Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Dean v. National Production Workers Union, Local 707
The NPWU previously represented the plaintiffs, Parsec employees, participating in the NPWU’s retirement multiemployer defined-contribution plans. A lawsuit brought by the Department of Labor settled, requiring the Severance Plan to pay back loans and approving the Plan’s administrators and its third-party accounting firm, Krol. Parsec employees later voted to decertify the NPWU and elect the Teamsters as their new bargaining representative. The Teamsters told Parsec employees that their retirement accounts would roll over to the Teamsters’ plan. NPWU stated that the retirement accounts would become inactive but remain under NPWU control. After the election, Parsec stopped contributing to the NPWU plan and began contributing to the Teamsters’ plan. Parsec employees’ accounts became inactive but remained under NPWU control. Plaintiffs alleged excessive expenses, undisclosed payments to NPWU officers and their relatives, and high salaries. Plaintiffs requested copies of documents, to which they were entitled under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Plans responded but did not provide certain documents, including a “summary plan description” for the 401(k) Plan, which did not exist. Plaintiffs sent several letters requesting that the Plans roll over their accounts to the Teamsters’ plan. The Plans refused.Plaintiffs filed a putative class action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The Plans terms did not require rollover and the allegations failed to show that the trustees breached their fiduciary duties. View "Dean v. National Production Workers Union, Local 707" on Justia Law
IAC/InterActiveCorp v. Roston
After IAC signed an Employment Agreement with Roston making him its CEO, the relationship soured. Roston disagreed with his employer about the value of his stock appreciation rights. He became the CEO of Bluecrew, another affiliate of IAC’s parent company, but the employment relationship deteriorated until Roston was terminated. His former employers later discovered that Roston had retained a company laptop, documents, and confidential data. The companies sought declarations that Roston was not entitled to more payments based on the stock appreciation rights and was not wrongfully terminated and alleged breach of contract.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint by an Illinois district court, citing the forum non conveniens doctrine. The district court balanced the relevant public interest factors reasonably and noted little local Illinois interest. The Employment Agreement stated that it “shall be governed by and construed under and in accordance with the internal laws of the State of California without reference to its principles of conflicts of laws. Any such dispute will be heard and determined before an appropriate federal court located in the State of California in Alameda County … each party hereto submits itself and its property to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the foregoing courts with respect to such disputes. Roston had filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court, alleging wrongful termination. View "IAC/InterActiveCorp v. Roston" on Justia Law
Brousil v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Administrative Review Board
The Seventh Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review of the judgment of the Department of Labor's Administrative Review Board (ARB) affirming an administrative law judge's (ALJ) determination that BNSF Railway Company had a valid same-action affirmative defense to Plaintiff's retaliation claim, holding that substantial evidence supported the decision.Plaintiff, a train engineer, brought an administrative complaint with the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) alleging that BNSF, his employer, violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by retaliating against him for raising safety concerns and refusing to engage in unsafe practices. OSHA dismissed the complaint. A Department of Labor ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim based on the statutory same-action affirmative defense. The ARB affirmed. The Seventh Circuit denied review, holding that substantial evidence supported the ARB's decision that the same-action defense applied to BNSF's discipline of Plaintiff. View "Brousil v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, Administrative Review Board" on Justia Law
Brant v. Schneider National, Inc.
In this dispute over Plaintiff's employment status the Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss all claims on the pleadings, holding that the district court erred by giving decisive effect to the terms of Defendant's contracts.Plaintiff hauled freight for Defendant under an agreement that labeled him as an independent contractor. Plaintiff later filed this lawsuit claiming that Defendant violated minimum wage requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Wisconsin law, unjustly enriched itself under Wisconsin law, and violated federal Truth-in-Leasing regulations. The district court dismissed all claims on the pleadings. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Plaintiff alleged legally viable claims for relief under the FLSA, federal Truth-in-Leasing regulations, and Wisconsin minimum wage law. View "Brant v. Schneider National, Inc." on Justia Law
Cage v. Harper
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court entering summary judgment to Defendants and dismissing this complaint brought by Plaintiff, the former general counsel for Chicago State University, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its rulings.Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against several University defendants alleging that the University fired him in retaliation for reporting a potential conflict of interest in violation of the First Amendment and Illinois's State Officials and Employees Ethics Act and that Defendants violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by not paying him severance pay. The district court entered summary judgment for Defendants. The Seventh District affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's actions fell outside the Ethics Act and that Plaintiff's speech lacked protection under the First Amendment. View "Cage v. Harper" on Justia Law
Burke v. Boeing Co.
In this putative class action filed shortly after two fatal crashes of new Boeing 737 MAX airliners led to a worldwide grounding of those planes and a halt to production, resulting to a significant drop in the value of Boeing stock, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that there was no error.At issue was The Boeing Company's employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) and whether Boeing plan fiduciaries' delegation to an independent outside fiduciary the selection and management of investment options for the ESOP protected the company and company insiders from liability for the plan's continued offering of Boeing stock as an independent option for employees before and during the time when the Boeing stock dropped. Plaintiffs argued that Boeing's continuous concealment of material facts relating to the 737 MAX jets caused the price of the stock to be artificially inflated and that Defendants should disclosed the safety issues to the public immediately. The district court dismissed the action. The Seventh District affirmed, holding that the delegation of investment decisions to an independent fiduciary meant that Boeing did not act in an ERISA fiduciary capacity in connection with the continued investments in Boeing stock. View "Burke v. Boeing Co." on Justia Law
Huff v. Buttigieg
The Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and dismissing Plaintiff's claims that the FAA violated Title VII by retaliating against her for filing a formal complaint of religious discrimination, holding that a reasonable juror could conclude that retaliatory animus influenced Defendant's decision-making and proximately caused Plaintiff's termination.Plaintiff violated the FAA's alcohol and drug policy when she was arrested for an alcohol-related offense. By self-reporting her infraction, Plaintiff avoided disciplinary action if she completed a rehabilitation plan supervised by the FAA. Plaintiff objected on religious reasons to the plan's requirement that she attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and complained of religious discrimination, even after the FAA approved her participation in an alternate recovery program. The district court concluded that Plaintiff failed to establish a causal link between the formal complaint and her termination and granted summary judgment to the FAA. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that, under the causation standard for federal-sector retaliation claims, a reasonable juror could conclude that retaliatory animus influenced the FAA's decision-making and proximately caused Plaintiff's termination. View "Huff v. Buttigieg" on Justia Law
Swain v. Wormuth
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the United States Army and dismissing Gerald Swain's claims brought under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq., alleging disability discrimination, holding that there was no error.As a civilian employee at an Army installation in Illinois, Swain asked for and received several accommodations for his physical limitations. Swain later brought this lawsuit against the Army, alleging failure to accommodate, disparate treatment, and retaliation under the Rehabilitation Act. The district court granted summary judgment for the Army. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the Army met its obligations under the Rehabilitation Act. View "Swain v. Wormuth" on Justia Law
McHale v. McDonough
McHale began employment at the VA Hospital in 2011 as a pharmacy technician. In 2014, side effects from McHale’s diabetes medication impacted her attendance at work. Weeks later, McHale’s supervisor, reduced McHale’s performance rating due to her use of sick leave and imposed an official sick leave restriction. McHale filed a union grievance. During the years that followed, McHale unsuccessfully applied for three other positions. McHale’s second-level supervisor stated that he did not want to select McHale for one position due to her frequent sick leave and the sick leave restriction. In interviews with the agency’s internal EEOC office, McHale never suggested that she had any disability. McHale filed a handwritten formal administrative complaint in 2015, alleging reprisal for the prior EEOC activity and unfair treatment in the form of the sick leave restrictions. The final agency decision concluded that it had not violated the law.McHale sued under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 791, alleging she was disabled due to complications with her diabetes and that: the agency had failed to accommodate this disability; had discriminated against her because of her disability; had subjected her to a hostile work environment; and had retaliated against her. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of her suit. McHale failed to exhaust her administrative remedies for the disability claims because she never complained of discrimination on the basis of disability to the agency. For the same reason, McHale cannot establish retaliation. View "McHale v. McDonough" on Justia Law
Parker v. Brooks Life Science, Inc.
Parker suffers from MS and sciatica and has received social security disability benefits for that diagnosis for several years. Brooks hired Parker in 2017. Parker worked as a receptionist 25 hours per week (usually mornings). Parker had different supervisors and received mixed feedback on her performance. Parker had to be “coached” concerning her use of paid time off (PTO). In 2018, Parker requested time off to get treatment for pain. Her supervisor, Williams, learned that during Williams’ absence, Parker had taken unapproved time off and made schedule changes. Williams approved the requests but warned that Parker was exceeding her PTO. Parker acknowledged that she needed to do a better job complying with the policy. Williams understood Parker’s statements to be admissions and emailed HR employees, recommending termination. After receiving their assent, Williams informed Parker that she was being terminated. Brooks apparently told the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that Parker had voluntarily quit to accept other employment. In response to her EEOC complaint, Brooks stated that its reason for terminating Parker was repeated failure to follow established PTO policies.In a suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101, the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Brooks. Parker did not produce evidence that would allow a reasonable juror to infer a link between her request for accommodation (time off for pain treatment) and her termination. View "Parker v. Brooks Life Science, Inc." on Justia Law