On August 2, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of summary judgment in a sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit that was filed in federal court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Nischan v. Stratosphere Quality, LLC et al., No. 16-3464 (7th Cir. 8/2/2017). The plaintiff alleged that she was subjected to unlawful sexual harassment in her employment, and that she was fired in retaliation for filing a complaint about it. The 7th Circuit held that the plaintiff offered sufficient evidence to support her sexual harassment claim to survive summary judgment. The plaintiff alleged that a co-worker relentlessly sexually harassed her, including unwelcome sexual advances and sexual propositions as well as offensive, outrageous physical touchings of private areas of her body, and sexually offensive comments and questions. She also alleged that managerial level employees knew about the sexual harassment, but failed to do anything about it.
Employment Law Chicago Blog
On July 31, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed a jury award of $225,000 in damages to a terminated employee-plaintiff who sued his former employer for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Stragapede v. City of Evanston, Illinois, No. 16-1344 (7th Cir. 7/31/2017). The plaintiff worked in the City of Evanston Water Department for 14 years. After he suffered a traumatic brain injury at home, the City placed him on temporary leave of absence. When he was cleared to return to work, he resumed full-time employment, but just a few weeks later, the City again placed him on administrative leave and subsequently terminated his employment. In federal court, the plaintiff alleged that the City discriminated against him and terminated his employment because of his disability.
On July 26, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in an age discrimination lawsuit filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Carson, et al. v. Lake County Indiana, No. 16-3665 (7th Cir. 7/26/2017). A group of rehired retirees who were fired filed the lawsuit alleging that the County had discriminated against them on the basis of their age in violation of the ADEA. The 7th Circuit concluded that there was no evidence that the County engaged in unlawful age discrimination. The key criterion that distinguished the terminated employees from all other County employees was not their age but rather their impermissible participation in a group health insurance plan supplement while they worked part-time, which necessitated the termination of their employment.
On July 18, 2017, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of an executive employee against his employer in the amount of $2,838,968 for his earned bonus and severance pay. Schultze v. ABN AMRO, Inc., et al., 2017 IL App (1st) 162140 (7/18/2017). The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging that the defendants violated the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (the "Act") by failing to pay him the proper amount of his earned bonus and severance pay. After trial, the trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and ordered the defendants to pay him $2 million as an earned bonus and $375,000 as severance, plus 5% interest and attorneys' fees. On appeal, the defendants argued that the bonus was discretionary and that the plaintiff failed to execute a separation agreement and release that was a condition of receiving any severance.
On July 20, 2017, the 7th Circuit reversed an order of the district court that had dismissed Title VII claims for hostile work environment, disparate treatment and retaliation. Alamo v. Bliss et at., No. 15-2849 (7th Cir. 7/20/2017). The plaintiff, a Hispanic City of Chicago firefighter, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court. He alleged various forms of unlawful discrimination on the basis of his national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), a failure to accommodate claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and a retaliation claim under Title VII. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim, and dismissed all of the plaintiff's federal claims.
On July 17, 2017, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, held that punitive damages are recoverable under Illinois law in the employment law claim for negligent hiring, supervision or retention of a dangerous employee, even if the employer lacked actual knowledge of the employee's dangerous propensity. John Doe v. The Catholic Bishop of Chicago, et al., 2017 IL App (1st) 162388 (First Dist. 7/17/2017). The plaintiff in this case filed a negligent employment claim against the defendant, in which he alleged that a former priest sexually molested him while he attended a school that employed the priest. He claimed punitive damages. On appeal, the First District considered the question of whether a claim for punitive damages requires proof of an employer's conscious disregard for an employee's particular unfitness, where the underlying claim is for negligent hiring, supervision and retention of that employee.
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