Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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From 2006-2013, Severson worked for Heartland, a fabricator of retail display fixtures. The work was physically demanding. In 2013, Severson took a 12-week medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, to deal with serious back pain. On the last day of his leave, he underwent back surgery, which required that he remain off of work for another two or three months. Severson asked Heartland to continue his medical leave, but he had exhausted his FMLA entitlement. The company terminated his employment but invited him to reapply when he was medically cleared to work. When Severson’s doctor cleared him to resume work, Severson did not reapply but sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. The district court awarded Heartland summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The ADA is an antidiscrimination statute, not a medical-leave entitlement. The Act forbids discrimination against a “qualified individual on the basis of disability.” A “qualified individual” with a disability is a person who, “with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position.” The term is limited to measures that will enable the employee to work. An employee who needs long-term medical leave cannot work and is not a “qualified individual.” View "Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc." on Justia Law

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Monroe worked for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) for more than 21 years. His job involved cleaning up human remains after traffic accidents; he witnessed a co‐worker die after a work‐related accident. He had served in combat in the Gulf War, and, in 2012 Monroe’s sister, who lived with him, died of cancer. Monroe also worked a second job In December 2012, Monroe told his supervisor, George, that he was stressed, burned out, could not sleep, and wanted to be transferred to the day shift. After two requests, he was told that no position was available. In 2013, after Monroe’s subordinates complained to George about Monroe, Monroe disclosed that recently he had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although Monroe had received performance reviews indicating that he “exceeded expectations” as late as January 2013, INDOT discharged Monroe for creating a hostile and intimidating work environment. Monroe alleged that he was terminated “on the basis of” his mental disability in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding no genuine issue of material fact that INDOT’s proffered reason for discharging him was pretextual or that INDOT treated similarly situated non‐disabled employees more favorably. View "Monroe v. Indiana Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were white and Hispanic members of Chicago Mayor Daley’s protective services detail, Unit 542. Each held the rank of patrol officer but was assigned to the security-specialist position, and received a sergeant’s pay. Daley announced that he would not seek reelection. Rahm Emanuel began his mayoral campaign. Several police officers volunteered to provide campaign security. Emanuel was elected Mayor. Six of the volunteers were appointed to Emanuel’s transition detail. Emanuel told Interim Police Superintendent Hillard that his permanent detail should reflect the city's diversity and be “bare bones.” Hillard reduced the detail from 21 officers and two commanders to 16 officers and one commander and began his search with officers serving Daley. Hillard claimed that he relied on his command team’s recommendations. He selected five officers working on Emanuel’s transition detail. The final detail contained seven white, five Hispanic, and five black officers. The department reassigned Plaintiffs as patrol officers. Plaintiffs alleged patronage hiring in violation of the First Amendment, 42 U.S.C. 1983; violation of the “Shakman” consent decrees; race discrimination, 42 U.S.C. 1981, the Equal Protection Clause (42 U.S.C. 1983) and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e. All of the claims were either dismissed or rejected at trial. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Sufficient evidence supported a finding that city officials did not consider political factors when appointing Emanuel’s detail and the court did not err in excluding evidence of historic discrimination. View "Houlihan v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Owens worked as Old Wisconsin's manager of Human Resources and the company’s only female manager, from June 2011 until her termination in April 2012. Kobussen applied for a position at Old Wisconsin. Owens was involved in the interview process but did not disclose that she and Kobussen were involved in a six-year relationship. Owens was also involved in the hiring of a long-time friend, which resulted in allegations, by other employees, of preferential treatment. The company indicated that the reason for termination was lack of professionalism and lack of knowledge concerning HR and safety policies. Owens was replaced by a woman. She filed suit, alleging discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 215(a)(3). Owens had complained of FLSA violations at the company. The district court granted summary judgment, rejecting all claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that while “Owens sets forth a plethora of other actions which she claims constitute discriminatory treatment,” there is nothing inherent in them that would allow an inference that they were related to her sex, and no evidence that other similarly-situated employees were treated differently or other reason to indicate they indicate sex discrimination. View "Owens v. Old Wisconsin Sausage Co." on Justia Law

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The University of Indiana South Bend employed Professor Grant, an African-American, in 1999. In 2008, several students complained to University administration that Grant inappropriately canceled classes, used obscene language in class, dismissed two students from his course without following proper procedure, and had permitted a nonemployee to grade student work and access academic records. During an investigation, Grant filed affirmative action complaints against the investigators. Students went to the South Bend Tribune with their concerns. The investigation uncovered discrepancies in Grant’s work history. The University dismissed then-tenured Professor Grant in 2011 for “serious misconduct” based on misrepresentations in his curriculum vitae. The district court rejected all of Grant’s 26 claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Grant’s claims that the University: discriminated against him on the basis of race; retaliated against him for his complaints against two University officials; denied him due process of law; defamed him in the South Bend Tribune; and breached a contract created by the University’s handbook. View "Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Cremation Society’s predecessor (employer) executed a Compliance Agreement, binding it to the Union’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA), until June 30, 2007, and from year to year thereafter. The Agreement could be terminated by either party upon specific written notice. In 2013, the employer sent a letter repudiating the Agreement. The Union filed a grievance. The employer notified its employee that he was being terminated for leaving a van door open while the van contained the body of a deceased person. The National Labor Relations Board found that the notice terminating the Agreement was not given at least 60 days prior to June 30th of “any subsequent contract year” and that the employer was bound by the Agreement until at least June 30, 2017. The employer sought a declaration, under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185(a), under the Board’s “one‐man unit rule,” which allows an employer, who employs one or fewer unit employees on a permanent basis, to repudiate its union contract without an opportunity to bargain. The Union counterclaimed for a confirmation of an arbitration award and to compel arbitration. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in the Union’s favor, reasoning that the employer and a related entity had several people performing “unit work.” View "Cremation Society of Illinois, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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Richards was hired in 1995. While working with Byrd, Richards had several negative experiences with her supervisors. In 2011, Richards filed a discrimination complaint. Feeling that human resources had not adequately addressed her concerns, Richards called a U.S. Steel employee hotline to report incidents involving Byrd. Richards met with human resources personnel. When asked about a particular incident, she became upset and started crying. Human Resources told Richards she was too emotional and should see a psychiatrist. Several months later, Richards failed to show up or call off for an overtime shift that she was scheduled to work. Richards was suspended. After a hearing, her suspension was converted to a discharge. After arbitration, the discharge was overturned. Richards was evaluated by a psychologist, who diagnosed Richards with Post‐traumatic Stress Disorder and Dysthymic Disorder, likely as a "result of [the] traumatic experiences [Richards] encountered while on the job.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of her Illinois state‐law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. U.S. Steel can be held responsible for only some of the factual allegations that Richard relied on; on those facts, U.S. Steel did not engage in “extreme and outrageous” behavior under Illinois common law. View "Richards v. U.S. Steel" on Justia Law

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In November 2012, Freedom hired Reed, an African-American, as a Broker Liaison, reporting to Bidstrup and Sperry (both white). The regular hours for the Downers Grove office were 8 a.m.-5 p.m.. Some employees worked other schedules with permission or to accommodate accounts in other time zones. Freedom’s attendance policy stated that seven absences, late arrivals, or early departures in a 12-month period could trigger disciplinary action, including termination. In January 2013, Bidstrup sent an email to all employees, reiterating that policy; days later she verbally warned Reed about violating the policy. Days later, Bidstrup issued a written warning after Reed arrived at 9:30 a.m. From February 14-April 1, Reed was absent at least eight days. From March 6-April 10, he clocked in late 11 times. On April 9, Bidstrup sent another reminder email. Reed continued to violate the attendance policy. Other employees complained about covering Reed’s work, Reed unsuccessfully applied for an Underwriter position and was denied opportunities to work from home. In 2013, a decline in business prompted a reduction in force across the country. Reed was terminated because of his attendance and disciplinary history; he had less seniority than others in the office. The remaining Liaisons were eventually terminated; no replacements were hired. The office closed in 2014. Reed sued under the Illinois Human Rights Act. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Freedom. Reed had no evidence that he was treated less favorably than similarly situated non-African-Americans, failed to show that the denials of his request to work from home and of promotion were adverse employment actions, and could not prove hostile work environment. View "Reed v. Freedom Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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Mourning worked for Ternes from 1997 until the company fired her in 2013. In February 2013, Frey, Mourning’s manager, granted Mourning leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2615, to treat her encephalopathy. Mourning returned to work less than two months later. While Mourning was on leave, eight of her 10 subordinates submitted an internal complaint, alleging that Mourning intimidated and publicly humiliated them, acted unpredictably, and micromanaged her team. Before that submission, Mourning had never been the subject of a written complaint, nor had she ever been disciplined. Frey had rated Mourning’s performance as above “exceptional,” at her last evaluation in May 2012. Upon her return from leave, Mourning responded with a written rebuttal and her own internal complaint against the staff. A client indicated that Mourning’s “performance was not up to his standards.” The company fired Frey and Mourning. The company promoted another female to Mourning’s position. Mourning sued, alleging discrimination based on her sex (Title VII, 2 U.S.C. 2000e-2), and retaliation for taking medical leave. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting Mourning’s claims. Mourning did not have any direct evidence of sex discrimination nor did she produce evidence from which it could be inferred that she was meeting legitimate expectations, she was similarly situated to a more favorably treated employee, or that the reason for firing her was pretextual. View "Mourning v. Ternes Packaging, Indiana, Inc" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, African-Americans, worked for Union Pacific as “Signal Helpers,” an entry‐level job. After a probationary period, both became eligible for promotion. Union Pacific did not respond to their requests to take a required test, then eliminated the Signal Helper position in their zones. Both were terminated. They filed charges with the EEOC. After receiving notification from the EEOC, Union Pacific provided some information but failed to respond to a request for company-wide information, despite issuance of a subpoena. The EEOC issued right‐to‐sue letters, 42 U.S.C. 2000e‐5(f)(1). Plaintiffs sued. The district court granted Union Pacific summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While that action was pending, the EEOC issued Union Pacific a second request for information, served a second subpoena, and brought an enforcement action. The district court denied Union Pacific’s motion to dismiss, rejecting its arguments that the EEOC lost its investigatory authority either after the issuance of a right to sue notice or when Union Pacific obtained a judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting a split in the Circuits. Given the EEOC’s broad role in preventing employment discrimination, including its independent authority to investigate charges of discrimination, especially at a company‐wide level, neither the issuance of a right‐to‐sue letter nor the entry of judgment in a lawsuit brought by individuals bars the EEOC from continuing its own investigation. View "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law