Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Indiana juvenile courts may establish juvenile facilities; the judge must appoint staff and determine budgets. The county must pay the facility's expenses from general funds. The Allen Superior Court established a juvenile center, where Harris began working in 1995. His offer of employment included the seal of the “Allen Superior Court,” and he signed the Court’s Employee Handbook, acknowledging an employment relationship with the Court. His job description bore the seal of the Board of Commissioners; his medical records authorization identified the Commissioners as his employer and the juvenile center as his department. Harris’s discipline was handled by the Court; his evaluations were titled “Allen County Employee Performance Appraisal.” Harris injured his back at work. County Attorney Murphy sent Harris a form listing “Allen County Government” as his employer so that he could collect workers’ compensation benefits. A doctor determined that Harris had reached maximum medical improvement and imposed work restrictions. Murphy stated that his restrictions prevented Harris from “perform[ing] the essential functions” of his position “with or without a reasonable accommodation.” Harris applied to several county jobs but did not obtain employment. Harris sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court granted the County summary judgment, concluding that the Board was not Harris’s employer. Harris voluntarily dismissed the Court. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Harris did not establish that the Board sufficiently controlled his employment, so a reasonable trier of fact could only conclude that the Board was not Harris’s employer. View "Harris v. Allen County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Quinn applied to become an Indianapolis firefighter. He passed the written examination, oral interview, and Certified Physical Agility Test and was placed on a ranked list for hiring consideration. The Department hired two academy classes from that ranked list, but Quinn was not selected. Quinn’s father (Rodney) filed a qui tam suit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h)(1), alleging that the Department had made false statements of material fact to the federal government in order to receive federal grant funds. Rodney was a backup investigator in the Department’s arson unit. Quinn joined his father’s suit, alleging that the Department retaliated against him for his father’s complaint. The district court granted the Department summary judgment on Quinn’s retaliation claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Quinn was ranked, at best, five spots too low to receive an automatic selection and every discretionary pick in both classes had more markers than Quinn, consistent with the Department’s policy for discretionary selections. There is no evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that Rodney’s suit was even a motivating factor in the decision not to hire Quinn. Even assuming that the meaning of “employee” under section 3730(h) is could encompass job applicants, there are no facts from which a jury could conclude that Quinn was retaliated against because of his father’s suit. View "Heath v. Indianapolis Fire Department" on Justia Law

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Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) investigated complaints against police, including domestic violence, excessive force, and death in custody, and made disciplinary recommendations: allegations were “sustained,” “not sustained,” “exonerated,” or “unfounded.” Investigators interviewed witnesses and procured evidence to draft reports. IPRA’s Administrator retained final responsibility for making recommendations and establishing “rules, regulations and procedures for the conduct of investigations.” Davis became an IPRA investigator in 2008. Davis alleges that in 2014-2015, his supervisors ordered Davis to change “sustained” findings and make his reports more favorable to the accused officers. Davis refused and was allegedly threatened to with termination. Davis alleges that they requested Word versions of Davis’s reports to alter them to look like Davis had made the changes. The administrator then implemented a policy requiring his approval for all “sustained” findings: if an investigator refused to make a recommended change, he would be disciplined for insubordination. Davis again refused to change “sustained” findings and was fired. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his First Amendment claims. That an employee may have good reasons to refuse an order, does “not necessarily mean the employee has a cause of action under the First Amendment when he contravenes that order.” Because IPRA required Davis to draft and revise reports, his refusal to revise those reports was speech “pursuant to [his] official duties.” He spoke as a public employee, not a private citizen. The First Amendment does not protect this speech. View "Davis v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Freelain worked as a police officer for five years before Sergeant Vardal made what Freelain perceived as inappropriate and unwelcome sexual advances toward him. According to Freelain, he was not the only person subjected to Vardal's sexual harassment. After Freelain rebuffed Vardal’s invitations, he claims, she escalated a pattern of harassment and hypercriticism of his performance. After an incident prompted him to report the misconduct, Freelain began experiencing migraine headaches and other medical conditions that he has attributed to stress related to the harassment. As Freelain began taking time off, tensions rose between him and the police department. Freelain claimed that as a result of his medical condition and use of leave time, the village retaliated against him in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. 2601, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the village. The acts that Freelain has identified as retaliation would not discourage a reasonable employee from exercising his rights under the statutes. Freelain was allowed to take all the unpaid leave he wanted or needed. His claims assert that doing exactly what the FMLA allows—placing an employee on unpaid leave—violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the FMLA and ADA. View "Freelain v. Village of Oak Park" on Justia Law

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Kleber is an attorney with extensive experience, including private law practice in Chicago, work as a general counsel for a major national company, and leadership of a national trade association, a real estate development company, and a medical device company. In 2011, Kleber began applying for jobs, sending more than 150 applications without success, including applications for less senior positions. In 2014, Kleber (58 years old) applied for a position as “Senior Counsel, Procedural Solutions.” The posting stated that applicants must have “3 to 7 years (no more than 7 years) of relevant legal experience.” The company did not interview Kleber and filled the position with a 29‐year‐old applicant. Kleber filed a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, then filed suit, alleging disparate treatment and disparate impact. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the case. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate intentionally against older workers and prohibits employment practices that have a disparate impact on older workers, 29 U.S.C. 623(a)(1), (a)(2), and protects both outside job applicants and current employees. The court noted the virtually identical language in Title VII and stated that it could not imagine why Congress might have chosen to allow disparate impact claims by current employees, including internal job applicants while excluding outside job applicants. View "Kleber v. CareFusion Corp." on Justia Law

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From 2009-2014, Sampra was an FAA field electrical engineer, initially assigned to Chicago’s Midway Airport. She was eventually assigned to oversee technical support services contract work releases, which required little field work, so Sampra spent most of her time in the office. She retained the same job title; her job description continued to require up to 100% travel and field work. While Sampra was on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) childbirth leave, a new supervisor assigned to himself the work releases that Sampra had overseen. After Sampra’s return, she was reassigned to work on an O’Hare Airport runway overnight. Before she would have had to start the overnight assignment, Sampra requested reassignment to the position of drafting coordinator. Her request was granted. The drafting coordinator position is in a lower pay band than an electrical engineer, but Sampra retained her electrical engineer salary. Sampra filed suit under the FMLA more than two years after her assignment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants without reaching the merits. The suit was barred by a two-year statute of limitations. The more forgiving three‐year statute of limitations does not apply because Sampra failed to provide evidence that the department willfully violated her FMLA rights. View "Sampra v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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College of DuPage hired Breuder as its president. After extensions, his contract ran through 2019. In 2015 newly-elected members of the Board of Trustees, having campaigned on a pledge to remove Breuder, discharged him without notice or a hearing. Board resolutions stated that Breuder had committed misconduct. The Board did not offer him a hearing and refused to comply with clauses in his contract covering severance pay and retirement benefits. Breuder filed suit, citing Illinois contract and defamation law and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Board as an entity moved to dismiss the complaint, contending that Breuder never had a valid contract because, under Illinois law, a governmental body whose members serve limited terms may not enter into contracts that extend beyond those terms. Individual Board members moved to dismiss the 1983 claim on qualified immunity grounds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of both motions. The court noted precedent allowing Illinois Community Colleges to grant their presidents tenure beyond the date of the next board election. Rejecting claims of qualified immunity, the court noted that a hearing is required whenever the officeholder has a “legitimate claim of entitlement.” In discharging Breuder, the Board stated that he had committed misconduct. Even a person who has no property interest in a public job has a constitutional entitlement to a hearing before being defamed during a discharge, or at least a name-clearing hearing after the discharge. View "Breuder v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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In 2012 Northern changed its defined-benefit pension plan under which retirement income depended on years worked, times an average of the employee’s five highest-earning consecutive years, times a constant (traditional formula). As amended, the plan multiplies the years worked and the high average compensation, by a formula that depends on the number of years worked after 2012 (PEP formula), reducing the pension-accrual rate. Northern provided people hired before 2002 a transitional benefit, treating them as if they were still under the traditional formula but deeming their salaries as increasing at 1.5% per year, without regard to the actual rate of change. Teufel sued, claiming that the amendment, even with the transitional benefit, violated the anti-cutback rule in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001–1461, and, by harming older workers relative to younger ones, violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621–34. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit. Nothing in the traditional formula guaranteed that any salary would increase in future years; ERISA protects entitlements that make up the “accrued benefit” but does not protect anyone’s hope that the future will improve on the past. Nor does the PEP formula violate the ADEA. Benefits depend on the number of years of credited service and salary, not on age. View "Teufel v. Northern Trust Co." on Justia Law

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Cannici was a Melrose Park firefighter for 16 years before being terminated for violation of the Residency Ordinance. Cannici and his family lived in Melrose Park until 2008 when they bought a home in Orland Park while retaining ownership of their Melrose Park home. During the week, Cannici’s wife and children lived in Orland Park, while Cannici lived in Melrose Park, spending weekends together in one of the homes. In 2013, Cannici rented the Melrose Park home out, reserving part of the basement for his exclusive use. He kept belongings in the home, paid utilities and taxes, and received all of his mail at the Melrose Park address, but slept in Orland Park between June 2013 and June 2016. In May 2016, the Village requested an interview to inquire about his residency. The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners issued a written Statement of Charges, seeking to terminate his employment. Before his hearing, Cannici filed an unsuccessful motion challenging purported ex parte communications between the prosecuting attorney and the Board’s attorney. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Cannici’s equal protection and due process claims. The Illinois statute does not provide full protection from termination; the Village afforded Cannici what the statute requires: written charges, a hearing, and the opportunity to present evidence. View "Cannici v. Village of Melrose Park" on Justia Law

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Madlock, an African American woman, has worked at WEPCO since 1977. While Madlock was working in the Industrial Billing section, she was not in management, but was a point person for her team of “billers.” In 2011, WEPCO assigned a new management team, to perform a comprehensive review and institute metrics to measure performance. Wrycza, a white woman, became Madlock’s supervisor. The two did not get along. Madlock’s conduct, such as personal phone use, had already drawn the attention of management, and under Wrycza, Madlock’s conduct came under greater scrutiny. Wrycza followed WEPCO’s graduated discipline system to deal with billing errors and Madlock’s use of unprofessional language. Madlock was transferred to a different department, where she worked between two managers. The transfer did not affect Madlock’s title or salary, but co‐workers described it as a demotion and "a total humiliation." Madlock’s new supervisor, Phillips, a black woman, prompted Madlock to file an internal discrimination complaint against Wrycza. Madlock made another billing error. Madlock’s grievances were denied; the Vice President of Customer Service expressed shock at Madlock's errors. Madlock was denied a promotion due to her work record. Madlock sued (42 U.S.C. 1981), alleging racial discrimination and retaliation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for WEPCO, noting that the transfer caused no material change in Madlock’s employment and was not an adverse employment action. Madlock cannot show a sufficient causal link between her internal complaint and the alleged adverse actions. View "Madlock v. WEC Energy Group, Inc." on Justia Law