Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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McCray worked at the Milwaukee VA Vet Center as a readjustment counselor, 1997-2000. After earning a Master’s degree, he returned to the VA in 2004 as a Mental Health Case Manager. McCray had served in the Army for eight years in the 1980s and sustained multiple physical and mental injuries. In 2013, his VA disability rating was 100 percent. McCray also suffers from hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, sarcoidosis (in remission), and PTSD. McCray alleges that the VA failed to accommodate his disabilities and that he suffered disparate treatment as an African-American man. The van McCray used to transport VA clients allegedly lacked adequate legroom and was unsafe; the VA waited 11 months before replacing it. In 2013, McCray experienced difficulty concentrating at work, which he attributed to discrimination and retaliation by co‐workers after he filed EEOC charges. After returning from a leave of absence and experiencing panic attacks, his reassignment request was denied. McCray indicated that he could probably continue working in an office on a lower floor. That request was denied, although there were vacant offices lower in the building. The district court dismissed his suit under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. 701. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. McCray’s complaint presents a plausible claim for relief based on the delay in accommodating his disability with respect to the van. On remand, McCray can further develop his office space claim. McCray waived his disparate treatment claims. View "McCray v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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Delgado, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, sought relief under the Whistleblower Protection Act, 5 U.S.C. 1214(q)(1)(A), 2302(b)(8), for retaliation he suffered after reporting his suspicions that another ATF agent may have committed perjury during a federal criminal trial. In 2018, the Seventh Circuit held that the Merit Systems Protection Board had acted arbitrarily in dismissing his administrative appeal under the Act and that Delgado had properly alleged “a protected disclosure” and had exhausted his administrative remedies so that the Board had jurisdiction to evaluate his claim. On remand, the Board, acting only through an Administrative Judge (since 2017 the Board has lacked a quorum), denied relief. The Seventh Circuit remanded, only with respect to the relief Delgado is entitled-to. The Administrative Judge “paid only lip-service” to its earlier decision, “ignoring critical holdings and reasoning.” Delgado proved that he made a disclosure that was protected under the Act and proved retaliation for his protected disclosure, which affected decisions to deny him several promotions. Noting that it had “already remanded, only to be met by obduracy,” and that the government had the opportunity to offer evidence to support its affirmative defense, which fails as a matter of law, the court held that Delgado is entitled at least to pay and benefits as if he had been promoted effective March 2014. View "Delgado v. United States Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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Henderson joined the VA police department Hines VA Hospital in 1986. Henderson filed an employment discrimination action against the Department of Veteran Affairs. After being denied a promotion in 2013, Henderson, who is African American, alleged race and age discrimination and retaliation claims, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-2, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment for the VA, following a remand for a determination of whether the VA’s explanations for not selecting Henderson for a criminal investigator position were a pretext for racial discrimination. The district court acted properly with respect to testimony on subjects not disclosed in Henderson’s interrogatory answer. Henderson failed to explain the substance of the testimony he sought to present so it is not possible to conclude that the district court erred in excluding it. The court’s decision that it would not permit evidence of discriminatory action against other African Americans after the award of the criminal investigator job was proper because some of those actions are in litigation; the slight additional value from the cumulative evidence was outweighed by the risk of jury confusion. View "Henderson v. Wilkie" on Justia Law

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McCann began her employment with Badger’s predecessor in 2010. At her 2013 evaluation, she received an overall appraisal of “Right on Track” but her supervisor noted some shortcomings in her ability to deal with conflict, work with others, communicate, and problem-solve with her coworkers. The review also noted limitations in McCann’s abilities to perform new tasks and to understand others’ roles in the department. Her supervisors noted similar problems in subsequent years. In 2015, McCann reported having arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome and that she would need time off for medical appointments. At around the same time, the company experienced financial problems. All employees over the age of 60, including McCann, were offered an early retirement package. Involuntary staff reductions became necessary. After her termination, McCann filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12112, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–634. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Badger on her disability claim related to the elimination of her position. McCann failed to come forward with evidence that, but for her disability, Badger would not have eliminated her position. View "McCann v. Badger Mining Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Tyburski, then age 74, applied for a promotion with his employer, the Chicago Department of Water Management. His application was rejected. Tyburski sued, claiming that he was denied the promotion because of his age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621–634. He also brought a hostile work environment claim under the ADEA regarding harassment he allegedly experienced at two Department facilities. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city. Tyburski has not supplied evidence showing that his age, rather than his failing score on the requisite verbal exam, was the reason he missed out on the desired promotion. Assuming a hostile work environment claim is cognizable under the ADEA, Tyburski failed to present sufficient evidence for a factfinder to conclude that the purported harassment he experienced was severe or pervasive. Tyburski also failed to exhaust this claim regarding conduct that allegedly occurred at one facility, as he did not file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reporting that conduct. View "Tyburski v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Jeffords, a crane operator on a construction project at an oil refinery, fell seven feet from the catwalk on the body of a crane and injured his feet and back. He sued the project owner and several of its contractors for negligence. While this lawsuit was pending, Jeffords died, apparently of unrelated causes.. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. None of the defendants whom Jeffords sued owed him a duty of care. BP owns and operates the Whiting, Indiana oil refinery and contracted with Fluor to provide engineering, procurement, and construction management services. BP and Fluor each entered into separate contracts with MCI to provide construction services. BP also contracted with Central Rent‐a‐Crane, Jeffords’s employer. Central had no contractual relationship with Fluor or MCI; Central is not a defendant because the workers’ compensation system would apply to Jeffords’s injuries on the job. Each of the plaintiff’s arguments that the defendants assumed a duty of care is defeated by the undisputed material facts and contractual provisions in the record, and by the limits of the relevant Indiana Supreme Court cases. View "Jeffords v. BP Corporation North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Purtue, a Dodge Correctional Institution officer, reported that inmate Reddick had thrown an empty box from his cell, hitting her. Reddick was taken to segregation. A video recording showed the box flying out of Reddick’s cell but the box didn’t fly toward Purtue nor strike her. Work Rule 6 prohibits correctional officers from falsifying records or knowingly giving false information to prison authorities. Reddick stated that he and Purtue had quarreled earlier and that he threw the box out of frustration but purposefully directed it away from Purtue. Purtue reiterated that the box had hit her. After watching the video, Purtue agreed that the box had not hit her but maintained that something else hit her. The investigators doubted that story because on the video Purtue did not react. The warden decided to skip progressive discipline and immediately terminate Purtue’s employment. Executive Directive #2 classifies “[l]ying or providing false information” as “Serious Acts of Misconduct” that may result in termination. Other officials agreed with that recommendation. A memorandum identified comparators for Purtue—one man and two women—all of whom were fired for lying or falsifying records. Purtue filed suit, alleging sex discrimination under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. The investigation accurately summarized Purtue’s conduct. Purtue’s expert testimony was speculative and offered nothing more than his opinion that termination was unwise but not necessarily pretextual. Although there were gender disparities in a statistical report, those disparities revealed little about Purtue's dismissal. View "Purtue v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Cartwright sued his former employer, alleging discrimination based on his race and sex under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e; discrimination based on race, 42 U.S.C. 1981; and age discrimination, 29 U.S.C. 623. The judge appointed counsel for the limited purpose of settlement negotiations. The parties did not reach an agreement. The attorney was relieved of the limited representation. Cartwright failed to respond to discovery requests and filed many motions. The judge recruited a lawyer to represent him pro bono but later permitted the attorney to withdraw. The judge recruited another pro bono lawyer. After 14 months and more than 530 hours of work, the third attorney moved to withdraw citing substantial, irreconcilable disagreements with Cartwright. The judge granted the defendants partial summary judgment. Cartwright responded with multiple motions, accusing the judge of bias. The defendants moved to dismiss the case with prejudice for failure to prosecute. The judge recruited another pro bono attorney, then denied the motion as moot. Counsel later was allowed to withdraw. After four years and repeated warnings, the judge dismissed the case. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, reminding "judges that they need not and should not recruit volunteer lawyers for civil claimants who won’t cooperate ... Pro bono representation of indigent civil litigants is a venerable tradition ... courts must be careful stewards of this limited resource.” View "Cartwright v. Silver Cross Hospital" on Justia Law

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At about 2:10 a.m., LeDure reported to a Salem, Illinois rail yard to assemble a train for a trip. While on the exterior walkway of a locomotive in order to tag it, LeDure slipped and fell down its steps. LeDure got up and proceeded to power down and tag the locomotive. He returned to where he fell and, using a flashlight, bent down to identify a “slick” substance. LeDure reported the incident to his supervisor. He gave a written statement. Union Pacific conducted an inspection and reported cleaning a “small amount of oil” on the walkway. LeDure sued Union Pacific for negligence. He alleged violations of the Locomotive Inspection Act and the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, arguing that Union Pacific failed to maintain the walkway free of hazards. The district court dismissed LeDure’s claims with prejudice. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Locomotive Inspection Act is inapplicable since the locomotive was not “in use” during the incident. LeDure’s injuries were not reasonably foreseeable because they resulted from a small “slick spot” unknown to Union Pacific. There is no evidence that an earlier inspection would have cured the hazard. View "LeDure v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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Fuqua, a mail handler, was forced to transfer to a new location when his Chicago center was downsized. He did not receive placement within 30 miles of his home. He refused to appear for work in Kansas City and was fired. Fuqua alleged his termination caused him emotional distress and made an administrative claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671. The Postal Service denied his claim, ruling that his exclusive remedy was through the Department of Labor (DOL) under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), 5 U.S.C. 8101. Fuqua filed suit for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress under the FTCA. During a stay in the proceedings, Fuqua corresponded with the DOL alleging he was injured because of defendants’ “extreme and outrageous conduct refusing to allow [him] to become assigned a station closer to [his] residence.” The DOL denied his FECA claim, explaining “[e]motional conditions that arise out of administrative and personnel matters, such as termination of employment are usually covered only if the weight of the evidence supports that the employer acted in an abusive manner or erred.” The district court dismissed Fuqua’s case. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. FECA applied to Fuqua’s claim, its administrative scheme ran its course, and his claim was denied for lack of evidence. The district court had no subject matter jurisdiction over his FTCA claims. Fuqua’s allegation falls within the “transfer, or reassignment” definition of “personnel action.” View "Fuqua v. United States Postal Service" on Justia Law