On September 23, 2015, the 7th Circuit affirmed a judgment in favor of the defendant employer that was entered after a jury trial of an employee’s Title VII employment discrimination case. Boutros v. Avis Rent A Car System, LLC, No. 14-1511 (7th Cir., 9-23-2015). The plaintiff employee, a courtesy bus driver at O’Hare International Airport, alleged that his employer unlawfully terminated his employment because of his race. The 7th Circuit clarified that the employee’s claim was actually for discrimination based on his perceived national origin or religion, because he is an Assyrian Christian, who claimed that his supervisors perceived him as an Arab Muslim. The employer claimed that it terminated his employment for dishonesty and insubordination in connection with a work incident that he had reported, about which he had allegedly given inconsistent accounts. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the employer.
The employee appealed the jury verdict on various evidentiary grounds. In deciding the evidentiary issues on appeal, the 7th Circuit stated that the only issue for the jury was to decide whether the employer’s proffered non-discriminatory reasons for the employment termination were pretextual, i.e., a cover for discrimination or a lie. The jury’s job was to decide whether the proffered reasons actually motivated the employment decision; whether the reasons were unwise or unfair is irrelevant. The 7th Circuit not only affirmed the verdict, but also found that the appeal was frivolous, and issued a Rule to Show Cause why sanctions should not be imposed for a frivolous appeal.