On April 27, 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her race (black), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”), and failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation for her disability (chronic fatigue syndrome), in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Wells v. Winnebago County, Illinois, No. 15-1805 (7th Cir., 4/27/2016). The district court granted summary judgment on two grounds: (1) that any discrimination was attributable to state rather than county workers; and (2) there was not enough evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find discrimination. The 7th Circuit disagreed with the district court’s first reason, stating that employers must control the behavior of others in the workplace to ensure nondiscriminatory work conditions; and that the federal anti-discrimination laws cannot be so easily evaded.
However, the 7th Circuit concluded that the plaintiff did not produce any evidence that her race played any role in the employment matters of which she complained; she was treated the same as white employees who had her same job; and there was no evidence that any supervisor made any derogatory racial remarks. In addition, it was fatal to the plaintiff’s ADA failure to accommodate claim that she had not requested her workplace modification as an accommodation of a disability. Disabled employees must make their employers aware of any nonobvious, medically necessary accommodations with corroborating medical evidence, such as a doctor’s note, before an employer may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.