Articles Posted in U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

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After his employment with the town was terminated, the plaintiff sought benefits under the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act. The town opposed his claim, arguing that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he had constructively resigned “without good cause” by failing to obtain a commercial driver’s license within one year of starting work, a condition of his employment. The department agreed with the town. The plaintiff unsuccessfully appealed. He then sued in federal court under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming that he was fired in violation of his rights to due process of law and freedom of speech. The district court dismissed the claim as barred by collateral estoppel. The Seventh Circuit reversed, reasoning that the Illinois statute, 820 ILCS 405/1900(B), denies collateral estoppel effect to rulings in unemployment insurance proceedings. View "Council v. Village of Dolton" on Justia Law

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Hansen’s employer has an attendance policy, under which employees accumulate points for unexcused absences. When an employee incurs 10 points within a year, his employment is subject to termination. Leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601–2654 is not counted. As of May 2, 2011, Hansen had nine points. He was absent from work from May 3-6 and May 9. On May 3, he requested FMLA leave for depression. On May 11, he provided medical certification, documenting episodic flare-ups periodically preventing him from performing his job. Hansen’s absences earlier that month were approved as FMLA leave. Hansen requested FMLA leave for eight days in June and incurred no attendance points for these absences. Based on the doctor’s faxed response to an inquiry, three subsequent requests were denied. Hansen accumulated 13 points in one year and his employment was terminated because he “exceeded [his] frequency” under which he could “miss 4 times every 6 months.” Later, the doctor sent a letter, modifying his original certification. The letter did not mention the July absences. The company did not retract the termination. Hansen sued under the FMLA alleging interference and retaliation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer, holding that without expert testimony Hansen could not show that his serious health condition rendered him unable to work during the absences for which he was terminated. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The law does not require a plaintiff to present expert testimony as to his incapacity, and Hansen’s evidence has raised a genuine issue of material fact for trial. View "Hansen v. Fincantieri Marine Grp LLC" on Justia Law

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Deputy Sheriff Sergeant Graber worked at the Milwaukee County jail and was vice president of the union. A child was killed when a concrete slab fell from a county park structure. Captain Meverden was the incident commander on the scene; he immediately assigned deputy sheriffs at the jail the task of securing the perimeter. The deputies were informed to stay for mandatory overtime even if their usual shifts were over. Meverden ordered Sergeant Mascari to ask for volunteers to comply with the collective bargaining agreement. Graber arrived for his shift as Intake Booking Sergeant; he was not sent to the park and did not have any staffing responsibilities. A fellow deputy who had been assigned to secure the park approached Graber and complained about the mandatory overtime. Graber took the position that the mandatory overtime violated the collective bargaining agreement. Meverden stated that the mandatory overtime was necessary because volunteers could not be mobilized quickly enough. Following a series of subsequent events, Graber received a seven-day suspension, purportedly unrelated to the staffing issue. The suspension was overturned by an arbitrator. Graber sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging violations of rights to free speech and association and the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights. The district court dismissed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Graber failed to establish a causal connection between his constitutionally protected speech and an adverse employment action. View "Graber v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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The Union filed suit against a nuclear energy facility to compel arbitration after a union employee was discharged without just cause. The court reversed the district court's denial of the Union's motion to compel arbitration where the Union's grievance, on its face, clearly falls within the scope of the arbitration clause. View "Int'l Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. NextEra Energy Point Beach LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her employer, alleging claims of retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. Plaintiff also alleged that her employer and several managers retaliated against her in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 28 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. The court rejected the idea that the passage of a particular amount of time between protected activity and retaliation can bar the claim as a matter of law. In this case, plaintiff has offered evidence of other retaliatory behavior between her 2003 sexual harassment complaint and the 2006 reorganizations and demotion that bridged the gap between the two events, leaving the issues of causation for a jury. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for trial. View "Malin v. Hospira, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Hayssen and its employees were parties to a Plant Closing Agreement that promised medical benefits upon retirement. In 1996, Bemis acquired Hayssen and assumed its obligations. Bemis reduced benefits under the Agreement: increasing co-pays and deductibles and eliminating its prescription drug program. Former employees sued under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132, and the Labor-Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185(a). The court certified a class, but granted summary judgment to Bemis, reasoning that the Agreement did not establish a lifetime interest in a certain level of benefits. About a month later, Bemis eliminated all medical benefits under the Agreement. The Seventh Circuit reversed, concluding that the parties intended to provide lifetime medical coverage. On remand, the court granted a preliminary injunction forcing Bemis to restore the benefits eliminated in 2009 and provide a basic Medicare Part D drug benefit. The court awarded fees and costs, finding that the company’s position was not substantially justified. The judge struck billing entries that were vague or for time not reasonably expended on the case, concluded that the lawyers’ billing rates were reasonable, and calculated the lodestar amount to reach an award of $403,053.75, for four years of advocacy, including an appeal and trial preparation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Temme v. Bemis Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Langenbach began stocking shelves for Wal-Mart in 1998. The next year, she was promoted. In 2001, she was again promoted. Langenbach was admitted to Wal-Mart’s Management-In-Training program in 2008. In her first evaluation as an Assistant Manager, she was rated as a “Solid Performer” with noted deficiencies. Later that year, Langenbach was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan. The PIP was never completed. Her managers did not hold the anticipated follow-up meetings. She later received a comment that she was not following management routines and frequently failed to complete her duties on time. At her 2010 review, Langenbach received a competency score of 2.63 out of 5 and a rating of “Development Needed,” noting specific issues. That month, Langenbach needed surgery and was granted leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Her next evaluation assessed overall competency at 2.26 out of 5 and rated her as “Development Needed.” Langenbach was again placed on a Performance Improvement Plan. At three follow-up sessions, she was rated as “Below Expectations.” She was terminated five months after returning from leave. The district court rejected claims that Wal-Mart retaliated against her for exercising her FMLA rights and discriminated against her by delaying her promotion, paying her less than her male counterparts, and refusing to promote her further. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "Langenbach v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2005, General Warehouse, an employer obligated to contribute to the Central States Pension Fund on behalf of certain employees ceased to have an obligation to the Fund, which led to a complete withdrawal, incurring withdrawal liability of $1,262,568. Under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act, 29 U.S.C. 1301(b)(1), if a withdrawing employer is unable to pay in full, a pension plan can recover the deficiency jointly and severally from any other business under common control with the withdrawing The Fund sued to collect from General Warehouse, GEOBEO and other businesses under common control. The parties entered into a consent judgment, acknowledging that the named defendants were jointly and severally liable. The Fund then initiated an action to add the defendants to the group of business entities from which it can collect. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Fund. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding “overwhelming evidence” that the entities were under common control. View "Cent. States, Southeast SE & SW Areas Pension Fund v. CLP Venture LLC" on Justia Law

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A strike against the hotel began in 2003, but apparently escalated in 2008, when the union pursued a more aggressive strategy. It began engaging in secondary activity by targeting organizations that had made arrangements to reserve large blocks of rooms or space at the hotel, in the hopes that they would cancel their plans and pressure the hotel to end the strike. The union would send delegations, consisting of striking hotel workers and union staff in groups of two-10 people, to the stores and offices of potential hotel patrons. The hotel claims that these delegations violated 29 U.S.C. 187(a) and 29 U.S.C. 158(b)(4)(ii)(B) by coercing the customers into cancelling their agreements to book rooms. Although the strike ended in 2013, the hotel sought damages for past activity. At the close of discovery, the district court granted the union summary judgment, finding that the union’s conduct was not coercive, and that barring it as a matter of federal labor law would raise important free speech concerns. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part and remanded for a trial regarding whether certain of the union’s actions were coercive, whether any such coercive conduct damaged the hotel, and if so, to what extent. View "520 S. MI Ave. Assocs., Ltd. v. Unite Here Local 1" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Matthews, an African-American woman, applied for two open positions in Waukesha County: Economic Support Specialist and Economic Support Supervisor. She was not hired, and filed suit, alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of race, in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and 42 U.S.C. 1983.Matthews dismissed her claim related to the Supervisor position. With respect to the Specialist position, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that the county articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory basis for its hiring decision. View "Matthews v. Waukesha Cnty." on Justia Law