On August 18, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of a defendant-employer in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that she was fired because of her gender, female, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), and in retaliation for taking a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), in violation of the FMLA. Mourning v. Ternes Packaging, Indiana, Inc., No. 16-1650 (7th Cir. 8/18/2017). The employer granted the employee’s request for FMLA leave to undergo medical treatment. While she was on medical leave, a group of her subordinate employees submitted an internal complaint about her to management. The employer fired the employee after she returned from her FMLA leave for performance-based reasons relating to the complaint against her. She was replaced by another female.

The plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof under Title VII to present evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to conclude that she was terminated on the basis of her gender. Among other things, she did not identify a similarly situated male co-worker who was treated more favorably than her. She also failed to establish that the employer’s stated reasons for her termination were pretext for sex discrimination. Her argument that the accusations in her subordinates’ complaint against her were false is misplaced. To show pretext, an employment discrimination plaintiff must prove that the employer’s proffered reasons are phony or contrived, not just unfounded or mistaken. She also failed to present evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that she was terminated in retaliation for taking FMLA leave.