Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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A union filed charges of unfair labor practices against Mondelez, a manufacturer of baked goods. An administrative law judge found that the company had unlawfully discharged union officials, 29 U.S.C. 158(a)(1), (3); made unilateral changes to various conditions of employment, related to short-term disability leave, union access to new hires, and employee shift schedules, section 158(a)(1), (5); and failed to timely and completely provide relevant information the union requested, section 158(a)(1), (5). The Board agreed. The Seventh Circuit granted the Board’s application for enforcement. The Board reasonably concluded that Mondelez’s justification for discharging the officials was pretextual. Substantial evidence supported the findings concerning unilateral changes to conditions of employment. It was reasonable for the Board to conclude that Mondelez failed to provide a complete record of the new hires as requested. View "Mondelez Global LLC v. National Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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Chatman, an African-American, worked as an instructor assistant, 1988-1996. From 1997-2009, she worked as a school library assistant. In 2009, the Board of Education informed her that it was eliminating her position. Chatman learned that the Board had replaced Chatman (age 62) with a younger, non-African American employee in the same role. Chatman filed a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the EEOC and then sued in Illinois state court. The Board settled. In addition to a monetary payment, the district was to arrange for interviews for open positions for which Chatman was qualified. Chatman began identifying available positions but did not receive any job offer. She filed a new charge with the EEOC and later filed suit, alleging violations of Title VII’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation provisions, and violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board, finding certain claims barred by the statute of limitations, and, regarding other positions, that Chatman could not establish that she was qualified for the positions, nor could she establish that the Board’s nondiscriminatory reasons for not offering her the positions were pretextual for discrimination. Chatman could not establish that she was denied a job because of her prior protected activity. View "Chatman v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Smith worked for PTI, a company that transports railroad crews to and from their workplaces. Believing that her position was misclassified under the Fair Labor Standards Act and that she was not receiving proper overtime wages, she filed a collective action 29 U.S.C. 216(b). Unlike a class action under FRCP 23(b)(3), an FLSA collective action requires group members to affirmatively opt-in to participate. Her suit was within the two-year limitation period. The district court’s docket sheet shows numerous putative group members consenting to opt-in.PTI noted that Smith had not filed anything except her complaint indicating that she herself wished to participate in the group action. The court held that Smith’s group action could not “commence” until such consent was filed, 29 U.S.C. 256, but the limitations periods had run. The court concluded that Smith’s complaint also failed to allege timely individual claims, and dismissed the case. Smith’s appeal concerned only her individual action. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The court erred by refusing to allow Smith to proceed on her individual claims. Read in the light most favorable to Smith, the complaint contained sufficient factual allegations related to her individual claims to put PTI on notice that she intended to sue it both in an individual and a representative capacity. She explicitly stated as much in the caption. View "Smith v. Professional Transportation,Inc." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs, pilot instructors for United Airlines, filed a class action against the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), their recognized agent for the purpose of collective bargaining, alleging that ALPA had violated its duty of fair representation under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 151, by adopting a retroactive pay provision that discriminated against pilot instructors.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. To establish a violation of the duty of fair representation, the plaintiffs were required to provide evidence from which a jury could conclude that ALPA’s sole motive in adopting the retroactive pay provision was an illicit one. While the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, could be read to support the proposition that ALPA’s adoption of the formula was motivated in part by animus toward the pilot instructor minority, the question is whether the evidence establishes that ALPA was motivated solely by a desire to discriminate against pilot instructors. There was evidence that some of the motivation for adopting the formula was a desire for a simple formula that could be easily defended. View "Bishop v. Air Line Pilots Association, International" on Justia Law

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Logan, an African American man, was a Chicago Aviation Security Officer. In 2015, he applied for a promotion. He was not selected but was placed on a “Pre-Qualified Candidates” list for future vacancies. Two sergeant positions became available. Logan was second on the list. The city informed him that a city policy made internal candidates ineligible for promotion if they had been suspended for more than seven days in the previous 12 months. Logan had been suspended for more than seven days in the previous year.Logan alleges that he was wrongfully singled out for discipline. After his suspension, Logan complained about being bullied at work and about “discrimination against black officers.” After he filed a grievance, an arbitrator concluded that while Logan committed misconduct sufficient to warrant discipline, the length of his suspension was excessive. The arbitrator ordered Logan's promotion with back pay and benefits.Logan then filed suit, alleging discrimination on the basis of his race and gender and retaliation under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Other than the fact that Logan is a member of a protected class, there is no evidence from which a reasonable juror could infer that his race caused him to be disciplined. Logan failed to show that his belief that he was opposing an unlawful employment practice was objectively reasonable. View "Logan v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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In his employment discrimination action, Nichols obtained a judgment of $1.5 million in damages (later reduced to the statutory cap of $300,000) and $952,156 in equitable relief. His attorney, Longo petitioned for $1,709,345 in attorneys’ fees and $4,460.47 in costs under Title VII’s fee-shifting provision, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(k). He submitted that his hourly rate was $550 and that he had worked 3,107.9 hours on Nichols’s case; he requested a 15% upward adjustment, arguing that Nichols’s case was “risky”; the successful outcome; and the deterrent impact of a large award.The Seventh Circuit affirmed an award of $774,584.50 in fees and $4,061.02 in costs. Relying on other then-recent fee awards for Longo, the court set the reasonable hourly rate at $360 for attorney work and $125 for paralegal work. The court reduced Longo’s request by 962.1 hours, including 109.2 hours that Longo had billed for trips from his office to the courthouse; 18.5 hours for paralegal work billed at an attorney’s rate; a 10% reduction (298.0 hours) for excessive billing for clerical work; and another 20% reduction (536.4 hours) for general excessive billing. The court permitted Longo 2,145.8 hours at an attorney’s rate and 18.5 hours at a paralegal’s rate and denied Longo fees for litigating the fee petition, noting Longo’s lack of billing judgment and overly voluminous petition. View "Nichols v. Illinois Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Deerfield. the general contractor, subcontracted with P.S. Demolition, which agreed to indemnify and hold Deerfield harmless from all claims caused in whole or in part by P.S. P.S. employees were working at the site when an unsecured capstone fell, killing one and injuring another. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act limited P.S.’s liability to $5,993.91 and $25,229.15. The state court held that P.S. had waived the Kotecki cap that would ordinarily apply those limits to a third party (Deerfield) suing for contribution for its pro-rata share of common liability for a workplace injury. A bankruptcy court determined that P.S. had no assets; the state court determined that P.S.’s liability was limited to its available insurance coverage. Deerfield settled with the plaintiffs for substantially more than $75,000 plus an assignment of Deerfield’s contribution claim against P.S.StarNet, P.S.’s employer liability insurer, entered into a settlement with the plaintiffs, reserving its defenses to insurance coverage. The plaintiffs dismissed their negligence claims against P.S. The workers’ compensation and employers' liability policy issued to P.S. provides that StarNet will pay damages for which P.S. is liable to indemnify third parties, excluding “liability assumed under a contract, including any agreement to waive your right to limit your liability for contribution to the amount of benefits payable under the Workers Compensation Act ... This exclusion does not apply to a warranty that your work will be done in a workmanlike manner.The Seventh Circuit affirmed a declaratory judgment that StarNet owes P.S. no coverage for the employees’ injuries beyond the amounts specified by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Kotecki cap. The court rejected arguments that P.S.’s liability in the personal injury action arose in part from P.S.’s failure to conduct the demolition in a workmanlike manner so that the exception applies. View "StarNet Insurance Co. v. Ruprecht" on Justia Law

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Daza worked as a geologist for INDOT from 1993 until the agency fired him in 2015. In 2017, he sued, citing 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 1983, the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. He alleged that INDOT and its officials had discriminated against him based on race, color, age, and political speech and had retaliated against complaints he made regarding the alleged discrimination.Days after the district court granted INDOT summary judgment in 2018, Daza filed a second action, again alleging discrimination and retaliation based on race, color, age, and political speech, contending that INDOT’s failure to rehire him for the vacancy left after INDOT dismissed him was an independent act of discrimination and retaliation because INDOT filled his position with a young and inexperienced white man. In the first suit, Daza had expressly contended that INDOT’s failure to rehire him and its decision to hire an unqualified replacement proved that INDOT was attempting to cover up its discrimination and retaliation. The Seventh Circuit again affirmed summary judgment in favor of INDOT. Claim preclusion barred the second case. View "Daza v. Indiana" on Justia Law

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Eaton was an apprentice in 2011 when Local 139 dispatched her to Findorff. At the end of Eaton’s first day on the job Findorff’s Project Superintendent, Szymkowski, terminated Eaton, concluding that she was inadequately trained. Local 139 filed a grievance. Findorff agreed to hire Eaton for a different job when that position became available. Weeks later, Findorff hired Eaton. Szymkowski privately told Eaton that she was slow and inefficient but rated her an average apprentice when filling out reports, which addressed only her technical skills. In late 2011, Findorff found itself overstaffed and implemented a rotating layoff schedule. Eaton filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that her layoff amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex; her complaint was dismissed. In August 2012, Findorff no longer needed a skip hoist operator and her employment was terminated.In 2017, Eaton left a resume at Findorff. Szymkowski told the company’s receptionist that he would not rehire her. Later, a position opened. Local 139 notified Findorff’s receptionist that it was dispatching Eaton. Szymkowski sent a letter to Local 139, declining to hire Eaton due to past performance issues.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Findorff. Eaton waived a claim of sex discrimination. She lacks any evidence that the decision-makers knew that she had engaged in protected activity; she has failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact in support of causation for her retaliation claim. View "Eaton v. J.H. Findorff & Son, Inc." on Justia Law

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Taylor was fired from his job as a Cook County Sheriff’s officer. He sued the Sheriff’s Office under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Ways, Whittler, and Ernst under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating the Equal Protection Clause. The defendants maintain that Taylor was terminated for having fired pellets with an air rifle at his neighbor, a charge that Taylor denies. Ernst was the lead investigator assigned to Taylor’s case. Taylor offered evidence that Ernst engineered his firing based on racial animosity. Taylor also asserted that Ways and Whittler, Sheriff’s Office officials, are liable because they reviewed Ernst’s final report and endorsed his recommendation of termination.On interlocutory appeal, the Seventh Circuit upheld the denial of qualified immunity as to Ernst. Taylor presented evidence of Ernst’s significant role in the investigative and disciplinary proceedings that brought about Taylor’s termination. Any reasonable official in Ernst’s position would have known that intentional racial discrimination toward another employee was unconstitutional and what Taylor alleges against Ernst is textbook racial discrimination: the word “n****r,” used by Ernst, a white man, aimed at Taylor on several occasions. The court reversed the denials of qualified immunity to Ways and Whittler; evidence that they played key roles in approving Ernst’s termination does not signal that either harbored any racial animus or that they knew or suspected that Ernst was motivated by race. Taylor’s Title VII claim remains pending. View "Taylor v. Ernst" on Justia Law