Today, Governor Quinn approved the amendment to the Human Rights Act that requires employers to reasonably accommodate pregnancies.  The amendment takes effect January 1, 2015.  

To learn more about the amendment, read our blog post from 5/28/14.
 
 
FMLA
Employee Langenbach claimed that Wal-Mart fired her in retaliation for exercising her FMLA rights as she was fired just five months after returning from FMLA leave, in violation of the FMLA. However, Wal-Mart claimed that Langenbach was fired for job performance reasons. 


The Seventh Circuit held that the record showed a history of deficiencies and sub-par performance by Langenbach both before and after the FMLA leave of absence.  Therefore, it affirmed the grant of Wal-Mart's motion for summary judgment. Langenbach v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 14-1022 (August 4, 2014).

Lagenbach also sued for Title VII discrimination, claiming that Wal-Mart: (1) delayed her promotion to assistant manager; (2) paid her less than her male counterparts; and (3) failed to promote her further - all because of her gender.  The District Court granted summary judgment to Wal-Mart on this claim as well.  The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the proffered male comparatives, who were promoted in faster time frame, had different educational backgrounds and more relevant job experiences than plaintiff. 

 
 
Plaintiff Matthews brought a Title VII action alleging that Waukesha County failed to hire her in an Economic Support Specialist position because of her race.  

However, the Seventh Circuit held that the record showed that the person evaluating the applicants’ resumes was unaware of the race of any applicant, and that the successful candidate had more relevant job experience.  Therefore, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the District Court, which granted Waukesha’s motion for summary judgment.  Matthews v. Waukesha County, No. 13-1839 (July 22, 2014).

 
 
The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer and the Seventh Circuit reversed. Malin v. Hospira, Inc., No. 13-2433 (7th Cir., August 7, 2014).

In the unerlying action, Plaintiff Malin sued Hospira for failing to promote her and demoting her in a reorganization thus retaliating against her in violation of Title VII and the FMLA.

Malin argued that complained about sexual harassment in 2003 and was then demoted in a 2006 reorganization.  The Seventh Circuit focused on whether there was a causal connection between the complaint and demotion, holding that there was.  The Court noted that "the mere passage of time is not legally conclusive proof against retaliation" and noted that the employer had repeatedly retaliated against Malin from 2003 through 2006.

Malin requested FMLA leave on June 19, 2006, and the reorganization was announced on July 12, 2006.  The Court held that 
a "single event can have multiple but-for causes, so Malin’s FMLA leave request and her sexual harassment complaint could both have been but-for causes of Hospira’s allegedly retaliatory conduct." Further, a reasonable jury could find that Hospira retaliated against Malin for requesting FMLA leave.  

Finally, the Court noted its "disappointment" with Hospira's summary judgement motion, which "misrepresented the record" and "cherry-picked" phrases from plaintiffs deposition, when no admissions existed.  The Court warned about the additional costs and risks of sanctions for "engaging in these shenanigans" under 28 USC  § 1927.
 
 
Female and male
The Seventh Cir. held that that there was a genuine issue of material fact in plaintiff's gender discrimination and hostile environment Title VII claims, therefore, it reversed the District Court. Orton-Bell v. State of Indiana, No. 13-1235 (July 21, 2014).  It affirmed the summary judgement as to her retaliation claim. 

The Seventh Circuit held that Orton-Bell could establish a sex discrimination claim based on disparate treatment as her male-coworker was a comparator where (1) both she and her male co-worker were fired for having sexual affair; and (2) her male co-worker was allowed to return to his job on contractual basis, while the defendant barred the plaintiff from returning to her job in any capacity. 

With regard to hostile envir
onment, the Seventh Circuit held that Orton-Bell could establish hostile environment claim because her supervisors "failed to remedy the severely sexualized climate at the prison" where her supervisor and co-workers subjected her to a never-ending barrage of sexual comments and overly-through pat-downs in her prison job.  

Finally, As Orton-Bell could not establish that employees having sex on her desk was grounded in her protected status, her complaints about them were not protected complaints, therefore, her retaliation claim fails.

 
 
ADA
The Seventh Circuit upheld the summary judgment ruling in favor of the employer, Jewel.  Reeves v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., No. 13-3782 (July 17, 2014).

In the underlying action, plaintiff Reeves alleged that Jewel fired him because of his mental disability cased by Down Syndrome, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").

The Seventh Circuit took the position that Reeve's requests for accommodation (job coaching) in March 2005 did not pertain to assisting him in curbing his verbal outbursts towards his co-workers which resulted in his termination in April 2005. Therefore, it held that Reeves could not establish viable failure to accommodate claim.

The Seventh Circuit also held that the record showed that Jewel fired Reeves after receiving a report that Reeves had cursed at co-worker in violation of company policy.   

 
 
On July 14, 2014, the EEOC issued a new Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination. The guidance summarizes the changes over the past few decades in the laws that affect pregnant employees.  Some key points include:
  1. “Same treatment” means that pregnant employees are entitled to light duty work if the employer provides light duty work to other employees – and this also means that policies that limit light duty work to on-the-job injuries are discriminatory.
  2. Lactation is a pregnancy-related medical condition for the purposes of the PDA, meaning that employers cannot discriminate against an employee because she is breastfeeding or needs breaks to express milk.
  3. Fathers must be given the same amount of child care leave as mothers. Employers can give birth mothers longer leave, whether paid or unpaid, as long as the difference is attributable to the time the mothers need for childbirth and recovery.
  4. It is illegal for employers to: (a) discriminate against women because they might become pregnant at some point in the future; (b) make employment decisions are based on stereotypes and assumptions about pregnant employees; and (c) force pregnant workers out on leave if they are able to do their jobs.
The guide can be found here
 
 
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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. 

 
 
Medical Leave Request
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.