Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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In 2006 Conners began work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at a VA-operated facility near Chicago. Her duties included treating and observing patients, giving immunizations, managing the front desk, teaching classes, and completing paperwork. In 2011 she was hit by a car and suffered severe injuries. Her supervisor initially permitted her to retain her LPN position but radically reduced her responsibilities to only teaching and paperwork. After more than two years in that status, the VA concluded that Conners could not perform the essential duties of an LPN even with reasonable accommodations and unsuccessfully attempted to work with her on an acceptable reassignment. The VA terminated her employment.Conners sued the VA under the Rehabilitation Act for failing to accommodate her disability, retaliating against her, and subjecting her to a hostile work environment based on her disability. The district court rejected the claims on summary judgment. Only the accommodation claim was appealed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Conners had to prove that when she was fired she was a “qualified individual with a disability,” capable of performing the essential functions of an LPN with or without reasonable accommodation. Conners’s abilities to stand and walk were severely limited, making it impossible for her to treat and observe patients, respond to medical emergencies, give immunizations, or manage the front desk View "Conners v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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Kellogg testified that when the Indiana Academy hired her as a teacher in 2006, its director, Dr. Williams, told her that she “didn’t need any more [starting salary, $32,000], because he knew [her] husband worked.” In 2017, Kellogg complained to the Dean of Ball State’s Teacher’s College, which oversees the Academy, that she received less pay than her similarly-situated male colleagues. The Dean responded that “[t]he issue [wa]s salary compression, which means those who [we]re hired after [Kellogg] began at a higher salary.” The Dean also noted that Kellogg’s salary increased by 36.45% during her time at the Academy while her colleagues’ salaries increased by less. In Kellogg’s 2018 lawsuit, the district court granted the Academy summary judgment, reasoning that there were undisputed gender-neutral explanations for Kellogg’s pay.The Seventh Circuit reversed. Williams’s statement contradicts the Academy’s explanations for Kellogg’s pay and puts them in dispute. It does not matter that Williams uttered the statement long ago, outside the statute of limitations period. Under the paycheck accrual rule, Williams’s statement can establish liability because it affected paychecks that Kellogg received within the limitations window. Kellogg can rely on Williams’s statement to put the Academy’s explanations in dispute. View "Kellogg v. Ball State University" on Justia Law

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McAllister began working for Innovation in 2014. In June 2016, an automobile accident left McAllister with serious head and back injuries. On her Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601, application her doctor wrote she could not perform “any & all” functions and estimated that McAllister could not return to work until September 2016. McAllister was granted short-term disability benefits. According to McAllister, Innovation indicated that “all restrictions had to be lifted before [she] could return to work.” Thereafter, her doctors extended the date for her return to work. Her FMLA leave expired. At an October 2016 meeting, Innovation told McAllister that an employee unable to return to work after six months of leave would be terminated but granted her additional leave, to expire upon her November neuro-psychological evaluation. Her doctors failed to complete the required testing.Innovation terminated her in December. McAllister was granted long-term disability benefits, which ended in October 2018 when the insurer determined she no longer had “functional deficits," and Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, retroactive to the date of her accident. McAllister sued for failure to accommodate her under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12111(8)). The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Innovation. McAllister was not “qualified” under the ADA; there was no genuine dispute of material fact that she could perform another job with or without accommodations. View "McAllister v. Innovation Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law

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Wisconsin grants public-sector employees the right to bargain collectively through the State Employment Labor Relations Act (SELRA) and the Municipal Employment Relations Act (MERA). In 2011, SELRA and MERA were amended by Act 10, which divided Wisconsin state and municipal employees into “[p]ublic safety employee[s],” which includes police officers, firefighters, and deputy sheriffs, and “general municipal employee[s],” i.e., everyone else. A subsequent amendment created a class of “[t]ransit employee[s].” Public safety and transit employees and their unions continue to operate under the pre-Act 10 scheme but for general employees, Act 10 limited the scope of employers’ collective bargaining obligations, prohibiting bargaining over anything except increases to base wages and mandating that general employee unions submit to an annual recertification election. Certification now requires affirmative votes from an absolute majority of all employees in the bargaining unit, not just those voting. Act 10 bars public employers from deducting union dues from the earnings of general employees.The Seventh Circuit has previously rejected two challenges to Act 10’s constitutionality and affirmed the dismissal of this First Amendment suit, filed a public-employee labor union and two of its members, challenging the annual recertification requirement, the limitations on collective bargaining, and the prohibition on payroll deduction of union dues. View "International Union of Operating Engineers v. Daley" on Justia Law

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Knudtson worked for Trempealeau County for over 45 years. She eventually became a paralegal/office manager in the District Attorney’s Office. When his friend, the Jackson County District Attorney, died, McMahon, the Trempealeau County District Attorney, closed his office for a day and encouraged his staff to attend the funeral. Knudtson refused to attend because she wanted to complete work at the office. McMahon offered Knudtson three choices: work from home, attend the funeral, or take a vacation day. The disagreement became a bitter dispute. The County placed Knudtson on paid leave. Knudtson declined another position at the same pay grade. The County had no other available position and terminated her employment.Knudtson filed suit, citing the Establishment Clause because the funeral took place at a church and involved a religious service. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Knudtson acknowledged that when she stated that she did not want to attend the funeral, she did not know that it would be a religious service; her decision not to attend had nothing to do with its religious nature. Organizing a delegation from a public office to attend a funeral normally raises no implication that the government, or any officials, endorse the deceased person's religion. View "Knudtson v. Trempealeau County" on Justia Law

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In its 2018 “Janus” holding, the Supreme Court reversed course on 41 years of jurisprudence sanctioning agreements between state-government agencies and unions authorizing the unions to collect fair-share fees from non-union members to cover costs incurred representing them. Ocol, a math teacher in the Chicago public school system, filed a putative class action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 28 U.S.C. 2201 against the Unions, the Attorney General of Illinois, and members of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, seeking recovery of payments he had previously made under protest to the Union. He also challenged the constitutionality of the exclusive representation provisions of Illinois law as they applied to non-union members.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of all of his claims. Acknowledging circuit precedent, Ocol conceded defeat on his Section 1983 claim for a refund of his fair-share payments and his First Amendment challenge to exclusive representation. The court granted Ocol’s request for summary affirmance so that he may seek a petition for certiorari to pursue his arguments in the Supreme Court. View "Ocol v. Chicago Teachers Union" on Justia Law

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Williams, a Chicago school social worker, suffers from depression, anxiety, and chronic sinusitis. For the 2013–14 school year, Williams received an evaluation score that placed him in the “developing” category, and was given a Professional Development Plan. Social workers' hours depend on the school they are serving on a particular day. The Board denied Williams's first accommodation request, for consistent work hours. During the 2014–15 school year, Williams was cited for interrupting a teacher, failing to read a student’s individual educational plan before a meeting, speaking inappropriately about his personal life, making personal calls during school hours, and failing to report to work. Williams was twice denied titles that may be awarded to “proficient” social workers. Williams filed a discrimination charge and another accommodation request, seeking a consistent start time, a reduced caseload, and assignment to a single school. The Board denied these requests but assigned him to schools with 7:45 a.m. start times. Williams's third accommodation request sought a private office, dedicated equipment, and exemption from evaluations. The Board supplied Williams with HEPA filters, computer monitors, and access to a private meeting space; it denied his other requests. Williams was not selected for special assessment teams because he did not have the “proficient” rating and was not bilingual. He filed his second charge of discrimination.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 42 U.S.C. 12101, and Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, rejecting claims that the Board discriminated against Williams because of his disability and gender, failed to accommodate his disability, and retaliated against him for filing discrimination claims. View "Williams v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Vargas began working as a mail carrier in 2005. Mail carriers must be able to carry up to 35 pounds in their shoulder bags. Vargas’s route also required shuttling mail and equipment weighing up to 75 pounds between the post office and a satellite location. Vargas sustained an on-the-job foot injury in 2008. He was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, received treatment, submitted a successful workers’ compensation claim, and continued working. In 2011, Vargas filed an EEO complaint, raising miscellaneous workplace grievances and alleging race- and disability-related discrimination. He withdrew this complaint. Vargas’s plantar fasciitis subsequently flared up. His doctor placed him on work restrictions, March 1-22, prohibiting him from carrying more than 15 pounds. On March 14, Vargas returned to work from a vacation; he wanted his route restructured to eliminate carrying heavy loads. His superiors did not oblige and he applied for workers’ compensation. He also made daily requests for “light duty” but there was no light duty work available, so he took paid sick leave.Vargas, who is Hispanic, sued, alleging disability-based discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, with retaliation and racial discrimination claims under Title VII. Vargas still works for the Postal Service. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment rejecting his claims. Vargas could not perform the only job available to him, with or without reasonable accommodation, and there is no evidence he was treated differently because of his race or suffered unlawful workplace retaliation. View "Vargas v. DeJoy" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act regulates the collection, use, retention, disclosure, and dissemination of biometric identifiers (fingerprints, retina and iris scans, hand scans, and facial geometry). Fox's employer, Dakkota, required employees to clock in and out by scanning their hands on a biometric timekeeping device. Dakkota used third-party software to capture that data, which was stored in a third-party's database. Fox alleges that Dakkota did not obtain her informed written consent before collecting her biometric identifiers, unlawfully disclosed or disseminated her biometric data to third parties without her consent, failed to develop, publicly disclose, and implement a data-retention schedule and guidelines for the permanent destruction of its employees’ biometric identifiers, and failed to permanently destroy her biometric data when she left the company. Fox was represented by a union at Dakkota, The judge dismissed two counts as preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act, but remanded the section 15(a) claim to state court.The Seventh Circuit reversed the remand order. Fox’s section 15(a) claim does not allege a mere procedural failure to publicly disclose a data-retention policy but alleges a concrete and particularized invasion of her privacy interest in her biometric data stemming from Dakkota’s violation of its section 15(a) duties to develop, publicly disclose, and comply with data retention and destruction policies. Her allegations plead an injury in fact for purposes of Article III. The invasion of a legally protected privacy right, though intangible, is personal and real, not general and abstract. View "Fox v. Dakkota Integrated Systems, LLC" on Justia Law

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Calderone, a Chicago police communications operator, was off duty, driving her car when another motorist, Garcia, threw a drink into Calderone’s vehicle, then pulled to the side of the road. Calderone stopped behind Garcia’s car. The women exited their cars and argued. Garcia returned to her vehicle and tried to drive away. Calderone blocked Garcia’s exit. Garcia again got out of her vehicle, grabbed Calderone by the hair, and threw her to the ground. Calderone then shot Garcia with her handgun, which she was legally permitted to carry. The bullet lacerated Garcia's vital organs; she was hospitalized for several months.Calderone was indicted for attempted murder. The city administratively charged her with violations of Personnel Rules and, after a hearing, fired Calderone. Calderone asserts the city did not respond to her claim that the discharge was in self-defense. An Illinois state court acquitted Calderone of attempted murder based on self-defense. The city subsequently reinstated Calderone and held a hearing to determine her back pay.Calderone sued, arguing that her termination deprived her of her Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, that the city deprived her of property and liberty rights without due process, and that the Personnel Rules were vague. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims. Even if Calderone has a constitutional right to discharge her firearm in self-defense, qualified immunity shielded her supervisors from suit because precedent has not clearly established that right. View "Calderone v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law