodations as they do to any other persons who are similar in their ability or inability to work.  This holding is constant with the EEOC's guidelines.

The Supreme Court went on the explain that a pregnant worker can make a prima facie case of disparate treatment under McDonnell Douglas by showing that she (1) belongs to the protected class, (2) that she requested accommodation, (3) that the employer did not accommodate her, and (4) that the employer did accommodate others similarly situated in their ability to work.  As the record contained sufficient evidence, there was a genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation could not reasonably be distinguished from Young's.

Plaintiff McCleary filed a complaint against his former employer for breach of contract, violation of Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), and unjust enrichment. McCleary v. Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, 2015 Ill. App. 141287 (March 17, 2015, opinion corrected March 23, 2015). 

Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/2-615, arguing that it had the full discretion to deny plaintiff a bonus and, thus, plaintiff can never seek a legal remedy for an abuse of that discretion, among other things. 

The Circuit Court agreed with the Defendant and found that the language of the Plan gave the defendant the "absolute discretion to determine whether a bonus should be awarded and, if so, the amount, ultimately undermines the claim here on all counts." Thus, the Circuit Court dismissed the complaint.

However, the Appellate Court reversed, holding that the employer's discretion to award bonuses under "Group Bonus Plan" did not foreclose Plaintiff from seeking remedy based on breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing for abuse of that discretion.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Judge Dow entered a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Chicago Transit Authority from disciplining or threatening to discipline employees for passing out fliers supporting Garcia and opposing Mayor Emanuel. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 & ATU Local 308 v. Chicago Transit Authority, 2015-cv-02776 (April 3, 2015).

ATU Locals 241 and 308 asked for the order, arguing that the CTA allowed campaigning in break rooms for years and only prohibited the practice after the union endorsed Garcia, thus the CTA infringed on workers' First Amendment rights regarding freedom of speech.

The CTA denied the Union's claim, saying Illinois' ethics and political rights laws ban any political activities at the workplace, including break rooms.

While the temporary restraining order was granted, questions still remain as to Illinois law distinctions based on whether the worker is "at work or on duty" or not.